What To Do With A Dead Bird In Your Yard

Discovering a dead bird in your yard can be an upsetting experience. You likely want to properly dispose of the body and may have questions about disease risks, legal issues, and how to prevent future bird deaths on your property.

Here’s a quick answer if you’re short on time: Using gloves, place the dead bird in a plastic bag, seal it, and dispose of it with your household trash. This will contain any potential diseases and remove the body so other animals aren’t attracted to it.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about finding dead birds on your property. You’ll learn how to safely handle and dispose of the body, what diseases you do (or don’t!)

need to worry about, when you are legally required to report certain bird deaths, ways to discourage animals from eating the carcass, and tips to help prevent future bird mortalities in your yard.

Handling and Disposing of a Dead Bird

Coming across a dead bird in your yard can be a disconcerting experience. While it’s important to handle the situation promptly, it’s equally important to do so safely and responsibly. Here are some steps you can take to handle and dispose of a dead bird properly:

Use Protective Gloves When Handling

Before touching the bird, it is crucial to protect yourself by wearing a pair of disposable gloves. This will help prevent any potential transmission of diseases or parasites that the bird may carry. Additionally, gloves will protect you from any sharp objects like broken bones or feathers that could cause injury.

Place the Body in a Plastic Bag

Once you have your gloves on, carefully pick up the dead bird and place it in a sturdy plastic bag. It’s important to use a bag that can be securely closed to prevent any potential leakage or odor. Avoid using thin bags that can easily tear.

If you don’t have a plastic bag, you can use a shovel or dustpan to scoop up the bird and transfer it to a bag or container.

Dispose of the Bag in Household Trash

After securely sealing the bag, place it in your household trash bin. It is recommended to double-bag the bird to minimize any potential odor. If you are concerned about scavengers, you can also place the bag inside a larger container or wrap it in newspaper before disposal.

Be sure to check your local regulations regarding the disposal of dead animals as some areas may have specific guidelines.

Disinfect Any Surfaces the Body Touched

After handling the dead bird, it is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect any surfaces or objects that may have come into contact with it. Use a disinfectant spray or a mixture of bleach and water to sanitize the area. This will help prevent the spread of any potential bacteria or viruses.

Remember, if you are unsure about handling the dead bird yourself or if you suspect it may be a protected species, it is best to contact your local wildlife authorities for guidance. They will be able to provide you with the appropriate instructions and assistance.

Disease Risks from Dead Birds

Discovering a dead bird in your yard can be unsettling, but it’s important to understand the potential disease risks associated with handling or being in close proximity to these birds. While some diseases can be transmitted from birds to humans, the overall risk is generally low.

Low Risk of Transmitting Bird Flu

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a concern for many people when they come across a dead bird. However, it’s important to note that the risk of transmitting bird flu from a dead bird to humans is extremely low.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been no documented cases of bird flu transmission to humans from properly handled and cooked poultry or from handling dead birds.

Did you know? Properly cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) can effectively kill any potential bird flu virus.

Other Diseases Unlikely to Infect Humans

Aside from bird flu, other diseases transmitted by birds are also unlikely to infect humans. While birds can carry diseases such as West Nile virus, salmonellosis, and Newcastle disease, these infections are more commonly transmitted through mosquitoes, contaminated food, or direct contact with infected birds, rather than through handling a dead bird.

In the case of West Nile virus, mosquitoes are the primary carriers and humans can become infected if bitten by an infected mosquito. Similarly, salmonellosis is typically transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food, including undercooked poultry, rather than from handling a dead bird in your yard.

When to Be Concerned About Bird Disease

Although the overall risk of disease transmission from dead birds is low, there are certain situations where it’s important to take precautions. If you come across multiple dead birds in a concentrated area or observe birds exhibiting unusual symptoms such as paralysis or disorientation, it is recommended to contact your local health department or animal control for further guidance.

Pro tip: The National Wildlife Health Center website provides a comprehensive list of contact information for wildlife health professionals across the United States. You can find more information at https://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/.

Remember, it’s always a good practice to avoid direct contact with dead birds and to use gloves or a shovel if you need to handle them. Additionally, proper hand hygiene should be practiced after handling any wildlife or potentially contaminated objects.

Legal Reporting Requirements

When you come across a dead bird in your yard, it is important to be aware of the legal reporting requirements. These requirements vary depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the bird’s death. Here are some key reporting obligations you should be aware of:

Reporting Federally Protected Birds

If the dead bird in your yard is a federally protected species, it is important to report its death to the appropriate authorities. Federally protected birds are safeguarded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the harming, capturing, or killing of these species without a proper permit.

To determine if the bird is federally protected, you can refer to the official list provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If you discover a federally protected bird that has died, you should report it to your local wildlife agency or a wildlife rehabilitator. They can guide you on the necessary steps to take and provide further assistance if needed.

Reporting for Disease Outbreak Monitoring

Dead birds can also serve as indicators of potential disease outbreaks, such as avian influenza or West Nile virus. Monitoring and reporting these instances are crucial for public health and wildlife management.

If you suspect that the dead bird may be a part of a disease outbreak, it is important to report it to your local health department or wildlife agency.

These agencies have protocols in place for collecting and testing dead birds to determine if they are carrying any infectious diseases. Reporting such cases can help prevent the spread of diseases and protect both human and animal populations.

Reporting Pesticide Poisoning Die-Offs

In some cases, the death of a bird in your yard may be due to pesticide poisoning. Pesticides, when not used correctly, can pose a threat to birds and other wildlife. If you suspect that the bird’s death is a result of pesticide poisoning, it is important to report it to the appropriate authorities.

Contact your local agricultural extension office or environmental protection agency to report pesticide poisoning incidents. They can investigate the issue, identify potential sources of contamination, and take necessary actions to prevent further harm to wildlife.

Remember, reporting dead birds not only helps ensure legal compliance but also contributes to the monitoring and conservation efforts of bird populations. By reporting, you play an active role in protecting both the environment and public health.

Discouraging Scavengers from Eating the Body

When you come across a dead bird in your yard, it’s important to take appropriate measures to prevent scavengers from eating the body. Not only can this help maintain the cleanliness of your yard, but it also reduces the risk of spreading diseases.

Here are some effective ways to discourage scavengers:

Bury the Bird if You Can

If you are comfortable handling the bird, one option is to bury it in your yard. Find a suitable location, preferably away from any vegetable gardens or water sources. Dig a hole deep enough to prevent scavengers from digging it up. Place the bird in the hole and cover it with soil.

This method ensures that the body is safely buried and inaccessible to scavengers.

Cover the Body With a Box or Plastic

If burying the bird is not possible, another option is to cover the body with a box or plastic. This helps to create a physical barrier and prevents scavengers from reaching the body. Make sure the cover is secure and tightly sealed to prevent any odors from attracting scavengers.

Additionally, weigh down the cover to prevent it from being blown away by wind or moved by animals.

Use Predator Urine Repellents

Predator urine repellents can be effective in deterring scavengers from approaching the dead bird. These repellents mimic the scent of predators, creating a natural deterrent for scavengers. You can find such repellents in stores or online.

Follow the instructions on the product carefully and apply it around the area where the bird is located. This method can help discourage scavengers from approaching the body.

Remember, it’s important to handle dead birds with caution. Use gloves or other protective equipment when touching the bird to minimize the risk of coming into contact with any potential pathogens. If you are unsure about how to handle the situation, it’s best to contact your local animal control or wildlife agency for guidance.

Preventing Future Bird Deaths

Identify the Cause of Death

When you come across a dead bird in your yard, it’s important to try and identify the cause of death. This can help you take appropriate measures to prevent future bird deaths. Common causes of bird deaths include window collisions, predation by cats or other animals, poisoning from pesticides or toxic plants, and collisions with vehicles or structures.

By understanding the cause, you can implement targeted prevention strategies.

Remove Food Sources Attracting Birds

If you notice an increase in bird activity in your yard, it’s likely that you have food sources that are attracting them. While feeding birds can be enjoyable, it’s important to do it responsibly. Ensure that bird feeders are placed at least 10 feet away from windows to prevent collisions.

Regularly clean the feeders to prevent the spread of diseases. If you have fruit-bearing trees or plants, consider harvesting the fruits promptly to prevent attracting birds. By removing these food sources, you can reduce the risk of bird deaths in your yard.

Scare Away Problem Birds

Sometimes, certain bird species can become a nuisance or pose a threat to other birds. In such cases, it may be necessary to scare away these problem birds. There are various methods you can use, such as visual deterrents like scarecrows or reflective objects, or auditory deterrents like wind chimes or predator calls.

Additionally, trimming trees and shrubs near windows can reduce the likelihood of birds flying into them. By actively discouraging problem birds from your property, you can create a safer environment for other birds.

Apply Bird-Safe Decals to Windows

Window collisions are a significant cause of bird deaths. Birds often mistake reflections in windows for a clear path and fly into them, resulting in fatal injuries. One effective way to prevent these collisions is by applying bird-safe decals to your windows.

These decals are designed to break up the reflection and make the window more visible to birds. They are available in various shapes and patterns, allowing you to choose one that suits your aesthetic preferences while ensuring bird safety.

By making your windows more visible to birds, you can greatly reduce the risk of window collisions and subsequent bird deaths.

For more information on bird-safe practices and preventing bird deaths, you can visit www.audubon.org or www.birdwatchersdigest.com.


Finding a dead bird in your yard can certainly be alarming and raise concerns about diseases, scavengers, and how to safely dispose of the body. However, following some basic precautions like wearing gloves, double-bagging the carcass, and disinfecting any surfaces the body touched will allow you to properly take care of the issue.

Identifying why the bird died and taking steps to prevent future casualties will also help protect the birds on your property in the long term.

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