Feeding The Birds

Posted by Stephanie Fleming on

**Update Aug. 20, 2021**

Yesterday I sent out my email about the DNR and the birds in our area dying. So of course yesterday they released the following information!! Happy to hear this news!
As of mid-August, reports have decreased in many jurisdictions and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is lifting its previous recommendation to cease feeding birds.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from one of our readers letting me know about Maryland, DC, and Virginia's problem with birds dying. She told me she read how we should take down our bird feeders until they can figure out what is happening to our feathered friends. This is after I wrote about how our tiny hummingbirds seem to love our feeder.

I ended up writing to the National Audubon Society to find out what is going on. Jack responded to me that for the past several weeks, Audubon and their wildlife partners have been getting troubling reports of sick and dying birds across the Great Lakes region, including Ohio and Indiana. In addition, other cases have been reported in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia areas. While they are not yet sure of the potential cause of the reports, they are following the Department of Natural Resources recommendations and ask the public to take the following steps to help prevent the possible spread of disease:

  • Hold off on feeding birds via bird-feeders if you see sick birds or are in a region where there is an outbreak until the cause has been determined. 
  • Contact your local state or district wildlife agency if you observe odd or sick bird behavior. 
  • Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Avoid handling birds — but if it's necessary, wear disposable gloves. 
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution. 
  • If you find sick or dead birds, we encourage you to report them to your state or district wildlife conservation agency.

So far, we have not seen or heard of anyone seeing dead birds where I live in Western Howard County, so I feel okay leaving my hummingbird feeder up. However, we are cleaning it each time with the bleach solution. 

My husband never put out bird feeders from April - October. He always felt there is plenty of food for them to eat from Mother Nature. Except for the Hummingbirds, that is.  

Many people love to feed their birds all year long, including my mom and her husband. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching all the birds and other wildlife devour their food. If you are like my mother, it might be a good idea to get the old bleach out and give your feeder a good scrub. Check with your neighbors to make sure you are not in an area that is having issues. 

Maybe you are like me, leaving your spent coneflowers for the birds to feed off of. While I know it is not very pretty to see, the birds love the seeds. I love the different seasons of our flowers, and I am a little lazy in cleaning up the spent blooms. Eventually, when my husband decides to start feeding the birds again, we will go out and cut them back. 

Below is another picture I took with my smartphone. We have had an abundance of these cheerful yellow finches happily eating all the seeds on our old purple coneflowers. The second photo is a close-up that I got on a great photo site called Canva. 

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  • Thank you to everyone for taking the time to leave a comment today! Of course wouldn’t you know it the day I sent out my little article the DNR says it is okay to start feeding the birds again! I wrote the article on the 15th and they said it on the 17th. Glad everyone can go out and feed their feathered friends again! Take care and stay safe

    Stephanie Fleming on
  • I have a hard time getting any flowers to grow in my garden. The deer seem to eat every thing. The hibiscus and lilies use to survive the deer. But now the deer even ate them. One sunflower plant managed to grow up between the cracks in my patio this year. What the finches love in my yard are the seeds of the nyger plants which have sprouted up from seed that has fallen from my thistle feeders. They really had a ball eating the seed from the nyger plants.

    I did find one dead bird in my yard, but that was it. No sick looking birds.

    Richard Reise on
  • Here’s the link to the updated DNR article a previous commenter referred to, on the bird feeding situation in Maryland:

    lin on
  • Thank you, Stephanie. I’m glad you are spreading the word for the birds.
    Regarding the Echinacea in a border garden looking ragged, I find just plucking the ratty petals (and any old leaves) off and leaving the center looks rather nice. It contrasts with the flowers and grasses.

    Susan O'Hara on
  • Thank you so much for addressing this mystery, which I am not sure should BE a mystery (bird deaths seem to be happening more and more, as the planet warms and humans continue being themselves :-(). I had feeders up until about 2 weeks ago (Prince George’s County), but took them down when I spotted a dead bird, which I think was likely a Siskin. I have since left them down for about a week, having soaked them in a weak bleach solution and then washed and dried them all. I thought it was also prudent to treat seed scoops and seed storage containers the same way. I have read that possibly platform feeders spread disease very easily – since birds come in contact with seed and potentially feces as they visit such feeders. For now, I’m sad to say I keep the platform feeders down, and miss the Mourning Doves. I am keeping a much closer eye on the small feeders I DO have up, and I don’t let seed sit in feeders, while we have rainy and humid days that could encourage mold and fungus. I, too, love the Goldfinches. Coneflowers don’t do very well for me :-( but we do let part of our property stay on the wilder side. Next year I’m definitely letting some sunflowers grow, because “our” flocks love the black oil seeds!

    lin on

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