Bird watchers, rejoice. The mystery illness that was killing songbirds across the mid-Atlantic seems to be weakening and the number of sick birds has decrease dramatically – so much so that bird feeders can once again go back out in yards around the SouthCoast. But there are a few things to do first.

Both the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Audubon Societies have announced in recent days that it is again safe to feed those birds you love. The mysterious illness that arrived in late spring has just as mysteriously started to disappear, and the danger to songbirds seems to be behind us.

Sadly, there is no more information on the mysterious illness and how it might be prevented from returning next spring, but there are tips from MassAudubon and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island on how to safely get your feeders back out there.

Wash all your feeders

With the cause of this avian disease still unknown, but knowing that contagious avian diseases like this one spread at feeders, anything you had in your yard before the disease hit should be thoroughly washed before putting it back out.

MassAudubon suggests soaking feeders in a solution that is one part bleach and nine parts warm water for several minutes. You then rinse the solution off the feeder, let it air dry and fill it up for the birds to snack from. If you really want to keep the birds safe, they say to continue this cleaning method every few weeks.

Washing all bird baths on your property as well

Again, with the diseases origins still unknown, cleaning anything the birds use is going to be key in keeping them safe as scientists continue this investigation.

Clean up all the hulls and debris left under a bird feeder

It sounds like a pain to get out there and pick up tiny seed casings from around your feeder, but it actually does a lot of good. They debris the birds leave behind can not only carry pathogens that could get other birds sick, they also attract other (and often bigger) wildlife to your yard. It is a good practice for the birds and for you.

So while we are certainly thrilled at the news that feeders can return to yards across the SouthCoast, there is a bit of work to be done first. If you do come across any sick birds, you are encouraged to contact your local Department of Environmental Management.

Dartmouth Hosts Mass Audubon's 18th Annual Allen's Pond Duck Derby

A play-by-play of the Duck Derby on Allen's Pond in Dartmouth that helps support Mass Audubon's ecological and outreach programs. One "lucky duck" went home with $5,000 for finishing first in the race.