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Post  laurainwinona on 10/9/2010, 10:28 am

I used to have a bird feeder in my flower bed. The birds would drop seed shells and poop, and I noticed that that end of the flower bed grew more lush. Now that I have a SFG and a compost pile, I was thinking about moving the bird feeder so that the seed shells and bird droppings fall into the compost pile. Any thoughts? Is this a good idea or a bad one?

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Post  boffer on 10/9/2010, 11:26 am

And there's also the problem of seeds dropping and sprouting. The resulting plants would be easier deal with in the compost pile. But, I know wild birds can spread disease in their droppings. I've PMed our resident animal expert, Odd Duck, a vet, to share her opinion.

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Post  sceleste54 on 10/9/2010, 4:56 pm

Yeah.. my kids former pediatrician died of an atypical avian tuberculosis. He went home everyday from 11 to 2 and worked in his yard. Picked it up from northern blackbirds wintering in the area.

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Post  Odd Duck on 10/11/2010, 12:46 pm

Thanks for the alert, Boffer.

While there certainly is a small degree of risk from using droppings from wild birds, it is pretty small if the droppings are composted. The bigger risk would happen while you are messing about with droppings before they're composted. I worry less when people are using chicken droppings, because they are less likely to have hidden health problems - people tend to notice if the chickens, that they see everday, aren't acting right. Wild birds can absolutely be a source of a few sort-of nasty diseases and a very few, very nasty diseases.

Even though wild birds get blamed for atypical avian tuberculosis, recent studies don't really bear out the birds as the source. There are certainly cases in the literature, but new methods of typing the bacteria reveal that the people affected in modern cases actually caught it from another person. "Avian" TB may actually be mis-named, but it was first ID'd in a bird and "Avian TB" it will be forever more.

I probably would not seek out and deliberately put wild bird droppings in my compost, just to minimize the risk as much as possible, but I also don't panic if there is a bit here or there in the garden. I would absolutely recommend that you wear a dust mask when cleaning up any significant quantity of bird droppings if you are "dry" cleaning - just scooping up dried droppings, vs wet cleaning - rinsing it away with water. If you are using a super-powered sprayer that can get contaminated droplets aerosolized, wear a mask. Anything that can put microparticles into the air for you to breath, should trigger you to wear a mask (and this goes for pretty much anything, not just bird doodoo Smile ).

I am as guilty as the next person of not using protective gear (who wants to stop in the middle of what you're doing to go put on a hot dust mask just because you're stirring up a little dust?) I certainly don't and I know loads of things that you can get just from the soil, let alone from the organisms hidden in the soil. But we get away with it because of our immune system. Immune compromised individuals should be MUCH more aware of the possibility of problems and take appropriate measures.
Odd Duck

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Post  laurainwinona on 10/18/2010, 11:22 pm

Thanks, everybody who resonded. Wow, I'm glad I asked! I think I won't move the bird feeder after all, and find a source of "poop" that's less risky.

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Post  Megan on 10/19/2010, 8:20 pm

On a similar note.... I found a dead cooper's hawk on the sidewalk at work last week. I went to pick it up and chuck it in brush, but two thoughts stopped me. One, raptors are protected species and my understanding (perhaps wrong) is that you are not supposed to touch them, even to remove a dead one. And two,.... just, two. I called animal control instead, and they came and got it. That night I ran the whole thing past a friend of mine who is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She was all "good job, now they can send if off to test for avian flu." I really hadn't thought of that, and kicked myself after the fact because I SHOULD have thought of that.

Anyway, I'm exposing my shame to the world here in hopes someone else may benefit from it. Embarassed

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