Garden Bird Diseases

Like Humans, birds can be contaminated by contagious diseases such as the Avian flu, the Trichomas Gallinae and the Salmonellosis. For this reason, keeping your bird feeders clean is crucial to prevent your feathered visitors from contaminating each other.

You might think that avoiding predators and finding food are the only things that are key to the survival of Garden birds. But in August 2011, the BBC reported that garden bird disease was spreading to new parts of the UK, and that many garden birds were coming down with a form of avian pox that caused lesions around the eyes and beak. The virus was first found in the UK in 2006, but the 2011 version was a more severe strain of the virus and was affecting great tits. The lesions that the flu caused were preventing great tits from flying, meaning that they were easy prey to predators. Lesions on the beak were also causing feeding problems.

Avian Flu & Trichomonas Gallinae

Bird disease The spread of Avian flu was thought to be from contaminated bird feeders, biting insects and from bird to bird contact. And this was not the first time that bird feeders has been blamed for spreading a disease in garden birds. Back in August 2010 bird lovers came under fire for unwittingly killing chaffinches and Greenfinch populations through dirty feeders and infected bird baths. The bacteria found on these items was spreading Trichomonas Gallinae - a disease which ends in death by starvation, after the bird throat swells and they are unable to eat.

The rise of Trichomonas Gallinae is thought to be caused by Wood Pigeons. Having moved into gardens for a more reliable food source, wood pigeons are the distributors of this particular parasite, and will leave it on your bird table when they visit. It affects finches more than any other kind of bird, so if you know that your garden is visited by both these types of birds, keep your feeder hygienic and your bird tables clean.


Some strains of salmonella can spread from animals and birds to humans. Both domestic and wild birds can become infected Salmonella, and the disease is complex in it’s many strains.  Most commonly occurring during the winter months, salmonellosis affects flocking birds such as Chaffinches, House Sparrows and Greenfinches, the later of which affects male birds more than the females.

Salmonella, a fairly hardy bacteria,  attacks the digestive tracts of wild birds.  Often infected birds continue to eat making the risk of transmission greatest at communal feeding sites where large groups of birds congregate as droppings are the main sources of infection.  An infected bird is often easy to identify for example, the bird will looked puffed up, little or no response to immediate danger and will more than likely be sitting still on a bird feeder or on the ground.

Maintaining the cleanliness of feeding platforms is a key preventative to the disease spreading throughout the wild bird ecosystem.  No only is it important to prevent faecal contamination of the water and food being offered. It is important to consider your own personal hygiene when you think you have identified this strain of bacteria in your garden - especially when handling dead birds - it is vital you wear disposable gloves as well as thorough hand washing.

We advise you follow some ‘best practice’ hygiene guidelines to help prevent disease spreading.

  • Rotating feeding stations helps to reduce any contamination build up.

  • Provide good quality bird feed by demand - don’t be tempted to over feed.

  • Drinking stations should be cleaned and refilled on a daily basis as well as bird baths.

  • Ideally uneaten food and droppings should be removed daily as well as disinfecting the feeding station to be sure hygiene is maintained.

Written by Marion Cointre European Ecommerce Content Specialist at Wild Bird Feeders. – Your Ultimate Bird Resource. We are Perky Pet®, Birdscapes®, Garden Song® and Avant Garden® – four strong brands recognised as world leaders in the wild bird feeding category! We offer the broadest and deepest selection of quality bird feeding products at competitive prices.