CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Bird feeders and baths, It’s a way for people at home, in parks, anywhere, to watch and appreciate birds of all kinds.

“The birds don’t need us to feed them. It’s convenient for them and they’d like it if we had stuff out for them, but the primary purpose of feeding birds is to bring them together so we can see them. It’s for us, not them,” Rob Kanter, a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Earth, Society, & Environment, said.

Now, Illinois officials are asking you to stop. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is asking everyone to take down their bird feeders and bird baths and clean them all out.

That’s because the bird flu is spreading in state, and the Midwest.

“We’ve all been living with it for two years. We know that social distancing helps to slow the spread of infectious diseases, and what’s going on now is the birds have a flu going around. And if we cannot bring them to feeders, we may be able to help slow the spread of disease,” he said.

Kanter is a professor, but he also calls himself a “birder”. Meaning he loves to watch birds – and he even has a flock of chickens in his own backyard. He said he’s already taken steps to help keep his flock and wild birds safe.

“The poultry person in my house, my spouse, said let’s take in the bird feeders just on the chance. So, we don’t have the avian flu coming to our chicken via the birds hanging around our feeder. So, ours have been in for a while,” he said.

Kanter said those who enjoy watching birds, like himself, should be all right taking these steps for now.

“I can’t imagine somebody who cares about birds would be reluctant to take down their feeders for a reason like this,” he said.

IDNR has these recommendations as well:

• Clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) and put away or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.

• Remove any bird seed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.

• Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.

They suggest you do this until May 31st, or until the bird flu slows down in the Midwest.

Kanter said the bigger, more destructive problem for wild birds, is habitat loss.

He said if you want to help right now, you can plan shrubs and trees. The birds will eat small caterpillars and insects that live on the top of those.