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 had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018