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When we feed birds in the garden the risk of infectious diseases spreading among the birds is increased because they are congregating in one area. This risk can be reduced by doing the following regularly:

  • Remove stale food, husks and droppings from the feeding area.
  • Move feeding area to another location.
  • Disinfect feeders and trays with veterinary disinfectant or a weak (1 part to 10 of water) bleach solution.
  • Change water in bird baths.

Also, store the bird food in dry, airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

The following is a summary of the common diseases found among birds:

  • Aspergillosis
    This fungal infection usually affects birds that are already in a weakened state and affects their respiratory system. The birds will often wheeze and cough, and may have a nasal discharge. The fungus is often found in mouldy seed.
  • Avian Pox
    Avian Pox is caused by avipoxvirus, affects a wide range of species and causes warty growths on bare areas, including feet, bill and around the eyes.
  • Botulism
    This is caused by a toxin released from bacteria that thrive on dead and decaying corpses. The main symptom is progressive paralysis.
  • Psittacosis
    Also called Parrot Fever but affects species other than parrots. Symptoms include ruffled feathers, lethargy, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and loss of appetite.
  • Salmonellosis
    This affects many species though Greenfinches and House Sparrows seem particularly prone to the disease. The symptoms of this bacterial infection include lethargy, fluffed up feathers and shivering. The infection is spread through droppings.
  • Trichomoniasis
    Pigeons and doves are affected the most by this parasitic disease. The symptoms include a puffy neck and the bird may have difficulty swallowing.

Some of these diseases and some less common ones not mentioned above may be transmitted to people and can be extremely unpleasant and, in some instances, even life-threatening.

Remember the following basic hygiene rules:
  • Do not breathe in dust from bird tables, feeders and nest boxes when you are cleaning them.
  • Do not clean bird feeders anywhere near food preparation areas, e.g. in the kitchen.
  • Do wear rubber gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.