For the Birds: Keep those feeders clean

I’ve been keeping an eye on the news regarding the mysterious disease that has been killing birds in some Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.

It appears that the disease has not reached New England, although nearby states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been impacted. Researchers still do not know what is causing the deaths, but they have ruled out several diseases that commonly afflict birds, such as West Nile, salmonella and avian conjunctivitis.

I did read a report that suggests the situation may be waning, which would be great news. I’d be more than happy if the disease never makes it to New England.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my go-to source for information about birds, does not directly recommend taking down feeders, like so many other organizations do. Rather, it recommends following the guidelines put forth by an individual’s state fish and game commission.

To recap from last week’s column, most of the birds that have been affected are young grackles, starlings, blue jays and robins. Symptoms include discharge from eyes, seizures and disorientation.

If you do find a dead bird showing any of the symptoms mentioned earlier or find multiple dead birds in one area, contact the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s wildlife division at 271-2461.

Regardless of whether the disease comes to New England, I highly recommend taking the time and effort to clean your bird feeders with a 10 percent bleach solution. This should be done several times a year anyway, but it is particularly important in the summer. Hot, humid weather can really make those feeders nasty breeding grounds for all sorts of things potentially harmful to birds.

If you decide to take down your feeders for the summer, be assured that the birds will find plenty of food in the wild and will return to your yard when the feeders are out there again in fall or winter.

While we’re on the subject, be sure to change the sugar water and clean hummingbird feeders frequently as well. The solution can become rancid quickly during hot weather.

Birdbaths should be changed and cleaned frequently during the summer as well. Not only is it better for the birds, but it lessens the likelihood of the bath becoming a breeding area for mosquitoes.

In other bird news, it was nice to see the Milwaukee Bucks win their first NBA championship in 50 years. I haven’t followed professional basketball since I was a kid, but I started passively rooting for the Bucks a few years ago. What does this have to do with birds?

In 2018, the Bucks opened their new arena, called Fiserv Forum. It is the first certified bird-friendly professional sports complex. It is located in downtown Milwaukee and earned the Bird Collision Deterrence Credit from the U.S. Green Building Council. It minimizes see-through glass and bird-disorienting lighting. When you consider that upwards of a billion birds die in North America each year from building collisions, this type of construction is worthy of high praise.

Hopefully, it’s a trend that other cities will follow.

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