“Diseases in Birds”

There are many diseases in birds that can either kill them or the bird can act as a host.  The diseases can be transferred by a vector or can be bridged to another animal or human.  Diseases in Birds

A vector can be a mosquito, trick, or any other insect that can transfer bodily fluids from the bird to another animal or person.   A bridge is normally when the infected feces of a sick bird come into contact with another animal or human.

Backyard bird feeders are one of the biggest problems in the country when it comes to spreading diseases in birds.  Your best defense to stop the spread of diseases is to clean and disinfect your bird feeders.  For detailed instructions on cleaning your bird feeders an bird baths see Cleaning Bird Feeders.

Most common Diseases in Birds:

Salmonellosis (sal-muh-nel-LOW-sis)

The most common bird feeder disease in North America and occurs year-round near water.  What is Salmonellosis?  Salmonellosis is a bacteria known by the name Salmonella.  Symptoms of Salmonellosis are not always obvious, but if you see a bird that is lethargic, not able to eat, or not flying away when approached there is a good chance the bird is infected.  Birds that show symptoms normally die within a few days.  This disease can spread rapidly! What to do: Keep your feeders clean & disinfected, see Cleaning Bird Feeders, clean up seed that falls to the ground, and disperse feeders further apart.

Trichomoniasis (trick-oh-mo-NYE-uh-sis)

Trichomoniasis is a one cell parasite that can effect affect many species of birds and occurs mostly in late spring, summer, and fall. Many times birds infected with Trichomoniasis develop sores in their mouths or throats making it unable to swallow and contaminated food is dropped and ingested by other birds, hence spreading the infection. What to do: Keep your feeders clean & disinfected, see Cleaning Bird Feeders.  Clean up & dispose any seed under your feeders on the ground. Disperse feeders further apart. Encourage your neighbors to do the same!  If problem persists after a week of cleaning consider taking all your feeders in for a week to allow sickly birds to disperse.

Aspergillosis (as-per-jill-OH-sis)

Aspergillosis is a fungus, mold, that normally occurs in damp areas such as on wet feed or on the ground and can occur year-round. It can also be found in damp nesting materials.  The fungus spores can spread through their lungs causing bronchitis and pneumonia. What to do: Keep your feeders clean & disinfected, see Cleaning Bird Feeders, don’t let seed pile up under your feeders causing mold, and discourage birds from getting into your compost pile.

Avian pox – Viral, usually fall and winter

Avian Pox is a viral disease and is more noticeable than most otherDiseases in Birds diseases in birds and mostly occurs in fall and winter.  You will notice wart-like lesions that from on featherless areas around their beak, eyes, and legs.  In some cases, death may occur, but many birds recover from the virus if not re-infected. The virus is spread by direct contact with infected birds at feeders and bird baths.  What to do: Keep your feeders clean & disinfected, see Cleaning Bird Feeders. Clean up & dispose any seed under your feeders on the ground. Disperse feeders further apart. Encourage your neighbors to do the same!  If problem persists after a week of cleaning consider taking all your feeders in for a week to allow sickly birds to disperse.

As a birder what can you do to prevent the spread of diseases in birds by being responsible and keeping things cleaned along with the education of your neighbors.  Not only can you clean your feeders & bird baths and educate your neighbors but you can do more.  Remember you and your family can contract many of these diseases in birds also.

Here is how to protect yourself and your family:

  • In summer months, frequently apply mosquito repellents containing DEET.
  • Keep your immune system strong by eating and hydrating properly.  The majority of people who
    die of the diseases listed below have compromised immune systems.
  • Create an Organic Eco-System, see Insect and Rodent Control.
  • Clean your feeders & bird baths, see Cleaning Bird Feeders.