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How clean is your nestbox?

Last modified: 01 October 2011

Nestbox on tree

Image: Andy Hay

If you have a spare moment between some last minute sunbathing and a late bonus BBQ this weekend, give some thought to your garden wildlife, says the RSPB.

The wildlife charity is urging gardeners and householders to give nestboxes, feeders and bird baths a clean during the late warm, dry spell, ready for the frantic months of winter feeding ahead.

The RSPB says that this weekend is the prime time to wash garden bird feeding apparatus and nest boxes with warm, soapy water, and leave them out to air dry in the sunshine.

Now is the time to put nest boxes up well in advance of the breeding season next spring, as many birds will do a ‘recce’ over winter to choose where to raise their family. Many birds also shelter in nest boxes in colder weather.

Over 60 per cent of the UK population feed the birds in their garden, and as winter approaches, millions of pounds will be spent on things like seed mixes, fat balls and mealworms.

Despite the Indian summer this week, temperatures will inevitably drop in the coming weeks, and as they do so the amount of natural food in the countryside also diminishes.

Garden birds may still seem scarce at the moment, but when berries and insects start to run out they will return in their droves for our hospitality.

That’s when birds start to rely on our supplementary food and shelter, so being prepared with clean, full feeders and spick and span nest boxes is vital.

The RSPB also says that clean feeders can help prevent outbreaks of bird diseases like salmonella.

These diseases tend to get worse as larger numbers of birds congregate to feed close together.

The RSPB advises keeping feeding areas clean in order to avoid the infection, with these top tips:

- Clean and wash your bird table and hanging feeders regularly, ideally with a five per cent disinfection solution.

- Move feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent droppings accumulating underneath.

- Rinse water containers out daily, and allow to dry out before fresh water is added as droppings can accumulate in bird baths.

-       Personal hygiene is also important. Don't bring your feeders or nest boxes into your house to clean them - do it outside, using separate utensils. Wear gloves.

-       Always wash your hands when you've finished.

Ian Hayward, RSPB Wildlife Adviser, says: “‘October is the best time to clean out nesting boxes. If you are sure they are not in use then open them up, remove the old nesting material and you can leave it under a nearby shrub to decompose naturally, and give it a good rinse. Allow it to air dry and then put it back into place so that wintering garden birds can use it to roost in and hopefully stick around to nest in the following spring.

“Now is also a good time to be cleaning your feeders for autumn and winter but we’re not usually lucky enough to have weather like this! By doing it now you’ll be ready for when birds start to return from the wider countryside.”

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