Spring Cleaning is for the Birds

Hurtling through space in its unceasing orbit around the sun, tilting on its axis, the earth approaches another change of season. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere spring arrives it in fits and spurts and the birds begin to migrate once more.

Which means it’s a good time to clean house, both yours and your birdhouses and bird feeders. According to no lesser an authority that Wikipedia, the practice of house cleaning in March in North America and Europe began because it was warm enough to open the windows for dusting. Remember, vacuum cleaners had yet to be invented.

Spring cleaning as a rite began earlier. The Persian New Year corresponded with the first day of Spring and Persians “shook” their houses in preparation. Since ancient times observant Jews clean house before the beginning of Passover to rid it of chametz. (leavened bread crumbs)

While keeping bird feeders and bird baths clean is a year-round chore, this is a good time to do a thorough job because the migrants are on the way. Birds can get bacterial and fungal diseases from contaminated bird feeders and water sources. Avian diseases can spread rapidly because they eat communally.

Many non-toxic solutions and techniques make this chore easy and safe for the birds and the environment.

Find a tub big enough to hold your bird feeder(s), get a scrub brush (long brushes sold at birding stores are effective), a pair of gloves, some scent-free mild liquid soap or detergent, and white distilled vinegar.Put the feeders in the tub and fill it with warm water and a squirt of liquid soap or detergent. Wearing gloves, scrub the parts of the feeders you can reach, then rinse thoroughly. Empty the tub, fill it with clean water, and add four cups of vinegar. Let the feeders soak for an hour. Rinse thoroughly.

Nectar feeders for hummingbirds and orioles often develop mold. Hydrogen peroxide is an effective cleaning agent for that. Spray the peroxide directly into the feeder, let sit for an hour or so, then rinse thoroughly and dry.

Don’t forget to wash your hands after you finish.

Fill the clean feeders with fresh food. Throw away old or moldy seed. Birds don’t mind a few bugs in their seed, but they dislike old, stale seed as much as we dislike stale bread.

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The “Blue Marble” photo of the earth is the most detailed true-color image of the earth yet made. Here is an animated version. (No sound)

Blue Marble Animation

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds). Enhancements by Robert Simmon (ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation). Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights).

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