I have a bird feeder (or birdbath) in my yard. Am I putting myself and healthy birds at risk of infection?

West Nile Virus is most often spread to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito. However, it’s always a good idea to follow basic hygienic procedures. Birdbaths and feeders should be washed or disinfected regularly. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching the baths/feeders. Here is a brochure on best practices for coping with disease at bird feeders.

To prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property, empty and clean birdbaths at least once a week and eliminate any other standing water in your area. Contact local health officials if you are concerned about potential mosquito breeding sites in your area.

In a natural setting, the only way that a bird can become infected with West Nile Virus is through the bite of an infected mosquito. It’s highly unlikely that a bird can get the virus simply by close association with an infected bird. 

Related Content

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Photograph of female mosquito (Aedes japonicus)
2016 (approx.)

A female mosquito (Aedes japonicus) reared from larvae collected from the Kawaikoi Stream, Kauai.

Photograph of a person conducting mosquito sampling on a boardwalk
2016 (approx.)

Researchers dip sampling for mosquitoes along the Alaka‘i Swamp Trail, Kaua‘i

Mosquito trap
May 16, 2016
Image: Biting Mosquito
March 14, 2016

Culex species mosquito biting a human hand.

three neotropical birds (Left to right: Magnolia warbler, Wilson's warbler, Canada warbler - all males) that were cought in mist
2009 (approx.)

Three neotropical birds (Left to right: Magnolia warbler, Wilson's warbler, Canada warbler - all males) that were cought in mist net for banding

Image: USGS Scientist Set Mistnets for West Nile Virus Monitoring
February 8, 2005

USGS scientists capture and release wild birds while monitoring for West Nile.

Mosquito, Aedes aegypti

Mosquito, Aedes aegypti

Image: Curlews Caught by Mist Nets

Curlews are very attentive parents and fly close to intruders and alarm call to distract them from their young broods. USGS scientists take advantage of this behavior by using a mist net to sweep birds out of the air when they approach. In June 2007, USGS scientists used this approach to tag 13 curlews with satellite transmitters at their southern breeding area in Alaska. They use satellite telemetry to track these birds, in order to map their migration routes and find the location of their nonbreeding areas.