Main content area

The effectiveness of bird feeder cleaning methods with and without debris

Feliciano, Lisa M., Underwood, Todd J., Aruscavage, Daniel F.
The Wilson journal of ornithology 2018 v.130 no.1 pp. 313-320
Salmonella enterica, bleaching agents, cleaning, disease transmission, soaps, wild birds
Although feeders provide supplementary food to wild birds, they can be a site of disease transmission. Periodic cleaning of bird feeders is recommended to prevent disease transmission, but little is known about which cleaning methods are most effective. We determined the effectiveness of 3 cleaning methods (scrubbing with soap and water, bleach soak, and scrubbing with soap and water followed by a bleach soak) in removing Salmonella from feeders with debris from normal field use and without debris. Feeders were inoculated with Salmonella enterica in the lab and then swabbed before and after cleaning to determine the percent reduction of Salmonella colony forming units (CFU/mL). All cleaning methods effectively reduced levels of Salmonella on feeders without debris, but the presence of debris significantly lowered the percent log reduction of Salmonella CFU/mL on feeders. The bleach soak and the scrubbing with soap and water plus bleach soak methods had a significantly higher percent reduction in Salmonella CFU/mL than the scrubbing with soap and water method overall. A significant interaction between debris and cleaning method was noted, however, indicating that the presence of debris greatly lowered the percent reduction of Salmonella CFU/mL on feeders cleaned with the scrubbing with soap and water method compared to other methods. Overall, we recommend either scrubbing with soap and water or a bleach soak to clean feeders with minimal debris, but suggest a combination of these 2 cleaning methods if feeders have heavy debris or if diseased birds are known to be in the area. Received 20 September 2016. Accepted 17 January 2017.