Do Baby Birds Have Diseases?

Baby birds are more likely than adult birds to succumb to diseases due to environmental factors. They can carry diseases that humans can catch, so it’s important to take good care of baby birds and practice proper hygiene.

Finding a bird’s nest in the rafters of a covered porch or in a nearby abandoned flower pot is exciting. The birds are so small and helpless. It seems natural to want to care for them. However, baby birds should be left in the nest to be cared for by their parents.

If you find a baby bird outside its nest or know that the bird’s parents are dead, you need to contact a wildlife rehabilitation center. Remember that baby birds both contract and carry diseases. This is why you need to make sure you handle them with care.

What Causes Baby Birds to Contract Diseases?

Baby birds can easily catch diseases if their bodies are stressed. Stress weakens their immune systems, so they must be well-fed, kept at an optimal temperature for their age, and checked for parasites.

Feeding

A baby bird can go up to 24 hours without food, so in most situations, you do not need to feed a baby bird if you are waiting to give it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

However, if the baby bird has been abandoned for a while or it will be a few days before you can get the bird to a center, you may have to feed the baby bird.

Be cautious about how you feed them. They have very sensitive digestive systems and can also easily choke. Foods that are ok for baby birds to consume include moist dog food, raw liver, and hard-boiled eggs.

Temperature

Remember that temperature is normally regulated by the mother bird. If it is too hot or too cold, baby birds can die. Also, temperatures that continuously vary add stress to the bird’s body. Certain temperatures can encourage bacteria or fungus to grow or invite pests.

If you have to keep a baby bird for a while, you must ensure it is kept at a safe temperature.

This can be achieved by warming up a sock full of rice and placing it in the box or other container you are using as a nest.

You could also put a heating pad on low and place it beneath the box. Once again, you need to ensure you’re not warming the bird too much. An optimal temperature is between 95-97 degrees Fahrenheit.

Parasites

Externally, baby birds can get mites, lice, ticks, and fleas. These parasites feed on the birds, weakening their immune systems. These parasites can also spread other illnesses through their bites.

Baby birds are also prone to internal parasites such as worms and toxoplasmosis. Worms can affect a baby bird’s immature respiratory system, while toxoplasmosis can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and blindness. Toxoplasmosis is also extremely dangerous for pregnant women.

There aren’t many treatments for birds once they get parasites. However, external and internal parasites can be prevented by ensuring the bird’s nest or cage is kept clean and free of waste.

If you suspect the baby bird has parasites, let the wildlife rehabilitator know.

Common diseases

There are several types of diseases that baby birds can get. Some result from bacteria or viral infections, others are fungal. If you see a baby bird that is weak, lethargic, losing feathers, has diarrhea, or seems to act odd, seek a medical provider. The following diseases can be spread through feces, contaminated food and water sources, and close contact.

  • Avian pox is a disease that produces wart-like pox on the beaks and feet of birds.
  • Aspergillosis is a fungal disease that leads to bloating and difficulty breathing.
  • Trichomoniasis causes lesions on the beaks.
  • Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that causes stomach issues such as diarrhea.

There are many other diseases that baby birds can be susceptible to, especially if they haven’t had good care or resources in the wild. Remain cautious as you interact with the bird and watch for signs of these illnesses.

Can Humans Catch Diseases From Handling Baby Birds?

When handling baby birds, you must remember they can spread diseases to humans. One example is salmonella, a bacteria on poultry birds such as chicks and ducks spread through contact.

Salmonella bacteria live on birds’ bodies even if they look healthy. The bacteria can also live on objects that the birds touch.

If you touch a bird that has salmonella, you risk catching it. Within 3 days of handling an infected chick, you can develop diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever symptoms. A healthcare provider can treat this illness, but sometimes salmonella can be severe enough to require a hospital stay, especially for young children, the immunocompromised, or the elderly.

Another disease that baby birds can spread is psittacosis, a respiratory illness spread through contact with fecal droppings and respiratory droplets. Keeping cages and coops clean is essential in decreasing the spread of this disease. If a human contracts this disease, he would have symptoms of fever, headaches, chills, muscle pains, and cough. Once again, this disease needs to be treated, or it can be severe.

How to Safely Handle Baby Birds

Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after you handle baby birds. This will prevent the spread of diseases from bird to human. Also, consider wearing a pair of thick gloves when handling birds. This will help to ensure you are protected from any diseases the bird may be carrying.

For the safety of birds and humans, it’s best to leave the care and rescue of baby birds to professionals. Well-trained wildlife rehabilitators can be found locally. They know exactly what the species of bird you’ve found needs. They also have resources to feed, maintain temperature, and treat diseases birds may carry.

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