No Birds at Your Feeders?

Bird watchers love birds and grow accustomed to seeing them at their feeders.  But there are periods of time when some folks simply don't have any birds at their feeders.  Instead of thinking the problem through they complain about the lack of birds and expect them to magically reappear, and when they don't their first reaction is to declare that the bird seed they recently bought is no good.  Unless the bird seed is terribly old because it has been sitting in the owner's storage area for months on end, it is unlikely that the seed is bad.  Most wild bird supply stores have very good and fresh seed.

There are more logical causes to why you may not have birds at your bird feeders.  For example, if you have a mild winter with no snow or cold snaps occurring when they are usually anticipated, you have to remember that nature is nature and is not so easily ordered around by mere humans.  In mild winters there are still plenty of open areas where the birds can find their food sources with relative ease.  So why should it be automatically assumed that they will flock to your feeders?

In the spring they are busy building their nests and then they raise their young, at which time they are more inclined to stay put and look for easy sources of food such as your bird feeders.  Later, they even bring their young to the feeders for an easy source of food.  But after the young have grown and are able to fend for themselves, the parents are once again free to move around to where they wish.


Sterilizing your feeders should be one of the first priorities on your list to attracting and keeping birds at your feeders.  IT SHOULD BE DONE ONCE PER MONTH!  Bird seed gets wet from rain and snow and in time turns moldy.  YUCK!  The feeders get dirty and mold settles in the various areas of the feeder.  The birds desire good food and clean feeders and will simply search out more appealing sources of food, perhaps your neighbor's bird feeders.

It's very easy to sterilize your feeders and here's how you do it:

Wash your feeders in water and a 10% solution of household bleach.  In other words, use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

Wash them in this solution and thoroughly rinse them out.  Let them dry out completely before refilling them and putting them back into service.

This washing applies to ALL kinds of feeders, wood, plastic, ceramic, or whatever you have that makes sense.


If you don't take the time to sterilize your feeders your really not being a very good guardian of the birds nor a very good friend to your fellow birders.  In fact, you may unwittingly be contributing to a very sad and debilitating disease to a great number of birds, primarily the House Finch.

Since at least 1996 there have been a great number of House Finches afflicted with conjunctivitis (Mycoplasma Gallisepticum), which is a disease that infects the eyes of the House Finch and leaves them partially blind.  These infected birds then eat at your feeders and spread the disease at your feeder and infect the seed at the feeder, plus other House Finches.  Not only that, but there have been reported cases of it even spreading to some Gold Finches.

By sterilizing your feeders you help to slow down or even stop the spread of this dreadful condition among the birds at your feeder and at your fellow birder's feeders.

Here are the signs and symptoms to help you spot this condition among House Finches.  (Photos follow to help you identify this condition):

Symptoms of Mycoplasma Gallisepticum

House Finches with MG may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

Male House Finch Photos:


Female House Finch Photos:

First Photo in Series Courtesy of: Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc., Newark, DE, 1996
Remaining Photos Courtesy of: Wildlife Pathology Unit Staff of the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation

Breaks your heart to see them afflicted with this dreadful disease doesn't it?  So let's all pitch in by sterilizing our feeders once a month to limit the spread of this horrible disease and possibly stomp it right out. 

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