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If you elect to feed birds in the backyard you should recognize that with the fun and enjoyment comes responsibility. While there are some basic tenents to responsible bird feeding, conditions change from location to location and day to day. Using your own good judgement is the best approach. Here are a few things to be considered when establishing your feeder program.

1. Keep feeders clean.
Clean your feeders as needed. Platform feeders will need to be cleaned more often than tube feeders. Feeders will need to be cleaned more often in warm, damp weather than in cold, dry weather. Feeders visited by obviously ill birds need to be cleaned more often than usual. It is a good idea to clean your feeders a couple of times a year even if no obvious problems are present.

You can clean your feeders with soap and water or even a 10% bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry before returning to service.

2. Keep your seed/feed fresh.
Store your seed in sealed, dry containers. Do not feed moldy seed. If the seed in your feeders is moldy or overly compacted it should be removed and your feeder cleaned.

3. Keep the area under and around your feeders clean
Excessive build-up of seed hulls and dropped seed under your feeders can attract rodents, raccoons and other animals. Use a screen under your feeders to catch the dropped seed and hulls or rake and clean the area under your feeders regularly.

4. Birdbaths
Birdbaths should be rinsed and the water replaced on a weekly basis. Replacing the water on a weekly basis prevents the development of mosquitoes and keeps it fresh for the birds. Occasionally clean your birdbath with a 10% bleach and water solution. Rinse thoroughly.

Some birdbath designs incorporate a filter and recirculation system and do not need to be cleaned as often.

5. Your safety
Wear rubber gloves when cleaning your feeders and birdbath.

6. Window-mounted feeders
Do not use window-mounted feeders in the spring. As birds start to defend their territories window-mounted feeders may increase the number of birds injured by flying into windows.

7. Bird houses and nest boxes
If you elect to set up nesting boxes, including bluebird boxes and purple martin houses, be aware that you have a responsibility to manage the nest boxes. House sparrows and starlings adapt readily to nest boxes, much to the detriment of native species. Learn to recognize
house sparrows and starlings and make sure they do not use your nest boxes. This includes removing nesting material and even the eggs or baby birds of these two species.

When setting up a purple martin house the most important consideration is the pole or mounting arrangement. You will need to easily be able to raise and lower the martin house to remove any house sparrows or starlings that try to establish their nests.

8. Be aware of special circumstances
In some areas raccoons, opossums, deer and even bears can be attracted to feeders. Be aware of what's going on in your area in both the daytime and at night. In some cases you may need to stop feeding for awhile or bring your feeders in at night.


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