Updated at: 06-06-2023 - By: Jane Brody

Unlike in captive or captive-bred birds, wild birds are not commonly infected with deadly, well-known viruses, although they do spread germs.

Salmonella can be transmitted through bird feeders if wild birds eat spoiled food or poop on them, making humans sick. Although the birds may become unwell as a result, humans are also at risk of getting sick and having diarrhea if they touch the contaminated areas and then their faces or mouths.

Can Birds Make You Sick

Bird feeders can be thought of as a type of food preparation facility, similar to a restaurant kitchen.

This is most likely due to the fact that rotting bird food is left in the feeders, where it continues to spread both outside and internally.

Salmonella is a disease that most commonly affects birds, but it can be spread to humans through sloppy cleaning of bird feeders and the use of stale bird food.

It’s important to wash your hands after handling a wild bird feeder, bird food, or bird equipment to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella, which can cause diarrhea and other symptoms in humans, ranging from moderate to life-threatening.

Make sure to disinfect and disinfect bird feeders once or twice a week with a soap dish and a strong bleach solution to destroy germs and eliminate mold.

In addition, a solution of equal parts water and vinegar can be used to clean bird feeders, thereby eliminating any remaining bacteria-rich residue.

Feeders don’t make you sick

Bird feeders designed to be hung in backyards have never been linked to severe sickness in humans.

There has been only one documented instance of a disease carried by a wild bird being passed to a human, and that was due to the bird itself and not the bird feeder.

Whether it’s from bacteria in the bird food or from touching the bird feeder itself, getting sick is a real possibility when using a bird feeder.

Always use caution, since exposure to any bacteria lurking on bird feeders could potentially cause illness.

So, if you or someone you know is responsible for cleaning up bird feeders, you should either wear gloves or thoroughly wash your hands and wrists and upper arms afterwards to kill any bacteria that might have been spread.

In place of regular hand lotion, use only an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which is advertised to eliminate 99.9 percent of bacteria.

Human transmission unlikely

Can Birds Make You Sick-2

Transmission of severe infections from birds to humans is extremely unusual, if not completely unexplored.

While it’s true that bird feeders can harbor bacteria, only the kind that causes stomach upset and fever have the potential to send people to the hospital.

Flu A virus, arboviruses like West Nile virus, and gastrointestinal bacterial diseases have all been blamed on the wild birds that visit our yards, especially migratory species.

You should still exercise extreme caution whenever handling bird feeders in your yard and the bird food they hold.

Because there is no way for disease to be spread through the air, any bacteria present can only be spread through direct human contact.

Once or twice a week, empty your bird feeders and replace any old food with fresh food.

Bacteria still present

Can Birds Make You Sick-3

In the thick of things, illness brought on by bird feeders is unlikely to be as severe as the more well-known bird flu or related diseases.

Among the illnesses you could contract are mild ones like diarrhea and nausea or severe ones like dehydration and hospitalization.

Use extreme caution when refilling or discarding bird food from feeders to prevent the spread of disease.

Birds can spread bacteria and other diseases from outside the feeders, including on the platforms themselves, and onto the feeders’ interiors and exteriors.

To prevent this from happening, bird feeders should be cleaned at least weekly, and preferably twice weekly.

Likewise, you shouldn’t let bird feeders accumulate stale food until it’s used up; sick birds eat the food in their feeders, therefore this is the stuff you need to handle with the utmost care.

In order to prevent spreading disease, always wash your hands after handling wild bird feeders, bird food, or any of the associated equipment.


To put it simply, bird feeders cannot make you sick because of some mysterious virus or other disease carried by wild birds or other wildlife.

However, bird feeders have been linked to gastrointestinal issues in people, such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

Any bird food that can germinate will have germs on it, and in days, or sooner if in hot or humid weather, the bacteria will multiply and cover the feeder.

The user who is in charge of feeding the birds in the yard should exercise extreme caution to prevent this from happening. If you must, you can touch the bird feeders or bird food directly; however, you should avoid touching your mouth and nose thereafter.

The transmission of severe diseases between humans is poorly understood, but if you were to become unwell due to exposure to Salmonella, the issue would be moot.

Eating rotting bird food found on the ground or from a bird feeder contaminated with bird dung can spread salmonella bacteria.

In the end, it’s possible for all of this to collect on your hands and be eaten.

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