Sick or Injured Birds in Your Garden
What do I do if I see sick or dead birds at or near my feeder / bird bath?
Finding an Injured Bird: When you come across an injured bird - maybe a victim of a cat or hawk attack or a window collission - get a towel and gently put the bird in a cardboard box or large paper bag. Put the bird in a warm, quiet place. Do not offer first aid. Do not offer food or water. Get the bird to a veterinarian or an authorized wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible (call your state wildlife agency for a referral). Regardless of your best intentions, if you offer first aid without the proper training, you're likely to do more harm than good.
- The vet will have to treat any bite wounds or scratches from dogs and cats aggressively, even if they appear to be minor. The wound needs to be washed out with hydrogen peroxide or Betadine, and the bird will require aggressive antibiotic therapy. Cats transmit a bacterium called Pasteurella, which causes Pasteurella Septicemia in untreated birds. This is a serious infection resulting in death
- Sick Birds:
- The higher the concentration of birds at a feeding station, the greater the chance of another bird picking up infected food particles and exposing itself to any infections. Provide SEVERAL feeding stations / bird baths in different locations; this will spread the birds out minimizing close contact.
- If you only see one sick or dead bird, carefully disinfect / clean the feeder. Maintain meticulous cleanliness on or around feeding stations.
- If you see several diseased birds, remove the feeders for a week to give the birds chance to disperse. This will help in stopping the spread of the disease.
- Report Sick or Dead Birds:
- Only veterinarians or federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators can legally treat wild birds. Therefore, if you find a diseased bird, it is best to report it to your state, provincial or local wildlife agency. You may want to call a wildlife rehabilitation center in your area, as they might be able to provide information on current diseases in your area and may be able to help.
- US: Call your agricultural extension agent, local veterinarian, the State Veterinarian, or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Veterinary Services office. USDA operates a toll-free hotline (1–866–536–7593). USDA wants to test sick or dead birds to make sure they do not have a serious communicable disease. There is no charge. Early reporting is important to protecting the health of your birds!
- Other Countries: Contact your local wildlife rescue organization or consult with a vet.
What kind of diseases the birds may be suffering from?
Do you see "Bald" Birds? Check out www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/BaldBirds.htm
Mange / Mites Infection
Symptoms: Sore, bald spots. Gradual loss of feathers. Eventually the birds will die from exposure or preditation.
This problem is of increasing concern and has infected birds and mammals, including humans. Human patients have found comfort in applying Arrid extra dry deodorant with 24 % aluminum chlorohydrate. Although even the medical community seems to be at a loss at this time how to treat humans or animals against some of these parasites. Epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide have also shown great success in environmental and corporal control.
What you can do to help birds in your garden: Outbreaks are best prevented by keeping all feeding areas and water containers clean. Provide several feeding / watering stations to spread bird populations out over the different facilities, rather than encouraging close contact. It is very important to exercise good personal hygiene when handling sick or dead birds, and when cleaning the feeders and water containers. Some mites are infectious to humans and it is very important that you wear gloves, avoid direct contact and shower afterwards. If you see more than the isolated case of sick birds, please remove the feeders and watering stations to avoid the spread of this disease.
Treat wildlife: Contact your local wild life rehabilitation group for specific advice on the situation. Due to the added stress that captivity causes, wild life with mange are treated in their natural habitat, whenever possible. Ivermectin administered orally or on their food normally will do the trick.
More on mites and information about "biting mites".
Symptoms: Red, swollen, runny or crusty eyes. At an advanced stage, the eyes may become swollen shut and the bird becomes blind and helpless. The infected bird may sit quietly in your garden, clumsily scratching an eye against its foot or a perch. While some infected birds recover, most will eventually die from starvation, exposure, or predation.
Symptoms: Difficulty in breathing, emaciation and increased thirst. Birds may also appear to have difficulty walking. There may be a white opacity in one or both eyes, accompanied by a discharge.
What you can do: To reduce the risk of this disease, store seed in a dry place to discourage the growth of mold and fungus. Throw away seeds that have become wet or moldy. Aspergillus fungi are most likely to grow on corn and peanuts and you may avoid these food items if you live in a warm, humid environment. Don't allow damp organic matter to accumulate on or near your feeder.
Trichomoniasis / Canker
Most commonly affected pigeons, doves and the raptors that feed on them; however, this disease has been seen in other garden birds, such as greenfinches. Any bird can catch the infection. Mortality from this disease varies, but it can be quite high.
Symptoms: In addition to showing signs of general illness, such as lethargy and fluffed-up plumage. Infected birds may drool saliva, regurgitate food, have difficulty swallowing or show labored breathing. Finches frequently have matted wet plumage around the face and beak, and uneaten food in and around the beak. Sometimes it is possible to see swelling in the throat area of an infected bird, and it may stretch its neck in discomfort.
This infection is characterized by raised lesions in the mouth, esophagus, and crop. Infected birds may appear to have trouble closing their mouth, and they may progressively have problems swallowing food and eventually they are unable to breathe. The infected bird will eventually die of starvation or possibly choking.
Route of Infection: Infected birds can contaminate water containers (birdbaths) with their oral secretions, which can, in turn, expose many other birds to the disease.
Coliform infections occur regularly in wild birds, and can be either gastro-intestinal or respiratory in nature. While E. coli is a normal part of the gut flora in many birds, it can become pathogenic at times of stress.
Symptoms: unwillingness to eat, loss of body condition and severe vomiting or diarrhea.
Route of Infection & Prevention: Outbreaks are best prevented by keeping all feeding areas and water containers clean and free from droppings.
This is a bacterial infection, which can be found in a wide range of bird species, especially those that occur in large flocks such as sparrows, starlings, pigeons, gulls, waders and ducks.
Symptoms: Although sudden death can occur in a bird with normal body weight, the usual presentation of a bird with TB is one of progressive weight loss in spite of a good appetite. Depression, diarrhea, increased thirst, and respiratory difficulty may also be present. Decreased egg production often occurs in birds that were laying eggs. Once the disease appears, it is impossible to eliminate. Eventual death is the usual outcome.
Route of Infection & Prevention: The disease spreads by contaminated droppings and can be readily picked up by birds that feed in close flocks. It is very difficult to diagnose, and there is no known treatment.
The best way to control this disease is to remove infected individuals (some can recover and become long term carriers of the disease, so they are best taken to a vet); to remove any feeders and watering stations for a week or two and afterwards to maintain good hygiene routine at feeding stations.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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