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Referring to birds as pests may seem odd. They usually aren’t found indoors and can be an afterthought when thinking about animals that cause damage. However, their ability to spread a range of diseases is why birds such as pigeons and gulls are regarded as pests. For businesses, bird diseases can raise concerns as they put both staff and customers at risk, while generating a negative impact on revenue, public opinion and staff retention.

For businesses operating within the food industry, this can be particularly problematic as a bird infestation, along with the diseases they spread, can conflict with food safety standards and regulations. The result is the contamination of food products and outbreaks of food-borne diseases.

Pigeons, gulls, sparrows and starlings are the main culprits of bird infestations, but it’s important to keep in mind that all types of birds can affect your business. Below are some of the commonly asked questions regarding bird diseases and what you can do to avoid bird disease from affecting your business.

Bird-borne diseases

How do birds spread disease?

Like most pests, there is a range of factors which contribute to how birds spread diseases. However, birds mainly transmit diseases through their:

  • Feces

  • Feathers

  • Nests

Bird feces

Bird feces, and in particular, the droppings from pigeons, gulls, starlings, and house sparrows, is the primary way birds transmit diseases. Their droppings basically act like a giant sponge for pathogens. While this doesn’t prove harmful in small doses, the build-up of bird feces can result in an increased risk of exposure when bird infestations reach large numbers.

Bird feathers

Although not as common as bird feces, feathers can also be responsible for the spread of diseases.

A bird feather, particularly from those living in urban environments, can often play host to a range of parasites, bacteria and viruses. However, it is primarily the feathers of a dead bird which carry said diseases. It is important to note that the chances of catching a disease from bird feathers are very slim.

Bird nests

Bird nests can also be held responsible for the spread of diseases. They can be the perfect breeding site for certain species of fungi, which can spread through debris.

 In addition, bird nests can also be a great home for parasites and secondary infestations (other insects). In some cases, insects and parasites can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

Bird eating

How do you catch diseases from a bird?

There are a few ways in which we can catch diseases from birds, some being more common than others. They are:

  • Inhaling – When bird droppings dry and become disturbed, any diseases living in the feces can become airborne. If inhaled, they can lead to sickness.

  • Eating – Consuming food products contaminated with bacteria, fungi, or viruses spread by birds can be dangerous.

  • Drinking – Similar to eating. Drinking contaminated water and other drink products can lead to infection.

  • Touching – Handling dead birds without the proper protection can leave us open to a host of harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

  • Insect bites – Insects can become infected with a disease from biting a bird. If those insects bite us, the insect bite can lead to infection


Bird diseases humans can catch

It is believed that birds can carry over 60 different diseases which have the potential to infect both humans and livestock. The main diseases which birds can transmit can be broken down into 3 categories: bacterial, fungal and viral diseases.

Bacterial bird diseases


  • Often referred to as ‘Parrot Fever’

  • Zoonotic disease caused by the Chlamydophila psittaci bacterium

  • Infection occurs from inhaling airborne particles found in respiratory secretions, feces, and feathers of infected birds


  • Caused by Salmonella sp. Bacterium

  • Infection occurs from consuming food and drink contaminated with infected bird feces

Fungal bird diseases


  • Caused by the systemic pathogenic yeasts Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii

  • Carried in the intestines of birds

  • Found worldwide in soil

  • When it becomes disturbed the fungus contaminates the air and transmission occurs through inhalation


  • Caused by Histoplasma sp. fungus.
  • Like with Cryptococcosis, transmission occurs through inhaling air contaminated with the fungus spores 
  • Air becomes contaminated when infected soil is disturbed

Viral bird diseases

Avian Influenza

  • Commonly known as bird flu

  • Caused by the influenza A strain of the influenza virus

  • Rarely infects humans, but can spread from person to person

  • Human infections have been a result of direct contact with infected birds and exposure to contaminated environments

  • There have been rare cases of infection occurring through consumption of food contaminated with infected poultry blood

West Nile Virus

  • Generally regarded as a mosquito-borne disease

  • Belongs to the same virus family as Dengue, and Zika

  • Birds are a reservoir of the disease – Mosquitoes become infected through biting infected birds and transmit the disease to people when they bite

Birds on rooftop

How can businesses prevent bird diseases?

The potential for birds to spread diseases is a major concern for both home and business owners. Fortunately, there are a couple of prevention techniques available to help reduce the risk of catching a disease from a bird.

Remove access to nesting sites

Ledges, window sills, eaves, and holes in roofing are all fantastic locations for birds to build their nests.

You can prevent bird diseases by deterring birds from setting up shop on your property or premises. This can be done by repairing any damages, adding barriers to window ledges and other deterrents to ledges and eaves.

Keep food sources hidden

Birds, and in particular pigeons and gulls, are brilliant opportunists and scavengers when it comes to food, especially in an urban environment.

Keep food sources hidden by properly storing food, ensuring all garbage receptacles are fitted with a tight lid and aren’t overflowing. Use barriers to protect fresh produce, which reduces the appeal of your property to birds and in turn prevents the possibility of bird diseases.

Clean up debris

Birds love areas that are littered with paper, twigs, grass and plant debris. It provides them with an endless supply of materials to build their nests.

Ensuring the outside of your property or premises is clean and free from debris is an effective way to deter birds. Without the proper materials to make a nest, birds will look for a different area to set up their nests.

Professional bird management

Ultimately, the best way to prevent birds, and limit the potential for them to spread diseases is to ensure your business utilizes the latest innovative pest management solutions.

A bird control professional has a range of solutions available from spikes to bird netting which can effectively deter and prevent pest birds from infesting your business.

As a leader in commercial pest control, Ehrlich has developed a range of innovative solutions, utilizing the latest in pest control technology to provide your company with a pest-free environment, helping to adhere to the necessary laws and regulations.

Need help getting rid of birds? Schedule a call with the experts at Ehrlich today!