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Some NYC residents fined for having birdbaths

Residents of New York who have birdbaths with standing water on their property may be susceptible to a fine of up to $2,000 based on the city’s health code, according to an article in The New York Times. (Hat tip to Melissa Mayntz who runs the great About Birding page for bringing it to my attention.)

Article 151 of the city’s health code states that property owners cannot have “standing water” on their property, which is aimed at stopping the breeding of mosquitoes that thrive in stagnant water.

According to the Times, 699 New Yorkers were given a summons for violating the health code last year, and at least four were birdbath related.

This law has been on the books for quite some time, but it was only recently that the terms were made more general. Last year, in the height of the battle against West Nile virus, the term “stagnant water” was changed to “standing water,” which makes the code broader. That’s why the law now includes birdbaths.

Joseph Pomares, a 53-year-old in Queens, was fined even though he said the birdbath was brand new and he changed the water every other day. When properly cleaned on a regular basis, a birdbath is not a common breeding ground for mosquitoes because the eggs never have the time to properly hatch into larvae.

The fines are only given out during mosquito season, which is from April to October, to prevent the spread of West Nile virus. This is a pretty big deal because last year, 11 cases of the virus were recorded in New York City, including one death in Queens.

Although the health department has stated it’s not explicitly anti-birdbath, it does not shy away from fining those with standing water birdbaths.

If you live in New York, or really any other place, having a birdbath with moving water will prevent you from being fined and from mosquitoes using your birdbath as a breeding area. Various accessories that prevent water from standing, such as water wigglers and solar-powered birdbath waterfalls, effectively decreases the risk of water stagnation and mosquito proliferation.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.