When we gaze up to the sky, we see birds flying freely and enjoying their navigational gift. There are roughly over 100,000 species of birds in the world, and backyard birds are most likely to show up in your yard.
Finding a dead bird in your backyard is a sad incident, although their deaths are a natural part of the wildlife. When you find a dead bird in your yard, it may be because of a glass window collision, inhaled or ingested pesticides, or poison bait, outdoor cats, viral disease, and even the weather.
When disposing of their bodies, it is important to wear gloves and use a shovel or a clamp, wrap the dead bird in plastic, and dispose of it away and out of reach from kids, pets, and other animals. Make sure to clean any mess with a bleach solution and sterilize the used tools. Afterward, don’t forget to wash your hands.
In this article, we will discuss and share the reasons why there are so many dead birds in your yard, ways to properly dispose of their bodies, and when and how to report a dead bird found in your yard.
5 Reasons Why There Are Dead Birds in Your Yard
There are numerous reasons why birds are dying or why there are so many of them dead in your yard. It might be difficult to find out the reason why they died, but it could be due to diseases since most birds are not territorial after the breeding or mating season. They tend to fly together in search of feeding sites, which increases their chances of dying.
Dead birds should be reported or disposed of once found. Now, let us look at the five reasons why birds die.
- Windows Collisions
Researchers from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service found out that at least a billion birds are killed each year by collisions with windows in the United States.
Backyards with feeders tend to attract migrant birds, and feeder birds are the most common victims of window collisions. Birds fly to escape their predators, speedy toward the sky, or trees that they see reflected in your glass windows.
There are two types of window collisions: daytime and nighttime ones.
- In the daytime, birds crash into windows because of the reflection of trees they see through the glass windows, as well as potted plants and other vegetation.
- At night, nocturnal migrants, which mostly include songbirds, collide because they flock into lighted windows. This is a low chance of collisions but it is often due to nocturnal migrants being lured to their deaths by the light.
At times, dead birds found near your windows or reflective buildings have suffered or later die from internal bleeding or bruising, broken neck or wings, or brain injury. Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College said that “glass is an indiscriminate killer that takes the fit as well as the unfit of a species population.” Klem has researched this issue since the 1970s.
This window collision accident can be avoided by applying the following precautions in your window. Draw some vertical markings with a 4 inches gap, and horizontal marks 2 inches apart across the window. Those should be drawn outside the windows. You can also use zen curtains, tempera paint, soap, decals. ABC bird tape, screens, or one-way transparent films.
- Pesticides and Poisons
According to studies, pesticides accidentally kill between .25 and 8.9 birds per hectare of agricultural area each year. Birds don’t ingest pesticides to kill them, but a small amount of these toxic chemicals causes sub-lethal effects and causes more death than the West Nile virus.
After ingesting such chemicals, birds of prey can lose the ability to fly and suffer paralysis of their respiratory muscles, which causes their deaths. Migratory birds suffer lethargy and the death sentence depends on the flying distance to survive.
It is sometimes hard to distinguish whether or not the bird you’ve found died from poisoning, but in some cases, hunting may also lead them to get poisoned. Birds, and particularly birds of prey, have always been victims of poisoned baits. They are seen as predators for pigeon breeders, livestock and poultry farmers, and even fishermen.
Ensure that your birdseed isn’t moldy and wet. Other diseases may occur when birds ingest moldy and wet birdseed, like botulism and salmonella. Well-drained trays and hoppers avoid birds getting sick. Frequently monitor your tube feeders and make sure your seeds are dry. Immediately dispose of wet and moldy seeds away from the birds. And if you notice a sick bird, remove it and close down the feeders to prevent an epidemic.
Many diseases may occur in birds. Birds’ diseases are some of the reasons why there are dead birds in your yard for they can spread rapidly in crowded feeding stations, where healthy birds eat the food that was contaminated by the flocking sick birds.
Below are the most common viral diseases that cause birds’ deaths:
Salmonellosis is caused by bacteria from the genus Salmonella and often begins as an intestinal tract infection. Diarrhea, ruffled feathers, and lethargy are common symptoms of salmonella, and a bird showing these symptoms usually dies within 1-3 days.
Salmonella is a common disease in feeder birds and can be transmitted to humans, especially those who handle sick and infected birds.
Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by the Aspergillus fungus. This infection is mostly found in wet seed mixtures, nesting places, and landfills. Spores inhaled into the lungs and air sacs of birds eventually cause pneumonia and bronchitis.
Infected birds experience weakness, diarrhea, and labored breathing, but even when they have these symptoms, feeder birds will continue to take food at feeding stations until they die.
- Avian pox
Avian pox is a viral disease and has been reported to infect 60 species of wild birds. Lesions form on the feathered part of the body, such as the legs, feet, and eyelids. In some cases, death occurs when sores around the eyes prevent the bird from looking for food, but most birds recover from the virus.
Direct contact with infected birds at bustling feeders or mosquito bites that fed on the blood of sick birds makes the virus spread widely to the healthy bird.
- West Nile Virus
This type of virus came from infected mosquitoes’ bites and was transmitted to birds. Mosquitoes become infected by sucking the blood of infected birds. Common victims are crows and jays, which are known to get sick and die from the infection.
Aside from the West Nile virus, avian pox, and salmonella, other diseases affect birds, including botulism, influenza, Lyme disease, or mite and lice, to name a few. To avoid this occurrence in your backyard and prevent the spread of diseases and infections, always clean your feeder with one part of bleach to nine parts of warm water.
Soak it for 10 minutes and rinse and air dry your feeders. Store the seeds and other bird food in an airtight container to prevent spoilage. Consider adding more feeders if birds are fighting over at the feeder for it can be the possible cause of the rapid spread of diseases.
- Preyed Upon
Do you have a pet cat in your home? This might be the reason why there are so many dead birds in your yard. Cats are a great threat to birds. Birds killed by this predator show obvious signs as they are either left mutilated, mangled, or half-eaten by them.
However, cats also chew or come to birds even if they are already dead, so that isn’t always true. Studies show that outdoor cats kill over a billion birds and can spread dangerous diseases, such as rabies and toxoplasmosis. Thus, it is best to keep your cats indoors to avoid this situation from happening in your yard.
According to Dr. Daniel Lebbin, “Birds can survive the kind of severe weather we are seeing, but only if they get needed food and water. Their ability to stay warm in frigid temperatures requires them to eat sufficient food.” Having extra food and water on bird feeders can save birds’ lives during the hottest and coldest weather conditions.
People are not the only ones who suffer from the change of seasons; birds also do. They migrate intending to look for shelter and food. Indeed, cold weather can be deadly to birds, hence why some birds flock away and are driven to fly farther south than normal in search of open water and sources of food.
Birds are skilled at navigating storms, however, strong and devastating winds and unbending hailstorms can disorient them, and lightning and heatwaves can endanger them.
If you want your backyard to be the home to different bird species, one of the things that you can do is build a bird sanctuary. This structure provides shelter and food to different kinds of birds. To help you get started with this project, here is our ultimate guide to building a backyard bird sanctuary.
6 Ways to Dispose of a Dead Bird
There are reasons why there are so many dead birds in your yard. They could have died from predation, weather, injuries, or viral diseases. A dead bird might be found near your window, feeder, roosting area, or in the middle of your yard. Their location may be a clue for the cause of their death.
So, what should you do if you happen to find a dead bird in your backyard? Follow these tips on how to properly dispose of a dead bird in your yard.
- Protect Yourself
Before handling and disposing of a dead bird, you should always put on gloves as you could get in touch with insects, mites, and bacteria. Disposable gloves are the best option, and you can’t use the same gloves as when you are handling food, cleaning the feeders, or doing household and garden chores.
Finally, it is important not to touch dead birds. If you don’t have disposal gloves, you can use plastic bags instead.
- Use the Proper Tools
Use a small shovel or rake to carefully pick up a dead bird. Avoid getting any part of your skin, body, or even your clothing in contact with a dead bird. Otherwise, viral infections and diseases, like salmonella, might transfer to you. The use of proper tools when taking out or picking up a deceased bird can prevent any possible contamination.
- Wrap the Bird
Carefully put the dead bird in an easily twisted or sealed plastic bag. Keep in mind to be cautious in handling the beak and claws of the bird. It might tear your plastic bag. Instead, you could use two plastic bags and/or wrap the bird in a newspaper or rag that can be disposed of together with the dead bird’s body.
- Keep the Body Hidden from Predators
Before you throw away the deceased bird, it is important to dispose of it away from predators. For example, you can put it in a covered trash can or any other garbage container that has a cover and is out of reach from your pets, children, or scavengers. Always close the container or trash can so it will not be raided by predators looking for an easy meal.
Leaving the dead bird in a brush pile, compost heap, or field can expose them and attract predators like rats, cats, and even dogs, and they can become ill and infected from their carcasses. Burying a dead bird isn’t advisable since predators can also find them.
- Clean Up Thoroughly
Once you have removed a dead or infected bird, always clean the area and sterilize the tools and gloves you have used. Make a solution with one part bleach to nine parts water or stronger, and if there is any stain or mess where you found the bird, it is best to remove and dispose of the part of the soil. Or, you can pour the solution directly over the area. In case of any dangerous bacteria and for precautions, killing the grass is necessary.
- Wash Your Hands
After you discarded the bird’s body, always remember to wash your hands thoroughly with hot and soapy water, even if you wore gloves and made no contact with the dead bird. If you don’t have water on hand, you may use hand sanitizer or alcohol and wash your hand as soon as possible.
If you happen to find a dead bird in your backyard, a quick visual inspection can be done, but immediately dispose of it so that it won’t be exposed to other birds or animals that can spread diseases and parasites.
When and How to Report Dead Birds
It is not always necessary to report a dead bird, especially if it’s a common backyard bird. However, if the bird belongs to the wildlife resource and appears to have been killed or shot by humans, it is encouraged to report it to wildlife officers or local authorities. Authorities can investigate whether or not the bird’s body was tangled in some wires and other debris, shoot, or choked for conservation measures.
Birds of prey and other large birds are typically the top predators and can indicate environmental problems if they happen to be shot or succumb to illnesses and viral diseases. Poaching them can pose a great threat, and criminals should be held responsible. Birds’ deaths could also indicate an outbreak or environmental contamination. If it’s frequently happening, it can pose a threat and be subject to an investigation.
Endangered bird species are usually tagged or banded with tracking devices. If you happen to find a sick or dead bird that belongs to an endangered species, report the bird’s condition and the tracking device to the appropriate institution so that data can be recorded and retrieved.
This can be invaluable to ornithologists, naturalists, or other wildlife researchers who use tracking data to study threats to birds, migration, seasonal ranges, and other information.
In these cases, contact local officials and provide them with as much information as possible before you dispose of the bird. They might request that you keep the dead bird for their collection and study. They might also ask you to take a photo of it or give you proper instructions on how to safely preserve what they need to see.
Like any other animals, disease outbreaks also occur in birds and can lead to injuries or death. It is important to always clean the feeders in the backyard to avoid this occurrence.
Finding a dead bird in your backyard is quite common, so it also important that you know what to do when it happens. It is essential that, as birders, you know the precautions and things to do every time you find a dead bird.