Throughout my life, I have spent an almost equally balanced amount of time in cities and the countryside. Being an avid lover of nature, I do miss the lush greens when I am in the city.
So it’s no surprise that my friends here in the concrete jungles are the birds. No matter where you go, you’ll always find these beautiful creatures hopping, chirping, and spreading joy!
A while back, I thought it would be a great idea to add a few birds to my family. Though I loved every minute of it, the death of some of my lovely pets was very difficult to deal with.
With all the experience I gathered, I have compiled the following info to help you if you ever have to face the death of birds.
How do most birds die?
The death of birds can be disturbing, especially when a lot of birds die together. It may even seem like an indicator of a major environmental issue, but these events are more common than you think.
Understanding why these happen may help put things in perspective and help you find steps to prevent these events to some extent.
Birds die primarily from physical trauma.
During the flight, birds often collide with tall buildings, trees, wind turbines of vehicles, radio towers, electricity wires, etc.
This usually happens when the birds are in a state of panic and may cause immense damage to their heads, bodies, and wings. This phenomenon can affect entire flocks of birds together.
Large birds like raptors often die because of electrocution. This happens when they make contact with a live electrical wire and a grounding element like a pole.
Collisions with cars are also a cause of bird mortality.
What you can do:
You can avoid this occurrence by making sure you don’t startle large flocks of birds with loud noises such as firecrackers.
Another way is to study bird migration patterns and try to minimize light at night in your area. This reduces the possibility of flocks crashing into bright windows.
Birds that feed on crops that are sprinkled with pesticides and insecticides may face ill effects and die.
Similarly, if a flock of birds drinks water from a contaminated source, it may cause mass poisoning. Oftentimes fertilizers and weedicides are also poisonous for birds if used incorrectly or in massive quantities.
Sometimes, people who are annoyed with bird flocks intentionally leave out seeds or grains laced with poison for birds. The birds eat these grains, get severe symptoms and eventually die.
What you can do:
To prevent this, you should use chemicals of all kinds very cautiously in your gardens or farms.
Support practices such as organic farming in your area because these do not use harmful chemicals and are good for the environment.
Diseases such as Salmonella, Trichomoniasis, Avian Pox, etc. can have devastating effects on bird populations.
These diseases spread incredibly fast and can be the cause of the deaths of a lot of birds in a very short period. These diseases cause a wide range of symptoms including diarrhea, lethargy, sores, etc.
What you can do:
The simplest way to prevent these diseases is to keep your bird feeders clean.
This can be done by regularly changing stale food and then cleaning them by soaking the feeders in a one-part bleach to nine parts warm water solution for a few minutes and then air-drying.
You can also follow the news and stay updated regarding any disease outbreaks. If you see a bird showing symptoms of infection, you should report it to the local authorities.
Hunting and Predation
Predators like wild cats and dogs can wipe out entire colonies of birds in very short periods. Additionally, there are invasive predators like snakes, raccoons, rats, and squirrels that also kill birds and affect their population.
Birds like waterfowl, turkey, partridge, pheasant, quails, etc are hunted for game and sport. Many of these are overbred on farms just to be killed.
A huge number of seabirds are caught on hooks or nets made for fish. This impacts the populations of species that live in coastal regions where fishing is common.
What you can do:
First and foremost, you can keep your pets under control and protect backyard birds from them. You can easily find and purchase small birdhouses and keep them out of reach of your pets. These provide a safe resting place for birds.
Additionally, you can opt for a vegetarian lifestyle. Extravagant Thanksgiving dinners can be made without the turkey. This means that you are withdrawing your support from the hunting of these birds and it will have a positive impact.
- Exhaustion: Migrating birds cover huge distances and often become disoriented due to exhaustion. This might cause them to crash into obstacles or faint and perish.
- Sudden change in weather: Though birds are well equipped to deal with sudden weather changes, a sudden and extremely cold spell may cause them to freeze. This may happen due to a lack of proper shelter or food.
- Pollution: This could be on a small scale like garbage piles or large scale like toxic oil spilled. Birds that come into contact with these often develop sickly symptoms and may perish.
- Parasites: Parasites like ticks and mites often stick to birds and spread very fast. They cause symptoms like feather damage, blood loss, etc. These may prove fatal.
Why do pet birds die suddenly?
If you have owned birds, you may have experienced this – your bird was perfectly fine one day but you wake up to it dead in its cage.
There are many reasons for this. Some of the more common ones are listed below.
Night fright is caused by any major disturbance or loud noise which disturbs the bird.
This is the most common cause of death overnight. As it becomes darker, birds naturally become calmer and settle down for the night.
If they are disturbed, they become scared and go into a state of frenzy. Because of their instincts, the birds will want to fly to keep themselves out of danger, and doing this in a small cage will cause them to crash into the walls and roof of the cage and may result in a fatal injury.
Birds like cockatiels, budgies, and finches are especially prone to night fright.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
PDD is a disease that majorly affects the family of parrots, including macaws, cockatiels, budgies, etc.
It has two forms, both of which are deadly.
- First is the neurologic form which affects the bird’s brain and central nervous system(CNS).
- The second is the gastrointestinal form. This affects the stomach and digestive system. If your bird contracts this form of PDD it may vomit out food occasionally. There will be an unnatural increase in its appetite. The stool will become abnormal as well. It causes the bird to become very thin, lethargic and eventually results in death.
This is a fungal infection that affects the respiratory tract.
In cases of acute aspergillosis, the birds display evident symptoms such as difficulty breathing, extreme thirst, restlessness, frequent urination, and decreased appetite.
In cases of chronic aspergillosis, birds do not display any symptoms until it is too late to save them.
This infection is spread primarily through contaminated water and food sources. Hence, regular and thorough cleaning of bird feeders is extremely important.
How to pick up a dead bird?
Do not touch the dead bird with bare hands.
It may have died due to some disease, which may spread to humans as well. So it is important to wear clean plastic gloves before you touch the body.
After wearing gloves, pick the bird up and gently place it in a clean plastic bag. Once done, immediately dispose of the gloves and wash your hands properly with soap and water.
What to do with a dead pet bird?/ How do you dispose of a dead pet bird?/ Should I bury a dead bird?
In case of such a mishap, you may not be in the right state of mind to think about what to do with the body of your bird. But it is necessary to take proper action. You may choose one of the following actions.
If you are unsure about the cause of your bird’s death, a necropsy (similar to an autopsy in humans) may uncover the reason and give you some peace of mind.
An important thing to remember is that a necropsy should be performed as early as possible after the bird’s death. Contact your vet immediately to discuss how the process will take place.
You can consider burying your pet.
Most people prefer to bury their deceased pets somewhere on their property or near their homes. Make sure you bury it away from fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Also, make sure you dig a grave deep enough so that scavengers or animals like dogs can’t reach it.
You can bury the bird in a container or directly in the ground. Do not bury it in a plastic bag.
You can cremate your pet and choose to keep its ashes as a remembrance forever. It is also a relatively inexpensive process. Most pet clinics will be able to put you in touch with places that offer pet cremation.
You may choose to send your pet to a professional taxidermist to preserve it even after death.
What do you do with a dead baby bird in the nest?
When a baby bird dies in the nest, sometimes the parents push it out of the nest.
This is to ensure that a decomposing body doesn’t attract predators or scavengers to the nest, where there are often other tiny chicks.
If you see a dead baby bird in a nest in the wild or outdoors, you don’t need to do anything about it. The parent birds have instincts that help them take care of such situations.
But, if you are facing any issue in or around your house, you can gently pick the baby bird out of the nest with gloved hands (as mentioned above) and place it in a plastic bag.
Then you can bury it or cremate it, as you prefer.
What do you do if you find a dead bird on the streets or your yard?
The best thing you can do is pick the bird up at the earliest with gloved hands and bury/cremate it. (refer to the information above)
If you do not do this, the body will start to decompose which leads to an accumulation of many harmful microorganisms. The rotting body will also give rise to a bad smell, which is not something you want in your backyard.
Do birds mourn?
Yes, birds do mourn. We don’t know whether or not they understand the concept of death but birds do understand the sense of loss.
When birds lose a friend or mate, it has been observed that they show their grief in different forms.
- They may look around too often, trying to look for the lost mate or friend.
- They may become listless and lethargic.
- Some birds may call out loudly in melancholy, hoping the lost mate will respond.
- In really bad situations, they may start to pull out their feathers.
What you can do:
If you have more than one pet bird and one of them passes away, the remaining bird will likely be affected.
Like humans, birds too have grieving periods. On your part, you should spend some extra time with them, give them extra treats and show them some extra love and affection.
The period of grief will pass eventually and your bird/s will be bubbly and back to normal again!
Do dead birds stink? How long will a dead bird smell?
Yes. When the body starts to decompose, the dead bird will smell.
Like any rotting plant or animal, as a dead bird’s body starts to decompose, foul-smelling liquids and gases will be released.
Depending on the size of the bird, the smell may persist for a few days to a few weeks. The smell lingers until the body has become completely dry.
The fluids released are so strong that they may even stain walls and ceilings.
What disease can you get from a dead bird?
There are several diseases that humans can contract from dead bird bodies.
The disease can be the one that caused the bird to die or it may be from the germs and microorganisms that the dead body is now a host to. The diseases include:
- Avian Influenza
- E. Coli
- West Nile Fever
Will vinegar get rid of the dead animal smell?
Yes, vinegar is a good home solution to get rid of the smell of rotting carcasses. All you have to do is fill a few cups with vinegar and put them where you found the carcass.
A few more simple ways to get rid of the rotting smell are:
- Placing ground coffee where you found the carcass.
- Using a baking soda plus water solution and spraying the source of smell a few times a day.
- Placing charcoal briquettes.
What do you do with a half-dead bird? How to revive a dying bird?
To revive a half-dead bird, you can try CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
If it is not breathing or if you can’t detect a heartbeat, you should start CPR. To do this you have to alternate between chest compressions and breathing.
Is the bird dead or in shock? How do you tell if a bird is stunned or dead?
If the bird is breathing normally – it is probably in trauma. If there is no breathing and heartbeat, the bird is dead.
It is very likely for birds to go into shock when they face a distressing situation. In extreme cases, the bird may die from the shock.
In case of mild shock, the bird may be stunned for a few minutes but will soon regain senses and fly away. The best thing is to wait a few minutes and observe the bird for further signs.
What happens if you touch a dead bird? Can you touch and pick it?
You can touch and pick up a dead bird but ensure that you wear gloves.
Dead bodies are hosts to many harmful and diseases causing microorganisms. Many of these diseases are contagious as well.
If the proper precautions are not taken, you may contract a disease.
How long does it take a dead bird to decompose?
This depends on the size of the bird. If it is very small, it may only take a few days. If it is larger, it may take up to a few months.
Can you revive a dead bird?
No. Despite common rumors, it is not possible to revive a dead bird.
While the death of a bird, be it a pet bird or a wild one, may leave you in shock or a troubled state of mind, there are always simple steps you can take to ensure the best possible treatment for the bird and simultaneously your good health and safety.
I’m sure that knowing the possible reasons for the deaths and the action you can take after will help you quite a lot.