Bird feeding is for the birds, for their benefit first, and ours second. We need to take responsibility for their welfare, and enjoy feeding our birds by following safe practices that prioritize their health.
When operating your bird feeder, consider the time of year
In late spring, summer, and fall, there are abundant (and healthier) sources of food available for birds. These natural sources are better for their diet, and more importantly, disperse birds to prevent disease transmission during critical nesting, rearing, and migration seasons. Consider operating your bird feeders only after the first frost and until mid-spring.
Operating and maintenance of a bird feeder is a responsibility
Once you start, do not stop feeding the birds regularly. Birds can and do develop dependence on food sources during winter months.
On a daily basis
Ensure all your bird feeders are topped up with fresh seed, especially in cold, inclement weather. Do NOT put bird seed on the ground. This will only serve to attract rodents, as well as serving as an incubator for fungal spore formation (as the seeds get wet and soggy). Trust in the fact that your bird patrons will shake seeds onto the ground naturally for those looking for a ground snack!
On a weekly basis (minimum):
Take down your bird feeder each week to clean it, or immediately if you notice a diseased bird has visited.
Empty your feeders of whatever seed may be left, and discard.
When cleaning your bird feeder
Remove fecal matter and spoiled food with power hose, scraper and/or dish soap.
Use a minimum 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water), soak or spray until saturated.
Wait at least ten minutes, then rinse.
Do a check to make sure that the bird feeder is in good condition, with no sharp edges (that would cause injuries) or cracks (that would allow humidity/water to contaminate the seeds)
Remove all the scattered seeds, husks, and debris from below the bird feeder to prevent disease and rodent attraction.
If you see a diseased bird, contact an Authorized Wildlife Custodian right away. And even if you have just cleaned your feeders, take them down to clean again, and leave them down for at least two weeks.