What Happens If You Touch A Dead Bird?

Finding a dead bird can be an unsettling experience. Your first instinct may be to dispose of it quickly, but should you touch it? Handling deceased animals requires caution for good reason. This article will examine what can happen if you touch a dead bird, the potential risks involved, and tips for safe removal and disposal.

Disease Risks from Touching Dead Birds

While it may be tempting to touch a dead bird out of curiosity or a desire to help, it’s important to understand the potential disease risks associated with this action. Dead birds can carry a variety of pathogens that can be harmful to humans.

It is essential to take precautions to avoid exposure to these diseases.


One of the diseases that can be contracted from touching a dead bird is histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum, which can be found in the droppings of birds, including pigeons and chickens.

When these droppings dry out, the fungus becomes airborne and can be inhaled. This can lead to respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, histoplasmosis can cause chronic lung disease and even death.

Avian Flu

Another serious disease that can be transmitted from dead birds is avian flu, also known as bird flu. Avian influenza viruses primarily affect birds, but they can also infect humans. Direct contact with infected birds or their droppings can lead to the transmission of the virus.

Symptoms of avian flu in humans can range from mild to severe and may include fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. In some cases, avian flu can be fatal.


Salmonella is a common bacterial infection that can be contracted from touching dead birds. Birds, especially pigeons and seagulls, can carry salmonella bacteria in their droppings. If these droppings come into contact with your hands and you touch your face or mouth, you can become infected.

Salmonella infection can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it may require medical treatment.

E. Coli and More

In addition to histoplasmosis, avian flu, and salmonella, there are other potential disease risks associated with touching dead birds. For example, dead birds can be contaminated with E. coli, which can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

They can also carry other bacteria, parasites, or viruses that can lead to various illnesses.

It is important to note that not all dead birds carry diseases, but it is difficult to determine which ones are infected just by looking at them. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid touching dead birds and to report their presence to local authorities or animal control.

If you do come into contact with a dead bird, it is crucial to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to minimize the risk of infection.

For more information on diseases transmitted by birds, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Other Hazards from Dead Birds

Maggots and Parasites

When a bird dies, it begins to decompose, which attracts flies and other insects. These insects lay their eggs on the carcass, and within a short period of time, maggots start to feed on the flesh. It’s important to note that maggots are not harmful to humans, but they can carry bacteria and other pathogens.

Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid direct contact with dead birds to prevent any potential infections or diseases that may be transmitted through these maggots. If you do come into contact with maggots, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Chemical Poisons

Dead birds that have been exposed to chemical poisons, such as pesticides or rodenticides, can pose a risk to humans. These toxic substances can remain in the bird’s body even after death, and if touched or ingested, can cause serious health problems.

Additionally, when birds die due to poisoning, it may indicate that there is an environmental issue that needs to be addressed, such as contaminated water or air. If you come across a dead bird that you suspect may be poisoned, it’s best to contact your local wildlife authorities or environmental agency for proper disposal.

Physical Injuries

Dead birds can also present physical hazards. For example, if you touch a dead bird with sharp talons or beak, you may accidentally injure yourself. Additionally, birds that have died due to collisions with cars or buildings may have broken bones or sharp edges that can cause cuts or puncture wounds.

It’s important to handle dead birds with caution, using gloves or other protective measures to avoid any injuries. If you do get injured while handling a dead bird, clean the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention if necessary.

Tips for Safe Removal and Disposal

Wear Protective Gear

When it comes to handling a dead bird, it’s important to prioritize your safety. Dead birds can carry various diseases and parasites, so it’s crucial to wear protective gear to minimize any potential risks. Make sure to wear gloves, a mask, and even goggles if necessary.

By taking these precautions, you are reducing the chances of contracting any harmful pathogens that might be present on the bird’s body.

Use Tools for Handling

Instead of directly touching the dead bird, it’s best to use tools for handling it. This not only keeps you at a safe distance but also reduces the risk of contamination. You can use a shovel or tongs to pick up the bird and place it in a bag for disposal.

Remember to handle the tools with care and clean them thoroughly afterward to prevent the spread of any potential pathogens.

Double Bag for Disposal

When disposing of a dead bird, it’s important to double bag it to minimize any potential leakage or exposure. Place the bird in a sturdy plastic bag, tie it securely, and then place it into another bag for added protection.

This double bagging method helps to contain any fluids or odors that may be present, ensuring safe disposal.

Disinfect Area Thoroughly Afterwards

After removing and disposing of the dead bird, it’s crucial to thoroughly disinfect the area where it was found. This step is essential to eliminate any remaining bacteria or viruses that may have been left behind.

Use a disinfectant solution or a mixture of bleach and water to clean the surrounding area. This will help to ensure a safe and sanitary environment.

Remember, if you are unsure about how to handle a dead bird or suspect it may be carrying a disease, it’s always best to contact your local animal control or health department for guidance. They can provide you with the necessary information and assistance to ensure the proper handling and disposal of the bird.

When to Call Wildlife Professionals

Encountering a dead bird can be a concerning experience, and it’s important to know when to involve wildlife professionals. While it is generally safe to handle a dead bird with proper precautions, there are certain situations where it is best to seek assistance from experts in wildlife management and conservation.

Multiple Bird Deaths

If you come across multiple dead birds in the same area, especially within a short period of time, it is crucial to report this to wildlife professionals. This could be an indication of a larger issue such as an outbreak of a contagious disease or exposure to harmful toxins.

Wildlife professionals have the expertise to investigate and take appropriate measures to prevent further spread and protect other bird populations.

Endangered Species

If the dead bird belongs to an endangered species, it is highly recommended to contact wildlife professionals immediately. Endangered species are protected by law, and any incident involving their death needs to be documented and addressed by experts.

They will ensure that proper protocols are followed to protect and preserve these vulnerable species.

Unsure About Cause of Death

If you are unsure about the cause of death of the bird and suspect that it may have been due to disease, poisoning, or other unnatural causes, it is wise to reach out to wildlife professionals. They have the necessary training and resources to conduct necropsies (animal autopsies) and determine the cause of death.

Identifying the cause can help prevent potential hazards to other birds or wildlife in the area.

Remember, wildlife professionals are there to safeguard the well-being of both animals and humans. It is always better to err on the side of caution and seek their assistance when in doubt.

For more information on wildlife management and conservation, you can visit www.wildlife.ca.gov or www.fws.gov.


In summary, touching dead birds does involve health risks from bacteria, parasites, and more. With proper precautions like gloves, tools, and disinfection, risks can be minimized. Calling professionals is recommended if multiple birds have died or the reason is unclear.

Being informed and acting carefully allows safe removal and disposal of deceased birds.

Similar Posts