State says bird feeders are OK again

File photo Just as mysteriously an illness sickening songbirds arrived on the Northeast U.S., the unknown ailment has reported disappeared. MassWildlife said it’s OK to start putting out bird feeders and fill birdbaths. 

MassWildlife said it’s OK to start putting out bird feeders and bird baths again -- although the agency would rather you didn’t.

In an advisory issued last week, MassWildlife said it was modifying its recommendations regarding bird feeding that it had made in July. At that time, the agency requested that the public stop using bird feeders and baths due to an “unknown illness” in birds from other states.

Last week MassWildlife updated its recommendation, saying the illness had not been found in birds in Massachusetts and that reports of sick and dead birds have dramatically decreased in states where the illness had been identified.

“Based on current knowledge, there is no indication that bird feeders and baths are contributing to the spread of this recent illness,” MassWildlife said in its recent advisory.

Still, the agency said people should not rush to put their bird feeders back up, because bird seed and suet and known to attract other animals like rodents, bears and turkeys, which can cause conflicts between humans and wildlife. And birds congregating at feeders and baths can still spread other diseases.

If you do put up bird feeders and baths, MassWildlife recommends disinfecting them at least on a weekly basis. You should clean them with soap and water and then disinfect with a 10% bleach, rinse with clean water, and allow them to air-dry. If you observe dead or sick birds at or near a feeder, MassWildlife recommends removing and cleaning feeders and leaving them down for at least two weeks.

But rather than use bird feeders at all, MassWildlife says you should consider other alternative to attract birds to your yard, such as planting native plants, shrubs or trees, installing water features, and erecting bird houses.

“These bird-friendly actions safely attract a wider variety of birds while avoiding the potential nuisance issues associated with bird see (i.e., rodents, bears),” the advisory said.

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