Do Hummingbirds Carry Disease? | Hummingbird Disease

Yes, if you are not careful while taking care of them, they can spread diseases. You don’t get infected merely by touching the bird, but if it is infected by Salmonellosis (Salmonella), you need to be careful.

Hummingbirds are wild birds, and they live in different environments. Hence, they can transmit various diseases, most of them may not be harmful to humans, but it is always better to take precautions.

Do Hummingbirds Spread Diseases?

Yes. A study conducted by the University of California states that most microbes that grow in feeders are not harmful to birds or humans.

The sugar water that you put in the feeder for these little hummers develops several pathogens, and the microbial development that takes place in the sugar water is very similar to those found in flower nectar.

Related Read: Do Hummingbirds Get Diabetes From Too Much Sugar Water?

As different types of birds come to the feeders, and usually, birds feed on these feeders in a flock, it increases the threat of Salmonella. It is a disease that can spread from an infected bird to a human as well.

So, yes, hummingbirds spread diseases to humans.

Is It Safe To Touch A Hummingbird?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to touch a hummingbird. From the hygiene point of view, these are wild birds, but you don’t get any disease or illness by merely touching a bird.

If you find a bird that is distressed or not well, you must take precautions like touch it with a gloved hand.

From the legal point of view as well, you can touch a hummingbird. If the little flutterers are frequenters in your yard, you can pet them, help them, nurse them if they need it, and you will be legally clear.

But you cannot take a hummingbird as a pet.

In the United States, The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 prohibits you from trapping, holding, or controlling a bird. It is illegal.

Since hummingbirds are one of those birds for whom the law has been made, you cannot capture or possess the hummers, their nest, their eggs, or the babies. It can attract a penalty of $15,000 to $200,000 US dollars.

If you find a distressed bird, tend to it, feed it, and then help it fly away.

Do Humans Get Diseases From Hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds live in the wild, and this little creature is susceptible to many diseases. As they frequent your feeder, they may catch diseases from there also.

If not careful, these diseases, not always, but may infect humans as well. They also spread diseases from one hummingbird to another. Some of the diseases which are common among hummingbirds and other wild birds are-

  • Salmonellosis (bacterial)
  • Candidiasis (fungal tongue infection)
  • Aspergillosis (type of mold/fungus)
  • Avian poxvirus (tumor growths on beaks)

The reason for the death of most hummingbirds after falling prey to predators is the number of infectious diseases that transmit between them while feeding on the same feeders.

The best way for you to protect yourself from any of the infections is to always handle these wild birds with care.

What Diseases Can Affect Hummingbirds?

The common diseases in hummingbirds are stated below.

Salmonellosis

Commonly known as Salmonella, this bacterial infection is mostly spread during the winter months when there is a scarcity of food, and many wild birds visit feeders to find something.

It affects their intestinal tract and affects the ability to get nutrients from food.

The infected birds ultimately release the Salmonella into the environment and affect other birds. Plus, the food contaminated by one infected bird affects others.

Disease spread from one bird feeder can spread in a large area and affect hundreds of birds, causing their death.

A bird affected by Salmonella can be identified by diarrhea, ruffled feathers, and lethargy. Normally, a bird infected by Salmonella dies within 1-3 days of infection.

It is the only disease that spreads to humans while tending to sick or dead birds.  

Early treatment may help, but to date, there is no proven cure for birds to save them from Salmonella.

If you are tending to any infected bird, wear gloves, and wash them thoroughly afterwards.

Candidiasis

It is a fungal infection that affects the digestive tract of birds. It may cause a crop infection, and young birds become the early prey of this infection which is spread to them by adult birds while feeding them.

They get this fungal infection from the sugary formulas which are kept in the feeders. Many people use honey to make homemade nectar.

With water, this honey starts the fermentation. As the fungus grows faster with more sugar to feed on, it grows and may pose a danger to a bird’s immune system.

An affected bird can be identified through symptoms like vomiting, crop with excessive mucus, regurgitation, lethargy, fluffed feathers, loss of appetite, etc.

You must consult the Vet to know exactly what the bird’s problem is as these symptoms may not possibly be Candida always.

A few tests can identify the fungal infection, and yes, the bird can be cured if timely treatment is provided. Proper and timely medications can help in faster recovery.

To avoid Candida, you must prepare nectar that is not overly sugary. Keep a ratio of 1:4 of sugar to water. Plus, keep changing it on time to avoid the death of these beautiful hummingbirds.

Aspergillosis

It is a fungal infection that contaminates bird feeders and then affects hummingbird’s health. It is caused by the fungus Aspergillus.

The unclean feeders produce the spores, which are inhaled by hummingbirds as they become airborne and then start affecting a hummingbird’s digestive system, making it incapable of eating, digesting, and absorbing essential nutrients.

For a hummingbird, eating is essential, and they feed a lot, several times a day. Aspergillosis affects it and causes painful death for these birds.

It also affects the respiratory system of birds, and early signs can be seen as excessive nasal discharge, listlessness, respiratory difficulty, diarrhea, weight loss, tail bobbing, etc.

These are very non-specific signs, and the Vet may need to carry certain tests to diagnose Aspergillosis.

Treatment of this infection is possible, but it takes a long time. It can be avoided by cleaning the feeders regularly.

Avian poxvirus

This is an infection that does not transfer between hummingbirds and humans. It is a kind of tumor that affects more than 60 species of birds, including Hummingbirds.

You can see tumor growth in different parts of the bird’s body. The most common places are on top of the beak, eyelids, feet, legs, and mouth.

Birds get this infection from the shared feeders and water sources. One infected bird can cause infection in several others if the feeders are not cleaned from time to time. If you see a hummingbird with a tumor on its beak, call for a Vet.

As the infections spread, the tumors start growing in their mouth, which causes an inability in swallowing food and ultimately death.

Some birds survive the virus, while many don’t. The virus stays in the body for 7-14 days. If treatment is provided on time, these birds can be saved.

Are Hummingbirds dying from Salmonella?

The major reason for the death of most hummingbirds is not the infection but the crowded feeders where these birds feed in flocks.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had advised people to stop putting feeders as it was not helping the birds; instead, it was killing them.

Most of the infections in birds are caused by unclean feeders, and Salmonella is named as the culprit. Yes, the infection comes from the feeder only if you don’t clean them regularly.

If you find dead birds in the yard, you must take down the feeders for a few weeks to see if the death stops. If you want to help these birds, take a vow to keep the feeders clean.

How To Know If A Hummingbird Is Sick?

There are several ways to know if a bird is sick.

Sick Hummingbird Behavior and Symptoms

  • Hummingbirds are very active birds, flying from here to there. If you see them sitting in a place for quite some time, take a cue. It needs help.
  • Ruffled feather and lethargy are some of the symptoms which are common in a sick hummer.
  • If you see a hummingbird with a broken wing or can’t fly properly, facing difficulty walking, it may need some help.
  • Troubled breathing is another symptom of a sick hummingbird.
  • A hummingbird lying outside your window may be sick as they hit them and get stunned. It may need some warmth before it flies away again.

How To Keep Hummingbirds Free From Diseases?

The best way to help a hummingbird and keep them free from diseases is to clean their feeder regularly. Also, fill them with clean water in clean dishes daily. If a bird dies, unfortunately, bury it properly.

If you find any sick hummingbird, call the rehabilitation center. These simple steps can help hummingbirds a lot.

1 thought on “Do Hummingbirds Carry Disease? | Hummingbird Disease”

  1. If a hummingbird has candidiasis and goes to a clean feeder will it spread it’s disease to other hummers feeding there? Should take my feeders down?

    Reply

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