With springtime in full swing, birds are flocking to backyard feeders for food and shelter.

This is a prime time for backyard birders to not only observe bird behaviors, but also make sure the birds remain healthy and free from disease.

An article published Tuesday in the Village Soup underlined the importance of keeping your bird feeder and the surrounding area clean:

Bacteria such as salmonella are normally present in very small amounts in wild birds. Once they congregate — and especially if the feeder allows droppings to fall into the food source — it’s easy for bacteria to start spreading and making birds sick. Even last year, some wild bird deaths in Maine were documented to be caused by salmonella infection. “It’s more important than ever for the backyard birders to help avoid the spread of this disease,” said Lichtenwalner.

Anne Lichtenwalner, a veterinarian at the University of Maine, laid out a couple cleaning techniques for the article.

It’s very important for everyone to clean their backyard feeders because even if you live in places that don’t get a lot of birds, migratory birds might stop by and carry diseases on route to their final destination, which could decimate populations.

First and foremost, it’s good to clean regularly, so the feeder doesn’t get too out of hand. Simply picking up old seed from the ground and replacing fresh seed in the feeder will decrease the spread of bacteria. However, you should also frequently soak the feeder in cleaning fluid.

After you clean the feeder, you should always remember to let it dry properly because moisture leads to mold and mildew, which is very unhealthy for birds.

Doing these simple things and reporting any suspicious bird deaths to health authorities will significantly decrease the possibility of disease spreading among birds.