Mar 14, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2017

Dear Birdsquatch: Spring Cleaning Below the Bird Feeder

Birds visit a reader's backyard feeder and feast upon the offerings. Photo by Doug Butler.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

The snow just melted in my backyard and there's a super nasty pile of seed hulls and bird poop below my feeders. Any idea how I can clean this up? Would you be willing to come and take care of it if I baked you a pie?

—Amy S., Oak Grove, Ohio

Dear Amy,

Have you ever heard the song by Pure Prarie League that is your namesake? "Aaaaameee, what you want to do? I think I could stay with you..." I'll bet I just put an earworm in the heads of many Watching Backyard Birds readers! Love that song!

That pile of joy you've found under your feeders does need to be removed or at least dispersed for a couple of reasons. It can be a disease vector as the weather warms up. If a sick bird pooped while visiting your feeder, that sickness could be transferred to a healthy bird that's pecking for seed bits on the ground below your feeder. The other reason (other than that it's gross and possibly smelly—but so am I) is that you might have a bald patch in your lawn when the grass elsewhere starts growing. The seed hulls, if in significant volume, can smother grass that might otherwise grow there.

You can rake up the hulls using a normal leaf rake, then shovel them up and throw them away. I've also seen people use a ShopVac, but such gadgets scare me. If the ground is still wet and you use a ShopVac, be sure to plug it into a ground-fault circuit breaker outlet to prevent an unpleasant encounter with electricity.

For next year, consider moving your feeders on a regular basis so that the hulls don't accumulate in such volume in one concentrated location.

As for your barter proposal, I'd consider accepting it, but only if your blueberry pie is really good.



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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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018