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Summer Bird Food Safety

Get in the habit of checking your bird's food in the warm summer temperatures

By Susan Chamberlain

Bird Food
Protect your bird's seed from insect infestation by only purchasing as much seed as you will use in about a month's time and store in a container.
Courtesy Robin Kresel, Maryland

Summer produce provides a wide variety for your bird.  Fresh melon or squash seeds offer a tasty treat, and peas, beans, peppers, corn and other garden vegetables are nutritious and tempting as well. Big, wet lettuce or broccoli leaves and carrot or beet greens clipped to cage bars encourage small, leaf-bathers like budgies to flutter around beneath the greenery and to nibble on it as well. Choose organic produce if possible (or grow your own), but be sure to wash it thoroughly before presenting it to your bird, as it can be tainted with insects or droppings from birds and animals. Blanch fresh corn in boiling water to reduce risk of contamination from mold.

A varied diet is healthy for your bird, but be careful when sharing summer meals with your feathered friend. According to USDA reports, bacteria proliferate between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Leftovers, or food that has already been cooked, and then cooled should be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve reheated food to your bird as soon as it has cooled to room temperature. Remove uneaten portions from your bird’s dish after an hour.

Anthea Stavroulakis, Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, Kingsborough Community College at CUNY (City University, New York) has some advice that will benefit you as well as your bird:

“Cooked foods are more readily spoiled by fungal and bacterial contamination, which will alter the taste and more importantly could result in production of toxins (metabolic products of the growing microbes).  In general, foods containing sugars are acted upon because sugar is a microbial nutrient. Refrigeration suppresses microbial growth, bacterial more than fungal - ever notice how even molds can grow in refrigerators? So, two guidelines come to mind: Don't leave questionable or fruits in your birds’ cages for more than one hour, and choose fruits that are ‘contained’ -- e.g.: grapes have their own wrappers (skin). Vegetables such as corn, fresh peas in the pod and red pepper usually are considered a little safer. This is some advice I share with my Microbiology students when I caution them about cream pies and custards in the local diner, as these foods are readily inoculated and contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, and toxin producing bacterium responsible for certain cases of 24-hour food poisoning.”

Don’t share summer salads containing mayonnaise, fish, meat or eggs with your bird, especially if these foods have warmed to room temperature.

For Further Information Contact:

Food Safety and Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
FSIS Food Safety Education Staff
Meat and Poultry Hotline:

(800) 535-4555 (Toll free Nationwide)

(202) 720-3333 (Washington, DC area)

Insects Got You Bugged?
Use nontoxic or biological pest control methods indoors and out. Attract insectivorous birds to your garden; install a martin house in your yard if you live in an area friendly to these little birds. Pheromone (sex lure) moth traps in the pantry, a length of flypaper in the garage, and a fruit fly trap (or tall bottle with a bit of red wine in the bottom) keeps indoor pests at bay in my house. I sprinkle a diatomaceous earth product (Concernâ, available in home improvement and garden centers) around the foundation of the house to keep ants from trespassing. A light coating of vegetable oil around each leg of the birds’ cages keeps crawling insects from invading their space.

Bugs in the birdseed? Many bird owners refrigerate or freeze seed to prevent moth infestation. Freezing doesn’t always kill all moth eggs that may be present, and after a few weeks you may notice worms (larvae) in the seed or moths fluttering about. A reader wrote to ask about the advisability of permitting her bird to ingest infested seed. Many birds eat “buggy” seed with no apparent ill effects, but you should be aware that some insects may be vectors for diseases, and that the nutritional quality of the food may be compromised if insects have been noshing on it for a while. Purchase only as much seed or formulated food as you will use in a short amount of time (about a month) and store it in insect-resistant containers.

For a copy of Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety, contact:

National Service Center for Environmental Publications

(800) 490-9198 or (513) 489-8190

www.epa.gov/ncepihom/ or access the publication online www.epa.gov/pesticides/Enjoy a safe, comfortable summer with your avian companion!

 


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Reader Comments
wow, i never knew that noncooked foods like brocoli and other things could mold easier and faster than cooked.
Kristyn Ramirez, Portland, OR
Posted: 8/22/2007 10:38:34 AM
Very Interesting.
Reid, San Saba, TX
Posted: 8/22/2007 7:38:00 AM
A big hit with my bird is "pet grass" which you can find in many pet stores.
Patrick, Columbia, SC
Posted: 8/21/2007 8:57:09 AM
smart article....very informative
andrea, hamilton, OH
Posted: 8/21/2007 8:10:51 AM
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