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Parasitic Passengers: Can Birds Cause Disease?

Bird on tree stump in yard.

How birds might be turning your yard into a potential health hazard

Many people take pleasure in making their yards havens for birds by adding feeders, birdbaths and flowers. However, the very same birds that look so beautiful may be harboring unseen dangers. Birds can be carriers for pathogens and parasites that may infect other birds or spread to humans.


This common bacterial disease doesn’t just show up in food. Birds can come down with the infection, which generates intestinal symptoms and can kill infected birds within a few days. Salmonella spreads when sick birds share feeders with healthy ones, and you can contract it if you don’t wash your hands after touching a contaminated surface.

Avian Pox

This viral disease can’t infect humans, but it can be passed around bird populations that share common feeding areas or are bitten by insects carrying the pathogen. The virus causes lesions and sores on the areas of birds’ bodies that aren’t protected by feathers. Although birds usually recover from avian pox, severe cases may be fatal.

Ticks and Lice

You can get ticks and lice from the birds in your yard just as easily as from your pets. Ticks hang out in birds’ feathers and can drop off onto feeders before attaching to any unsuspecting human or animal that brushes by. Lice are fond of feathers, too, but they also like human skin and hair. The presence of ticks, however, is of particular concern since they may be carriers of Lyme disease.

Yellow Mealworms

These beetle larvae like to hang out in pigeon nests and chicken coops, but they can also get carried indoors and wind up causing problems for people. They not only bite but may also infest food. When ingested, yellow mealworms can cause intestinal distress and disease. Birds are common carriers of the eggs and can easily spread the larvae from one area to another.

Diseases in Bird Droppings

In areas where too many birds gather, high concentrations of droppings become a health concern. Diseases such as histoplasmosis, candidiasis, cryptococcosis and E. coli can spread through contact with infected droppings or simply by breathing in dried fecal dust. Proactive pest control measures must be put in place to prevent bird overpopulation from creating a public health hazard.

If you’re dealing with nuisance birds that are threatening your health, contact us at Burns Pest Elimination. Burns has been servicing the Phoenix and Tucson area since 1983 and is staffed by pest control professionals who know how to keep unwanted birds away. Contact us for more information on our bird elimination methods to see what our family can do for yours.