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Joan Morris: Is there danger lurking in a birdbath coated in red algae?

Joan Morris, The Mercury News on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

DEAR JOAN: I pressure wash my birdbath two or three times per week and add fresh water, but red algae has appeared.

Is this something I need to clean out? We have a steady line of customers for the birdbath, and no ill effects apparent. Should I be more diligent cleaning my birdbath?

John P. Bronson, San Jose, Calif.

DEAR JOHN: Most algae, including the red variety, is harmless to birds, but it can discourage them from using the bath, and it can make your birdbath a bit of an eyesore.

There are a couple of things you can do. Red algae thrives in the sunshine, so you could try relocating the birdbath to a shadier spot.

You also can do a more thorough cleaning using diluted vinegar or diluted bleach; you'll need to make sure the birdbath is well-rinsed. Empty the bath, use your power washer, refill the bath as full as you can and then add a cup of either vinegar or bleach.


Cover the bath with a black plastic trash bag and secure it in place. You don't want it coming off and risk the birds thinking the bath is open for business. Let the solution sit for at least 15 minutes in the sun -- the plastic will absorb heat and along with the vinegar or bleach will help kill any lingering spores.

Remove the plastic and dump the water on bare ground or on a patch of weeds, then really rinse the basin to remove traces of the vinegar or bleach. If you aren't sure, give it a sniff test. If you smell the cleaner, keep rinsing. Better to be safe. Let it dry in the sun.

DEAR JOAN: My dog doesn't have any breed. He came from the street and he is 1 year old.

I am just concerned because he always puts his tongue out and then breathes fast. He also has zoomies when he's on the leash. I would just like to ask if this is completely normal.


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