Wet birdseed can be unpleasant for birders and dangerous for birds. But how can backyard birders protect birdseed from rain and snow? It is easy to keep birdseed dry and continue offering birds healthy, nutritious foods.
Problems With Wet Birdseed
Wet birdseed isn't just unpleasant; it can cause a number of problems at backyard feeding stations, such as:
- Mold. Wet seed will spoil and mold more quickly, encouraging bacteria growth that can spread diseases to backyard birds and may even be fatal. Birds are less likely to eat spoiled seed, causing waste and even deterring birds from visiting feeders altogether where there are other food sources they can visit.
- Smell. The musty, dank smell of wet birdseed makes a feeding station less pleasant, and while birds are not likely to be as bothered by odors, birders will not appreciate the stench. Strong smells will also attract predators and feeder pests such as mice, rats, raccoons, and bears, which can lead to feeder damage and other problems.
- Stickiness. Wet seed, particularly oily seeds, such as black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seed, and Nyjer, clumps. Large clumps can clog feeding ports so birds are not able to access seed as readily. Wet seed can also cause oily stains, making the feeding station less aesthetically pleasing.
- Sprouting. When birdseed gets wet, the seeds may begin germinating and sprouting. Birds will not eat sprouted seed, so the seed not only goes to waste, but it may be tossed from the feeder where it will sprout in the lawn. This causes unsightly growths and disrupts the flowerbeds, turf, and gardens where bird feeders are hung.
Feeders to Keep Seed Dry
The easiest way to keep birdseed dry is to use feeders with adequate protection from rain and snow. When choosing a feeder that will be protected on rainy days, look for:
- Roofing. A sturdy roof with a good, lengthy overhang can cover feeding trays or ports and keep seed dry. Check how the roof is attached to be sure water cannot seep through joints or holes into seed trays or bird seed holders.
- Mesh. Mesh construction promotes air circulation so the water evaporates quickly before the seed spoils. Mesh trays or sides under a solid roof can be ideal, but be sure they are well sheltered so water cannot get in through the mesh.
- Drainage. When a little water does get into the feeder, there should be adequate drainage so it does not create puddles. Very small drainage holes may be inadequate in wet climates and could easily be clogged by small seeds or discarded hulls.
- Feeding ports. Investigate how birds access seed in the feeder. If feeding ports feature small covers or are somewhat recessed, water will be less likely to get into the seed and it will stay dry more easily. Open trays or broad hoppers are more likely to get wet.
While carefully choosing a feeder can help prevent moisture from becoming a problem, no bird feeder is completely guaranteed to keep birdseed dry, particularly in areas with abundant rain and humidity. To protect seed even further, consider:
- Feeder position. Hanging a feeder several inches under a roof or awning will help keep rain away from the birdseed. Positioning a feeder under a thick tree can also help minimize water intrusion. Hang feeders high enough or place them out of reach of sprinklers, and avoid windy areas where rain or snow could be blown into the feeder.
- Baffles. Adding a wide baffle above a feeder will not only help squirrel-proof the feeder, but it will rain-proof it as well. Hang the cover as close as possible above the feeding area while still allowing enough space for birds to comfortably get to the seed to maximize its effectiveness. A low baffle can also discourage starlings or other large birds from taking over the feeder.
- Adding drainage. If a feeder collects water in the base and the existing drainage is inadequate, it's easy to augment that drainage. If possible, widen drainage holes or drill extra holes for more drainage. Adding a small layer of gravel or a wad of window screen mesh to the bottom of the feeder will also elevate seed away from any puddles and keep the seed dry.
- Changing food. Even in wet areas, seed cannot get wet if the birds have already eaten it. Opt for higher quality birdseed that birds will eat more quickly, and less seed will be available to get wet. Offering different types of food that are more resistant to getting wet, such as fruit or whole nuts, can also be effective and will attract a wider range of species.
- Adjust feeding. Opt for smaller feeders that can be refilled more frequently; these feeders are easier to empty when it rains so there is no seed to dampen. After the rain, wait to refill the feeders for an hour or two to allow them to dry, and the seed will stay fresh longer.
- Dry feeders. Allow feeders to adequately dry after they have been soaked and avoid immediately adding seed to a wet feeder. If possible, wipe down the feeder with a clean cloth and be sure feeding ports are dry before refilling. This will also help keep the feeder clean for longer periods.
- Seed storage. Store birdseed properly in a dry location, preferably in an airtight container. This will not only prevent moisture from damaging the seed but will also keep out mice, moths, insects and other undesirable pests.
It is best to use several techniques to help keep birdseed dry; but with care, no backyard birder needs to contend with moldy, sticky, smelly seed or disgruntled birds that don't appreciate a damp meal. Dry birdseed is healthier and more attractive to birds and will keep a feeding station more attractive for birders as well.