In Bird Friendly Cities, key threats to birds are effectively mitigated, and nature is restored so native bird populations can thrive.

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  • Thom Luloff

Bird Feeding: Identifying a Sick Bird

When properly cared for and maintained, bird feeders can be a great way to observe and learn about the many different types of birds found in our backyard. If bird feeders or watering stations are offered it is crucial they be cleaned and disinfected at least once a week to prevent the spread of disease like salmonellosis, conjunctivitis, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, or avian pox. These diseases occur when infected birds use the bird feeder and shed droppings or secretions that contaminate the bird feeder or the food within it.


You have followed all of the advice in selecting a feeder and placing it according to recommendations and enjoying your birds. We do know that many diseases of birds are transferred at bird feeders, and we need to be vigilant in looking for sick visitors at our feeders.


What does a sick/diseased bird look like and how do you spot one at your feeder?


General signs of illness in species of birds that frequent our feeders are:

  • Ruffled feathers (constantly fluffy)

  • Squinty eyes

  • Lack of movement - bird is not as mobile or alert as others

  • Bird is abnormally on the ground

If you see any of these signs, it is recommended that you take down the bird feeder and do a thorough cleaning regime, remove all the scattered food on the ground below the feeder, and leave the feeder down for at least two days to allow the birds to disperse.


If you are able to safely collect the diseased bird, please follow the Wildlife Capture Guide and contact the Kawartha Wildlife Centre.


Specific Diseases to be Aware of

Avian Pox: This disease presents with lesions on or around the eyes, nares (nostrils), face, and ears. These look like wart-like growths. If you suspect Avian Pox, please take down the bird feeder and do a thorough cleaning regime, and leave the feeder down for at least two weeks to allow the birds to disperse.


Conjunctivitis: This disease presents with running, red, watery secretions forming from the eyes, which may leave yellow-mucus deposits on the feathers of the face. Take down the bird feeder and do a thorough cleaning regime, and leave the feeder down for at least two weeks to allow the birds to disperse.


Please contact Kawartha Wildlife Centre for guidance and advice about sick or injured birds.