Community News

Bird feeders spreading infections

posted Friday, June 04, 2021

The following information is from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife


The Salmonellosis outbreak appears to have subsided in most parts of the state. However, we are starting to get reports of a different infection that’s mainly affecting house finches called Avian Mycoplasmosis. Mycoplasmosis is a bacterial infection that typically causes swollen eyes and an upper respiratory infection, and sick birds may act similar to those infected with Salmonellosis. Similar to Salmonellosis, Mycoplasmosis spreads readily at bird feeders especially tube feeders that require the birds to reach their head into the hole to grab seeds. That said, it’s probably relatively safe to resume feeding if residents choose to do so. However, residents should remain vigilant and if sick or dead birds are seen at the feeders, then the feeders and bird baths should be removed for at least 3-4 weeks. This will hopefully encourage the birds to feed on more natural foods and slow the spread of infection. Also, it’s generally recommended that bird feeders and bird baths are thoroughly cleaned outdoors at least once a week, and more often if there is heavy use by birds. Disposable gloves should be worn and hands should be thoroughly washed after handling of bird feeders and bird baths, and when disposing of dead birds.

Per the CDC:

Birds can carry germs like Salmonella while looking healthy and clean. Salmonella germs can spread between birds, to pets, and to people.

You can get sick when you touch your mouth with unwashed hands after touching wild birds, bird feeders or bird baths, or your pets that have contact with wild birds.

What You Should Do

Help keep people and animals healthy around wild birds, feeders and bird baths.

Clean your bird feeder and bird bath at least monthly. You may need to clean more often as bird poop and other dirt builds up on your feeder.

Clean feeders outside your house when possible. If you clean it indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right after. Do not clean bird feeders in your kitchen or places where food is prepared or stored.

Follow these five steps to clean and disinfect your bird feeder:

Scrub feeder with warm soapy water to remove dirt. Rinse with clean water to remove soap.

Soak in a diluted bleach solution (9 parts water and 1 part bleach) for at least 10 minutes.

Rinse with water to remove any remaining bleach solution.

Let it dry before refilling it.

Wash your hands with soap and water after touching your bird feeder.

Clean and refill your bird bath weekly or when it’s visibly dirty.

Keep pets away from bird feeders and bird baths and the areas under them.

If you find a sick or dead bird in your yard, remove your feeder and bird bath for two weeks and clean them outdoors.

Do not touch or hand-feed wild birds with your bare hands.

If you find a sick bird, call your state wildlife agency or wildlife rehabilitator icon.

If you find a dead bird, check with your state wildlife agency icon for information about reporting dead birds in your area.

Some state and local agencies collect dead birds to test for diseases.

If your local officials tell you to throw the dead bird away, wear gloves or place a plastic bag over your hand to pick it up. Place the bird in a plastic bag, tie the bag up, and throw it away, following your local officials’ instructions. Some locations may allow dead birds to be disposed of in your regular trash. Wash your hands with soap and water when you are finished.

Always wash your hands with soap and water:

Right after touching your bird feeder or bird bath

Right after handling a bird, even if you wore gloves or used a bag

Right after touching your pet or pet’s supplies (like food, bowls, and toys)

Right after picking up your pet’s feces (poop), even if you used a bag

Before you eat or drink