Why you need to put away your birdbaths and feeders right now

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Photo: Wide Chiangmai (Shutterstock)

The idyllic start to any spring morning is waking up to the sun shining and birds singing. Unfortunately, this year he may have to give up a bit on the latter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 30 million cases of bird flu have been detected in waterfowl, commercial poultry, and backyard flocks as of April 19, encompassing at least 31 states Because of this, health officials in several states are asking people to remove their bird feeders and baths to do their part to stop the spread.

Dr. Victoria Hall of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center explains that, “This action will not only help protect those beautiful feathered creatures that visit your garden, but it will also help all the species of wild birds that are already having a hard time this spring due to [the highly pathogenic avian influenza].”

This is not the United States’ first encounter with avian influenza. Between 2014 and 2015, approximately 51 million birds were depopulated to control the spread of the disease. This outbreak cost the egg and poultry industry an estimated $3 billion, and led to a $1 billion appropriation from Congress in 2017 to combat future avian flu epidemics.

If you’re wondering what else you can do to help besides taking down your birdbaths and feeders, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommends the following:

  • Clean and rinse birdbaths and feeders with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) and store or clean weekly if they cannot be kept away from birds.
  • Remove any birdseed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.
  • Avoid feeding wild birds near domestic flocks.

So how long does one have to wait until they can put their bird feeders back? There is no definitive answer yet, but experts are optimistic.

“It is within our power to take short-term action so as not to accidentally aid in the spread of the virus.” room writes. “This outbreak won’t last forever and I for one am looking forward to getting my bird feeders safely back up.”

So while things may be quiet in the backyard this summer, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, consider this an opportunity to finally go to that local bird sanctuary you’ve always talked about visiting.

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