Signs of a Disease Outbreak at Your Bird Feeder:
- Birds are less active and alert
- Birds are feeding less or unable to swallow
- Difficulty or reluctance to fly
- Swollen or crusty eyes
Diseases to Watch Out For:
- Salmonellosis is the most common disease spread at bird feeders, and it can affect all bird species. The illness has a wide range of symptoms, but sometimes birds show no signs of carrying the disease. Infected birds may be thin or fat. Other common symptoms include swollen eyes and lethargy. It can cause abscesses in the esophagus. The bacterium is spread through feces and contaminated food as well as coming into contact with an infected bird.
- Mycoplasmosis is commonly known as House Finch Eye Disease, but it can affect any finch species. It causes red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes. Birds with mycoplasmosis may seem disoriented because this disease can cause blindness. Once blind, birds with this disease starve to death. Mycoplasmosis is caused by a bacterium that is contagious for up to 24 hours.
- Trichomoniasis is transmitted to pigeons and doves by parasites. It causes sores in the mouth and throat, preventing the bird from swallowing. Birds with trichomoniasis can contaminate the food and water at your bird feeder or bird bath. Contaminated food is contagious for up to five days.
- Aspergillosis occurs when bird seed becomes damp and moldy. When birds inhale spores from the fungus, they can be infected with bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Avian pox is a virus that can affect all bird species. It can cause warts to grow on featherless parts of the body. Another form of avian pox causes plaques to grow in the respiratory system, which results in breathing and feeding difficulties. Avian pox is spread by contaminated foods and surfaces as well as coming into contact with an infected bird.
How to Clean Your Bird Feeder:
- Bird feeders should be cleaned once to twice a month, and birdbaths should be emptied and cleaned daily. Always use disposable gloves so you are not exposed to potential illnesses. Never wash your bird feeder in your kitchen sink, and do not use any brushes or tools that you will also use for washing dishes.
- Scrape any residue off the bird feeder. Use dish soap on any remaining residue. If you notice sick birds at your feeder, take all your feeders down for a week and empty your bird baths.
- To disinfect the feeder, mix nine parts water with one part bleach. Scrub the feeder with a brush, then let it soak for 10 minutes. Rinse and then air dry.
- Do not reuse seed or nectar; it could be contaminated.
- If you notice sick birds at your feeder, take all your feeders down for a week and empty your bird baths.
If You Find a Bird that Is Sick or Injured:
- Call your local wildlife rehabilitator to ensure they have the resources to care for a sick or injured bird.
- Line a covered, ventilated box with a towel and place the bird inside. Handle the bird as little as possible, and wear disposable gloves when you do (you do not need to worry about the bird smelling like humans, but gloves will keep you from coming into contact with open wounds, blood, or illnesses). Keep the box in a dark, quiet spot indoors away from pets. Follow these steps if you are unable to immediately transport the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator:
- If the bird is a baby that is not fully feathered, you may provide supplemental heat. Place the box on top of a hot water bottle or a heating pad on a low to medium setting. Frequently check on the bird to make sure it is not overheating (keep in mind that birds’ body temperature is higher than humans’).
- Avoid giving the bird food or water. Since birds’ anatomy is so small, it is easy to improperly feed the bird. This can result in food getting trapped in their lungs. When placed in a dark box, the bird’s metabolism will actually slow down.
 Feeder Maintenance & Hygiene. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from http://web4.audubon.org/bird/at_home/bird_feeding/feeder_maint.html
 Hewitt, D. (2016, March 21). How-and Why-to Clean Your Bird Feeders. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://watchingbackyardbirds.com/wbbsite/article/how-to-clean-your-bird-feeder.php
 Haggin, L. (n.d.). Sick Birds and Bird Diseases. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://feederwatch.org/learn/sick-birds-and-bird-diseases/
 What do I do if I find a sick, injured, or dead bird? (2016, April 01). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/what-do-i-do-if-i-find-a-sick-injured-or-dead-bird/
 Emergency Care. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from http://wildliferehabber.com/content/emergency-care
 When You Should-and Should Not-Rescue Baby Birds. (2018, May 02). Retrieved from https://www.audubon.org/node/336746?site=ny