Jan 12, 2022 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2021

Ask Birdsquatch: How to Protect the Health of Ground-feeding Birds?

If you spread seed on the ground, do you risk spreading any diseases for ground-feeding birds? Birdsquatch answers.

Dear Birdsquatch:

My husband faithfully maintained bird feeders, disinfecting them every week and doing all the things one is supposed to. When he died, I tried to keep it up, but it was too much for me to handle. So, I took the feeders down. But when winter came and there were birds in the bushes around the patio, I really felt guilty, so I got a seed mixture and scattered it around the flower beds and under the bushes. The birds seem to be spaced out pretty well; certain ones come for the orange-colored seed, different birds like the white seed, and the big birds like the sunflower seeds. Is this spreading disease because I cannot disinfect the ground although I do sweep up the hulls and uneaten seed every couple of days?

—Gretchen R., Arlington, Virginia

Dear Gretchen,

I'm sorry for the loss of your husband. He must have been a kind and conscientious person.

Since you are unable to wash and disinfect bird feeders regularly, you are wise to take them down. Broadcasting seed on the ground is a fine and natural way to feed the birds, and sweeping up the hulls and waste is better still. Just as with humans, pathogens spread more easily in crowded situations, so avoid offering the seed in piles.

The thing is, except during ice storms and deep snow, the birds really don't need our handouts. For thousands of years, birds have survived without it. Any bird who is not good at finding a new source of food when a previously reliable one runs out is not going to survive.

Like your husband, sweet Gretchen, you are a kind and conscientious person, but don't feel obliged to feed the birds. Continue scattering seeds only if it brings you joy.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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