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Wildlife Health - What to do if you see a dead bird

crowBirds and other animals die every day in Oregon from a variety of causes. It is not physically or financially possible for ODFW biologists or other government employees to collect and sample every dead bird statewide.

However, wildlife biologists and public health officials are on the lookout for diseases that threaten wildlife or the public’s health, including West Nile Virus (WNV) and avian influenza or “bird flu.” WNV arrived in Oregon in 2004 and has been detected in both birds and people. High path H5N1 or bird flu, a disease present in Asia and Europe, has not been detected in North America but natural resource agencies like ODFW continue to monitor birds for the disease. More information:

Following are some guidelines to determine when a dead bird could indicate a disease. Use these guidelines to decide when it is appropriate to contact ODFW or your local health department about a dead bird. Read on for tips on what you can do to keep your birdfeeders free of bacteria like salmonella that could lead to bird deaths in your backyard.

Call ODFW’s dead bird reporting hotline at 866-968-2600, a number checked daily by wildlife biologists and wildlife veterinarians:

  • When multiple or clusters of birds are ill or dying.
  • If the dead or sick bird is a duck, goose, swan, or shorebird (sandpiper, phalarope, dowitcher). Call if the incident includes single or multiple birds
  • If the incident is unusual or unexplained (bird acting sick, dies acutely while flying).

geeseWhen not to call the hotline or ODFW:

  • If you suspect that the bird died of trauma from hitting a stationary object (window, powerline), or moving vehicle (found on or near a road) or by predation (cat). Rather than calling a state agency, safely dispose of the bird using the guidelines below. 
  • If the bird is obviously injured (broken wing, leg), contact your local ODFW office for the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. Directory of ODFW offices.

  • All injured waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) should be reported to ODFW because the department is sampling these animals as part of its avian influenza monitoring effort.

Handling and disposing of dead birds

Birds that died from trauma or predation can be disposed of using the following guidelines.

  • Avoid direct contact with the bird. Wear disposable rubber gloves while handling the bird or wear gloves that you can immediately put through a hot soapy wash. A dead bird can also be picked up by inverting a plastic bag on your hand and grasping the bird through the plastic.
  • Double bag the bird in plastic bags and place in a sealed garbage can or other safe container where it cannot be disturbed by other animals.
  • Do not bring the bird into your home.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke or touch your face with the gloves while handling the bird.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling the bird.

Keep birdfeeders clean and free of bacteria

bird feederBirdfeeders that don’t get cleaned regularly can become a source of bacteria and diseases like salmonella, which birds can pass to each other when they congregate at feeders. Avoid allowing your feeders to become a source of bacteria by:

  • Providing fresh seed without mold.
  • Cleaning feeders, water containers and bird baths weekly with a solution of one third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water.
  • Cleaning up old seed below the feeders
  • Discontinue feeding for at least one month in the event that birds die at your feeder.

Remember to always wear rubber or plastic gloves when handling or cleaning dirty feeders.


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