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Bay Area debate on the best way to clean hummingbird feeders

DEAR JOAN: There seems to be a difference of opinion on the best agent for cleaning hummingbird feeders.

I read in a magazine a while ago that it is OK to use bleach to clean a hummingbird feeder. The author claims that the birds wouldn’t smell the bleach once it is rinsed off, unlike detergent, which leaves a lingering smell due to fragrances.

Out  of curiosity, I decided to do a web search on the subject of cleaning hummingbird feeders and I came across a site that said “absolutely do not use bleach, use vinegar instead.” However, vinegar doesn’t seem to get rid of mold as well as bleach.

Instead, of getting knowledgeable on the subject, I became more confused. Joan, I would appreciate your help in this matter.

Ron Fong, Castro Valley

DEAR RON: Both bleach and vinegar are appropriate for cleaning hummingbird feeders, and it’s really a matter of preference. The more important thing is that the feeders are cleaned regularly.

Bleach can be used, but it needs to be diluted — one part bleach to nine parts water. After cleaning, the feeder must be rinsed thoroughly to remove any traces of the bleach, not because of the odor but because drinking bleach isn’t good for anyone.

Some people don’t trust the bleach method, fearing that residue might linger and harm the birds, so they use white vinegar. You also can use hydrogen peroxide, but don’t mix it with the vinegar or bleach. The feeders should also be rinsed well after cleaning.

Many people opt for boiling water. If you have a feeder that can withstand the heat, boiling is a great way to remove mold and any lingering sugar without leaving anything potentially harmful behind.

In all cases, a little elbow grease is required. Invest in some bottle brushes to help with the cleaning. We want to make sure the feeders are as clean as they can be to prevent harming those awesome hummers.

DEAR JOAN: I live in an apartment. Out in the parking lot, there is a vehicle that hasn’t been used for maybe a couple of weeks. A dove built its nest at the base of the windshield and she is now sitting on an egg.

What can I do to protect her and potential offspring from being disrupted? I do not own the vehicle and I don’t know who does, but eventually they will want to use it.

Judith H., Louisville, Kentucky

DEAR JUDITH: Here’s where the coronavirus shelter-in-place order could be helpful to the mourning doves. Let’s hope the owner of the car is following your governor’s instructions and staying home.

Legally, you can’t move the nest. It’s protected under a federal act, but beyond that, moving a nest is not a good idea as it can cause the birds to abandon the eggs and the hatchlings.

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