The Risks of Bird Feeders 

Backyard bird feeders can attract beautiful birds and help us feel closer to nature, a rare opportunity for those of us who live in cities. However, bird feeders can also be harmful to both humans and birds if not properly cared for. It is important to understand how to minimize these risks if you want to use a bird feeder.

Bird Diseases

Bird feeders often attract many different bird species which can be exciting to see but turns them into hotspots of bird disease. Birds primarily interact with individuals of the same species and spread disease between each other, however a larger issue arises when diseases are spread between species. When a bird comes in contact with a pathogen it is not familiar with its immune system doesn’t know how to properly respond and it becomes very ill. A disease introduced from a different species can quickly decimate a bird population. 

It’s important to clean your bird feeders regularly to stop this; once every two weeks is recommended. Feeders can be washed with hot soapy water, a dilute bleach solution or even placed in the dishwasher. The number of different bird feeders you use should also be limited so that fewer species are forced to interact with each other. 

TIP: You can easily clean your birdfeeder in the dishwasher! Just make sure to disassemble the feeder so the soap can get into all the little crevices. 

Many people put bird feeders out in the hopes of helping wild birds find food, but biologists suggest that disease transmission is a larger risk to bird populations than food availability. Some studies have even found that bird feeders end up providing food mainly to invasive birds and help them outcompete native bird species.

Currently, highly pathogenic bird flu is on the rise in Canada, this disease affects many different species of bird and has no cure. You can check the Government of Canada website to see if bird feeders are safe for use in your area. 

Something you can do to help our flying friends is to report sick or dead wild birds to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC). However, be careful not to handle the birds, although bird flu does not usually affect humans there are some rare cases where humans have been infected. 

Human Diseases

Birds carry a multitude of diseases on their bodies and in their feces that cause harm to humans. It is especially hazardous to hang out near a large number of bird droppings, such as those often found under bird feeders. Many of the diseases birds transmit are airborne and can infect people simply by being close by. Some insects also parasitize birds and are found living in their droppings such as mites, which can bite humans, and mealworms, which can cause illness if accidentally ingested. — Learn more about common diseases transmitted by birds. 

Bird droppings around feeders should be regularly removed however, make sure to follow proper safety precautions! Gloves and a dust respirator should always be worn, the bird droppings should be sprayed with soapy water before the cleanup to ensure no dust forms, and all waste should be double-bagged. When all the droppings are gone spray the area with a 10% bleach solution as well as any surfaces and tools touched in the process. Please note that immune-compromised individuals should never attempt to clean up bird droppings. 


Did you know? Backyard bird feeders are one of the biggest causes of residential rat infestations! Unfortunately, it’s not only birds that enjoy feasting on seeds. Learn more about birds

Bird feeders can attract unwanted pests such as squirrels, rats and raccoons especially when seeds fall on the ground under the feeder. To prevent these rodents from getting too comfortable near your home, be sure to sweep up fallen seeds regularly. If they discover a good food source in your backyard they will be tempted to move in nearby.

Nearby Nests

Bird feeders encourage birds to nest nearby, this may be exciting if a songbird nests in your tree, but less so if a pigeon builds a nest in your AC unit. Birds such as pigeons, starlings and house sparrows are often considered pest birds as they are not native to Canada but thrive in urban environments allowing their populations to grow out of control. They also cause a lot of damage to buildings by nesting in homes and dropping acidic feces that corrode roofing. These pest birds also generally do not come alone, many harbour insects such as bed bugs and mites in their coats or nests. —Learn more about these common pest birds and how to exclude them from your home humanly.

There are too few opportunities to connect with nature in cities and bird feeders can be a great way to do this however, they are not without risk and are best used in moderation. Consider putting your bird feeder out a couple of days or a week at a time and paying closer attention to it during that time. Too often bird feeders are neglected and not cleaned properly which ultimately does more harm to birds than good. 

Additionally, this will discourage pests from taking up residence in and around your home. If you do find rodents or birds moving into your home it’s time to put the bird feeder away and call on pest control experts. 

Deterring Insect Infestations 

Lastly, it’s not just birds and wildlife that are attracted to your bird seed.

Grain pests, such as indian meal moths, weevils, and a host of stored food product beetles will also be attracted to the seeds and grains found in your bird seed materials. This counts for the feed outside, as well as the feed that you have stored inside your shed, garage, or house.

Proper bird seed storage is strongly advised such as a sturdy sealed container. Storing bird seed in areas away from the home to avoid introducing a potential infestation into the house is a good idea, but remember that mice and racoons can chew through plastic and a metal container might be a better option.  

Terminix Canada offers expert bird pest control services across Canada including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Call us today to learn how we can help.