How to Attract Wild Birds - Page 6
Diseases and Common Dangers
Part 1 - Wild Birds & Diseases
A WORD ABOUT FEEDER CARE:
Crowded feeders promote the spread of diseases. Use more feeders and keep them a good distance apart. Clean your feeders regularly with a mild solution of bleach and water or vinegar and water. Rinsing is very important!
West Nile Virus has been linked to Jays, Crows, Hawks and other wild birds. If you live in an area that has not already repeatedly proven the presence of West Nile Virus and you see a bird on the ground dead, contact the disease authorities. They may ask you to double bag the body and bring it to them. Follow the instructions they give you. They are trained to give you instructions that are safe to follow. If you see a bird on the ground or on a feeder and it appears listless and does not fly away at your approach, leave the bird alone and call the disease authorities to alert them to the whereabouts of the bird. Do not try to capture the bird.
This is a healthy Blue Jay and...this is also probably a "healthy" Blue Jay
with a common problem.
This blue jay is molting, or has a skin condition
or some hormonal imbalance. This is commonly seen
in blue jays and cardinals in my yard.This is not a sign of West Nile Virus.
This is a common sight every year! Every year I see bald-headed jays and cardinals, etc. The birds will look sick and rather frightening but they are going through this rather unattractive problem which they seem to do routinely.
Back to West Nile...stay indoors as much as possible during the time of day that mosquitoes are biting. Use a repellant that contains safe ingredients - keep up to date.
Question: A bird in my yard is tilting off balance with its bill open. It just sits there. It appears to be shaking. Is this bird sick?
Answer: If this behavior is during hot weather the bird is mostly likely trying to cool itself. Birds do not sweat. They expand their wings, sometimes tilting to one side and they keep their bills open to help release heat. The shaking appearance could be due to "panting" in hot temperatures. This is not usually a sign of illness.
I've observed mockingbirds, orioles and blue jays doing this frequently. In cooler weather, the blue jays turn and look at the sun while doing it. They spread their wings high and shake. This wouldn't be due to overheating. They could be drying off from a bath.
Question: I have a bird in my yard that is not flying around much. It keeps calling and shaking its wings like it is in distress. Is this bird sick?
Answer: Chances are, this is a fledgling young bird trying to get the attention of the adults and begging for food. A common misconception is that baby birds will look noticeably smaller than adults. Juvenile birds often appear to be as large as the adults. To get the attention of the adults, and to beg for food, a fledgling bird will shake is wings rapidly and call continually. This is supposed to stimulate the adult into feeding it. If the baby bird is old enough to start feeding itself, the adults may ignore it for longer and longer periods of time. You could have a persistent, hungry youngster begging for a free handout.
Question: I found a dead bird outside. Is this a bird killed by West Nile Virus?
Answer: I don't believe anyone could tell just by looking at the bird. Before assuming the worst, realize that dead birds found near to a home are frequently killed from window collisions. This happens much more often than people realize. They see the reflection in the window and assume that they can keep flying. Often, they barely strike the window and fly off. Sometimes, particularly when fleeing from a surprise threat, they fly into the window with enough force to stun or kill themselves. Always protect yourself by avoiding direct contact with any dead bird. Turn two bags inside out over your hand. Use the bags like a glove to pick up the bird. Pull the bags right side out again and seal them with the bird inside untouched. If WNV has not been confirmed in your area, call the authorities and follow their directions. Otherwise, they will probably tell you to discard the bird. Some universities take dead birds.
House Finch Conjunctivitis
Question: A house finch at my feeders seems to be blind on one side. The eye is nearly closed. The other eye looks red and wet. What is wrong with it?
Look at the links below that are for Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.
I've included a photo of a house finch from my own backyard. We've seen several of these birds every year. They slowly become so blind that they don't see our approach. They stay in the feeder as much as possible because once they leave they have a hard time returning. Without treatment from a licensed professional rehabilitator, they are doomed to starvation. It breaks my heart to see this every year. We like to use open platform feeders to avoid contamination from rubbing against feeding ports once we see these birds.
At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology they have this quote:
Should I try to treat an infected bird?
By law, only licensed professionals are authorized to handle most wild birds. Although it is possible to treat finches with conjunctivitis, you should not add medications to bird seed or baths under any circumstances. There is no way to know if medication actually helps birds in uncontrolled conditions, and such treatment may in fact contribute to disease spread by allowing infected birds to survive longer. Treatment with antibiotics may also lead to the rapid evolution of novel strains of the disease that could possibly spread to other songbirds.
See how to reach a rehabilitator from my Injured Bird page.
West Nile Virus
(Links to other web sites.)
CDC: Questions and Answers about West Nile Virus
USGS - Center for Integration of Natural Disaster Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - article- Migratory Birds and Spread of West Nile Virus in the Western Hemisphere
House Finch Disease - Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis
(Links to other web sites.)
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
**September 18, 2001 - I saw my first House Finch infected with Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis today. - Central Texas
(Links to other web sites.)
Avian Pox: A Curse for Afflicted Birds
**September 28, 2001 - I saw my first House Finch infected with Avian Pox today. - Central Texas
Part 2 - Common Dangers to Wild Birds
Predators to Birds and Nests
Realistically, you will not be able to protect the birds and nests in your yard from a determined predator and you should not torment yourself over it WITH THE EXCEPTION OF FERAL OR LOOSE HOUSE CATS. I get lots of mail about this troubling issue from people who are just beginning to discover the joys of bird watching. Unfortunately, this is a fact of nature which is very tragic and very cruel. The bitter truth is that cats are not native predators here and they don't belong outdoors stalking the native wildlife.
The birds in my yard face many dangers. Feral cats roam free in the neighborhood. We have raccoons, snakes, opossums and other birds which will kill birds and nestlings.
QUOTE FROM CATS INDOORS:"Cats Indoors! encourages cat owners to keep their cats indoors and advocates laws, regulations, and policies to protect cats and birds, including the humane removal of free-roaming cats from areas important to wildlife. The campaign promotes grass roots efforts to address the issue at state and local levels."
Wild birds can collide with windows. They might only bump into the window and fly away. Sometimes, they will be stunned. Sometimes, they are killed. If you hear a loud thump at your window, it is a good idea to check to see if a bird has been frightened into colliding with a window. If the bird is only stunned, you might guard it until it recovers. It is completely vulnerable to a predator while stunned.
QUOTE FROM U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE:
"Pesticides are used in nearly every home, business, farm, school, hospital and park in the United States and are found almost everywhere in our environment. -
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
QUOTE FROM AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY:
"Some pesticides can, and do, kill birds - songbirds, gamebirds, raptors, sea and shore birds, among others. 672 million birds are directly exposed each year by pesticides on farms alone - according to one conservative estimate - and 10% of these, or roughly 67 million birds, die. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, approximately 50 pesticides currently used in the US have caused bird die-offs.
American Bird Conservancy
QUOTE FROM TOWERKILL:
"These communications developments have brought on a recent rapid proliferation of new communications towers, a trend which is expected to continue well into the next century and based on ample evidence (Avery 1980, Weir 1976), will kill additional millions of songbirds each year."
American Bird Conservancy
Want to see more birding pages?
How to attract wild birds:
1. How to Attract Wild Birds - Introduction
2. Water Features
3. Backyard Habitat - Protective Cover & Nesting
4. Feeding Wild Birds
Other sections of wild bird pages:
5. Wild Birds FAQ
6. Wild Birds Disease & Dangers ----- (you are here)
7. Injured Wild Birds - Links to Help
8. Wild Birds Photographs - ID Help
9. How to Attract Hummingbirds