How to recognize a sick bird.
You won’t be able to determine whether a wild bird is ill just by looking at it. However, bird watchers who are able to spot sick birds are in a better position to avoid the spread of diseases at their bird feeders and to assist sick birds in a way that will help them recover more quickly. But how precisely can one determine whether or not a bird is ill?
Birds are susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and injuries, and it is common practice for a sick or injured bird to avoid going near a backyard bird feeder. However, if a sick bird does show up, there are two methods to determine its condition: by observing its outward look and its behavior.
identify sick birds
Identifying Ill Birds Based on Their Outward Appearance
Symptoms of a disease may not appear in every sick bird, but those that do can usually be identified without any trouble. A bird in good health will have a clean and complete appearance, often seeming the same as it would in a field guide or nature image. Its feathers will be in the correct position, it will have an attentive posture, and its eyes will be bright and intelligent. However, sick birds may exhibit a variety of symptoms, including the following:
- eyes that are dull and lack focus
- When it is not chilly, the feathers will be fluffed or rumpled.
- eyes or membranes, such as the cere, that are swollen.
- Eye, mouth, or nasal discharge that is either wet or crusty
- soiled and tangled up feathers
- The absence of feathers
- wounds, lesions, or injuries that are plainly visible
Even while a bird’s outward look may be an unmistakable sign of disease, it may be difficult to spot symptoms in smaller birds, and it’s possible that some birds won’t show any outward signs of illness at all. In situations like these, the behavior of the bird is a more accurate indicator of its overall health.
Identifying Sick Birds Based on Their Behavior
A bird in good health is lively and alert, and it is always busy doing things like eating, preening, or other activities typical of birds. Even if it is unable to move about much, a bird that is in good condition will still glance around and be generally aware of its surroundings. If it senses that it is in danger, it will respond accordingly. On the other side, a sick bird may exhibit strange behaviors, such as the following:
Difficulty breathing, as seen by huffing and puffing or panting breaths
Reluctance or incapacity to fly in an appropriate manner
Being excessively motionless even when someone approaches them.
wings that are drooping or a posture that is slouched and unstable
Taking up residence in public spaces, including porches and patios.
Limping Head’s natural tendency to list to one side
Glaring or giving the impression of being sleepy
being attacked by other clearly healthy birds that are more aggressive
Even while not all birds who display these kinds of symptoms are really unwell, the behavior is strange enough to warrant concern in case the birds are ill.
Birds That Do Not Have Any Illnesses
There are occasions in which birds may exhibit what seem to be symptoms of disease, either by their outward look or their behavior, despite the fact that they are not, in fact, unwell. In circumstances like these, it is crucial not to interfere with the birds in any way, since they do not want any aid, and any involvement, regardless of how well-intentioned it may be, may cause the birds more stress than it alleviates.
Baby Birds Because of their downy feathers, bald spots, and disproportionately large eyes and beak, baby birds might have the appearance of being unwell.
They may even make a sick appearance, flapping their wings and acting as though they are unable to fly very far or crying out for attention. However, this is quite normal for young birds, and unless a newborn bird seems to be in evident and severe discomfort, it should be left alone for its parents to care for it in the right manner.
Some species of birds are born with birth defects, such as disproportionately large beak, claws that are crooked, or feathers that are the wrong hue. It’s possible that older traumas have left some birds without feet or legs.
Even though these unexpected characteristics may be alarming, the bird is not ill and does not need any treatment if it is eating, active, and generally aware. There should not be any recent wounds or bleeding injuries present.
Birds in the Process of Molting When birds are in the process of molting, they might have exposed patches of skin and scruffy feathers, which can make them appear like a mess. During the process of molting, birds, depending on their species, may even be unable to fly for a period of time; nonetheless, this is completely natural. The process of birds replacing their plumage is called molting, and although it might take many weeks, the birds do not need any further assistance during this time.
Some birds, like vultures and condors, are born with no feathers on their heads, while others, including numerous jays, cardinals, and grackles, might experience temporary loss of their feathers.
The appearance may be startling, but it does not always point to a serious condition. In a similar vein, several species of birds have typical bald patches, most often located on the forehead and the neck; these bald patches are equally normal and do not indicate any kind of sickness.
Northern Cardinal with a bald head
When attempting to determine whether or not birds are unwell, it is essential to carefully study them for as long as possible. This is due to the many scenarios in which otherwise healthy birds may exhibit signs of disease. A bird is only likely to be unwell if it exhibits extremely severe physical or behavioral signals to sickness, or if it exhibits many different indicators of illness at the same time.
How to Promote the Health of Birds
Although it might be upsetting for bird watchers to see sick birds at their feeders, sickness is a normal and inevitable component of a bird’s life cycle. Only the healthiest birds will make a full recovery, while those who are less robust will perish. Birdwatchers may do the following to assist birds in regaining their strength:
Keep the feeders clean to reduce the risk of disease transmission to other birds.
Provide fresh seed that has a high percentage of oil for additional energy.
Provide a selection of additional nutritious items, such as fruits and nuts, for people to choose from.
Maintain a safe environment free of dangerous animals that might potentially catch birds who are eating there.
In order for birds to drink, you need to provide clean water in-ground dishes and birdbaths.
Dispose of deceased birds in an appropriate manner to stop the spread of diseases.
Bird watchers may reduce the number of sick birds in their backyard flocks and aid sick birds in making a full recovery if they are able to identify sick birds and respond appropriately to their conditions.