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Bird Feeding 101: How to Tell If Birdseed Is Spoiled?

When it comes to the health and safety of your feathered friends, it is essential to make sure that the birdseed is freshly stored and not spoiled. It’s important to know if the birdseed is bad, as it can be harmful to your feathered friends. Spoiled seeds can grow mold, which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues in birds. Ingesting spoiled birdseed can also lead to digestive issues, such as diarrhea. In severe cases, birds can even die from consuming spoiled seed. Therefore, it’s important to regularly clean and replace birdseed in feeders.

In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know to identify spoiled birdseed and prevent it from happening in the first place.

How to Tell If Birdseed Is Bad?

The first step in maintaining the well-being of our avian friends is to learn how to identify spoiled birdseed. Here are some signs to look out for:

Visual Changes: The first thing to inspect is the appearance of the birdseed. Spoiled birdseed may have mold growth (appears as a white and greenish powdery substance on the surface), discoloration or a slimy texture. If you notice these signs, it’s clear that the birdseed has spoiled and you need to discard it immediately as consuming moldy birdseed can cause birds to become ill.

Peculiar Odor: The smell of the birdseed is also an indication of whether it is fresh or spoiled. You can smell the birdseed to detect any unusual or rancid odors. Fresh birdseed should have a mild, nutty aroma. On the other hand, if the seed emits a foul, musty or sour smell, it’s a clear indication of spoilage.

Insect Infestation: Check for any signs of insect activity in the birdseed. Bugs like moths, worms and spiders can contaminate birdseed. Small crawling creatures and their larvae, cocoons, webs and other signs of insect activity might be present if the seed has gone bad. One or two insects will not be a problem, but several insects or a larger swarm means the seed is spoiled and should be discarded.

Clumping or Stickiness: Fresh birdseed should flow freely, but birdseed can clump together when it gets wet, which can happen if it’s stored in a damp place or exposed to moisture. If you discover the seeds clinging together or forming clumps, it suggests moisture has entered the bag or container, making it susceptible to spoilage.

Sprouting: If the birdseed is not stored properly or if it’s old, it starts to sprout. When birdseed sprouts, it can become less nutritious for birds and may even contain toxins. In addition, sprouted seeds can be difficult for birds to eat because the sprouts can get tangled up with the other seeds in the mix.

Bird Disinterest: Observing birds’ behavior around the feeder can be a good indicator. If the birds are showing disinterest in consuming the birdseed or are showing signs of illness after eating, this might imply that the seed is spoiled. If you’re still unsure whether the birdseed is bad, you can perform a simple test. Take a handful of the seed and sprinkle it on the ground. If the birds in your yard don’t eat it within a few hours, it’s likely gone bad.

Why Does Birdseed Go Bad?

Understanding why birdseed spoils is essential to prevent our feathered companions from consuming harmful food. There are several reasons why birdseed can spoil.

One of the most common culprits is moisture. If the seed gets wet, it can quickly grow mold and bacteria. Improper storage can also accelerate birdseed spoilage. Storing the seed in hot and humid areas, such as a garage or basement, can lead to spoilage more quickly. Another reason why birdseed can go bad is due to the quality of the seed itself. Cheap, low-quality seed that is already compromised with filler ingredients is more likely to spoil as it may contain more dust and debris that can harbor bacteria. 

In addition, birdseed can go bad if it is exposed to too much sunlight or oxygen because UV light and oxygen can break down the nutrients in the seed, making it less nutritious. Moreover, birdseed can become contaminated if it has been stored near pests or other animals. Mice, rats, and other pests can easily get into birdseed and contaminate it with their droppings, saliva and urine. Lastly, like any other food product, birdseed has a limited shelf life. If the seed is past its expiration date, it is prone to spoilage and should be discarded.

How to Prevent Birdseed from Spoilage?

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to prevent birdseed from going bad.

Store Properly: Firstly, make sure you store it in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight which will cause the seed to shrivel and lose its nutritional value. Use airtight containers or resealable bags to store birdseed so as to prevent insects and rodents from getting into the seed and keep it fresher for longer. You can also add a desiccant packet to the container to absorb any excess moisture. 

Rotate Stock: You should rotate your birdseed supply regularly – always use the older seed first, and then replace it with fresh seed. Continuously rotating the stock of birdseed prevents old seeds from being left unused for extended periods. Use the “first in, first out” rule to ensure fresh seed is always available. Keep an eye on the birdseed level in the feeders and replenish it regularly. If the seed sits for too long, it may become damp or develop mold. Only provide enough seed that the birds can consume within a few days.

Regular Inspection: Inspect birdseed regularly for any signs of spoilage, including mold growth, peculiar odors, clumping, sprouting, live or dead insect bodies, etc. If any of these signs are present, replace the seed immediately.

Clean Feeders Regularly: Dirty feeders can contribute to the growth of bacteria and mold. Regular cleaning also helps prevent the accumulation of spoiled seeds that may deter birds from feeding. You can use a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water to disinfect the feeder and rinse it thoroughly before refilling it with fresh seed.

Buy High-Quality Seed: It’s also a good idea to buy high-quality birdseed from a reputable supplier. Cheap seed may save you money in the short term, but it can end up costing you more in the long run if it spoils quickly. Always remember to check the expiration date before purchasing birdseed. Also, you can buy birdseed in smaller quantities that can be consumed within a reasonable period, which minimizes the chances of spoilage and guarantees fresher feed for birds.

By following the tips outlined in this blog, you can ensure that your birdseed stays fresh and safe for your feathered friends to enjoy.

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