Sick Bird

Sharing is caring!

Sick Bird

by Lynn

(Los Alamos, CA)

“This is the third sick bird I’ve noticed in three years.” Hi Lynn, I have added information in bold, into your notes to help explain some of your questions.

Lynn: I’ve searched tons of Audubon sites, but none give an option of asking a question.

The first little bird had crusty lesions around eyes, the second was very fat and bloated, hung around food and water, and could fly a little (I assumed old age). I’ve since read something about a fat bird illness or disease.

It was today’s visitor that was most heartbreaking.

It was very fat, seemed to have some deformity in one wing. The worst was the terrible growths like warts or lesions all around its beak and face. It seemed like he couldn’t close its beak (perhaps just breathing hard), but wart-like growths were all around and in its beak. It was constantly trying to scrape the things off of its face. It made a few trips to the fountain, then just sat all day on the ledge of a fence.

I would like to know what it could have been, and should I try and catch it, then what? Audubon says don’t bring in sick birds to them or try and treat sick birds yourself.

It was suffering. I approached to take a photo with my phone, the only camera I own, and he fluttered to the nearest tree. He returned again and sat for hours then left and it fluttered off to the nearest branch as the sun began to set.

Response: Backyard birds who are used to visiting feeders often stay close to feeding areas when they are sick. They likely sense the need to stay close to food and water as their sickness zaps their energy and they are also unable to keep up with the group. Also, I have noticed sick birds are often shunned by other birds, which is a natural defense against getting sick.

Lynn: I’ve removed all feeders and water and cleaned the ground under seed hoppers and nyger socks.

Response: Lynn, you have done the right thing. Keeping feeders and anything birds drink out of regularly, clean during all seasons is very important.

Diseases are spread through feeders and baths because birds are drawn to them in numbers. One sick bird at a feeder can infect many more.

So completely removing feeders and baths when you notice a few sick birds is important.

But most of the time that is not necessary if you see one. It could be someone else’s feeders that are causing the problem. Just keep yours regularly cleaned. I have lots of help on my website about keeping feeders and baths clean:

How To Keep Bird Feeders Clean
How To Clean Bird Baths
How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Lynn: What should I have done to help him, and how can I find out what it had?

Response: Sadly, there is not much that can be done when you see a sick bird that makes us feel like we are helping. I know that probably is not what you want to hear, but it is against the law in almost all jurisdictions in North America to catch and possess a wild bird.

You could do a search for wildlife rehabilitation centers in your area and ask them if they take sick birds.

But unfortunately, trying to catch a sick bird will only cause it far more stress than it is already experiencing. And realistically, it is not easy to catch birds without harming them. It takes know how and practice.

That’s why it is always recommended to people that if you find a bird in distress call your local rehab center.

And once the disease is in an advanced stage there is not much that can be done to save its life.

Lynn: Some descriptions make it sound like some kind of bird pox. Nothing I searched was helpful.


House Finch Eye Disease

House Finches, Purple Finches, Gold Finches, Evening Grosbeaks and Mourning Doves are very susceptible to passing diseases to one another at feeders.
Birds with House Finch eye disease (also called Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis) have red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes. It was first reported in House Finches in 1994 and before that it was only seen in domestic Turkeys and Chickens.

Avian Pox

There are 2 forms: One is more common which causes wart like growths on the featherless parts of the body like the legs, feet, base of the bill and around the eyes.
The other is less common but just as fatal. Plaques develop on the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat, trachea, and lungs, making breathing and eating very difficult.

Avian pox has several strains and has been found in 60 species!


Is as it sounds belonging to the Salmonella genus. It is also a common cause of death in our precious feeder birds. Sick birds may look thin or fat and have their feathers fluffed up and might have swollen eyelids. They may be lethargic and easy to get close to. Some birds may only be carriers and so spread the disease by contact one to another or through their poop which contaminates bird food and water. Sometimes outbreaks can cause death in significant numbers like in Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and Goldfinches.

Bird disease information from

I cannot agree with your statement more “It is heartbreaking!” to see sick birds at our feeders. Over the years I have witnessed all three diseases at one time or other.

What Is The Best Thing To Do To Keep Birds Disease Free?

The most important thing we can do to help our backyard birds is to keep our bird feeders, bird baths, hooks, perches and anything else that birds come in contact with on a regular basis, is CLEAN! And spread the word to other backyard bird watchers!

Lynn: Don’t know how to report what it’s disease, illness was, no photo, and wouldn’t know to whom I would have reported this ailment.

Response: The best way to report a sick bird is through eBird. In the US eBird USA and in Canada eBird Canada

Lynn: I’m new to attempting to learn about my local birds and retired, so for the first time ever, I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy the wondrous things they are to my life.

Always enjoyed, loved and cared for my wild birds. But never knew what I missed, by not having time to observe them, as I do now.

I’m aware some organizations are tracking bird species and habitat, climate change, and causes of losing several numbers in bird populations.

I live in the Santa Ynez valley area in CA.

I will now try, and improve my spirits, by shopping for bird items. Hope I can remember what I learn and can afford to add to their natural habitat.

Lynn, I am delighted that you have chosen the best and most wonderful hobby to take part in, in the whole world! There is a plethora of interesting and inspiring information to learn about wild birds as we attract them to enjoy their incredible beauty and behaviour!

Please look through this site as you will find lots of information to help you along your bird watching journey and below is a link to signup for my newsletter which will be a big help too!

More About Wild Bird Rescue

Wild Bird Rescue What should you do if you find a feathered friend that needs help?

How to Care for Baby Birds? Should we interfere with wild bird baby care or let the experts deal with it?

Do You Know The Leading Cause Of Wild Bird Deaths and Injuries? You may be very surprised what the answer is to this question. The most important thing everyone can do to help birds survive is to take action to solve this problem.

Sharing is caring!