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We talk a lot here at WildBirdScoop.com about keeping bird feeders clean, but it is just as important to keep the ground under the feeders clean too.
Feeding wild birds creates an unnatural situation by attracting birds to a concentrated area to eat.
This concentration of birds means, lots of poop in a small area, which in turn creates a perfect condition for bacteria and disease to thrive, which can make our precious birdlife sick.
As a result we must do our part to be responsible to keep things clean, providing a safe and healthy feeding environment for wild birds to eat and for us to enjoy.
1. To prevent the development of bacteria and fungi which can make wild birds sick.
2. To limit the attraction to rodents like rats and mice.
3. Uneaten seed on the ground may not be eaten before it decays from the moist condition of the soil and rotting seed will smell.
4. The seed will damage the ground, especially black-oil sunflower seed hulls, which contains a toxin that will kill some types of plants and prevent others from growing.
5. This mess will change the chemical balance of the soil.
6. Some types of fallen seed will sprout and produce unwanted plant growth.
7. The seed scattered under the bird feeding area will attract social, birds like Pigeons, Blackbirds and European Starlings who will arrive in large numbers.
It will be almost impossible to feed wild birds full time and not have a little mess to clean up.
But these tips will help you clean it up and maintain it.
1. Start by giving the area under your feeders a good cleaning to begin your new commitment to keeping the area clear of bird seed.
2. Use a shovel if you need to, but get it all out and throw it in the trash or better still compost it properly.
3. After the initial mess is dealt with, decide what surface you would like to have under your feeders and install it. There are good suggestions below.
4. Regularly rake or sweep the area, and/or use a 3-in-1 Electric Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum with Multi-Stage All Metal Mulching System. Yes, it does exactly what it says!
5. Some people suggest moving your feeders around your yard on a regular basis to give the seed that has fallen an opportunity to naturally compost. This will create a problem for some birds who do not adapt to change well and should only be undertaken after a couple of years of feeding birds in one location. Changes seem less disturbing after feeders have been consistently available over time. But this solution will bring other problems in my opinion.
6. Another suggestion is to use natural enzyme spray to help the area under your feeders compost faster. But again I must share that this idea has its limitations as the seed matter will likely not decompose fast enough as newly fallen seed and shells will constantly be added to the pile.
Removing the debris that hits the ground is the only satisfactory solution in my opinion.
Number 1 & 2 answer this question:
Wild birds toss seed out of the feeder for 2 reasons:
Purchase the best quality bird seed. Even if you are using one type of seed such as black oil sunflower and the birds still toss some out, it could be that the seed is low quality.
When the birds open the shell from low quality seed it is often empty or the seed is immature. This results in the birds scooping out seed looking for ones that are filled with mature nut-meat inside.
The best seed is often used for human consumption. Then some food processors will sell the under-developed seed as bird seed.
Always check several seeds when purchasing a new brand to make sure there is a full size kernel inside.
If you are purchasing a low quality mixed blend of bird seed, then there is likely milo, red millet, wheat, barley, and oats etc., in the mix which are all seeds that very few backyard birds will eat, if any at all.
So the shoveling process of seed onto the ground goes on, while the wild birds are looking for one they prefer to eat. Making a big mess on the ground below!
The solution to the above 2 problems is to always buy good quality seed. The extra expense will soon be made up with far less waste.
And if you are purchasing good quality mixed seed then the seeds that backyard birds don't eat will not be in your good quality mixed seed bag.
But, even with the best blend of seed, some birds will continue to toss seed out while looking for a preferred type like peanuts, but the ones that are thrown to the ground will be eaten by other birds if it is a good blend.
Once you have solved the problem of poor seed and are committed to a better quality product you will notice a big difference in the amount of bird feeder mess that falls to the ground.
Any debris that does fall will be shells which the wild birds do not eat.
If this is still a problem and something that you do not want to deal with, there are two things you can do, which are answered in #3 and #4.
Seed catching trays attach under the feeder and all the seed that is thrown from the feeder will fall into the tray, avoiding all that bird feeder mess on the ground.
It also provides a flat surface for wild birds like Mourning Doves to eat, who normally cannot feed from a feeder with perches.
This way the mess is in the tray where it gets another chance to be eaten and much easier for you to cleanup.
Sunflower seed hulls contain a toxin which prevents some other plants from growing. This may be the reason you notice that the ground is bare under your feeder and plants do not grow.
Sunflower seeds are not alone either, there are other plants that do the same thing, like black walnuts. This is the way these plants deal with reducing competition for growing space.
This is called allelopathy:
To reduce the hulls of sunflower seed killing off plants under your bird feeders us a leaf vacuum on a regular basis.
This will also reduce the problem of disease caused by bird droppings under your bird feeder.
Vacuum and rake the area directly affected under your feeding stations on a regular basis and you will have a much tidier and more bird cleanly area.
Install a concrete patio or use paving bricks or flagstone to build a patio for the birds.
This will make it easy for the ground feeding birds to graze on the fallen seed and much easier for you to keep clean.
If you maintain the ground under your feeders in a healthy condition then ground feeding birds like Cardinals, Finches, Mourning Doves, Juncos, Sparrows etc., will have a place to feed. This will relieve the congestion at your bird feeders too.
Number 6 is a suggestion from a follower of WildBirdScoop.com.
Hope all these methods helps to solve your bird feeder mess problem and make it easier for you to manage.
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