How to Tell If a Wild Bird Is Dying: Spot the Warning Signs

It is always a sad sight to see a wild bird dying, but sometimes even sadder to see one suffering without realizing that it is dying. Wild birds are a delight to watch, and it is important to know how to tell when a wild bird is dying so that one can provide the necessary care and give it the best chance of survival.

Physical Signs That Indicate a Wild Bird is Dying

There are several physical signs that indicate a wild bird is dying. These signs may not necessarily mean it is dying, but are important indicators to pay attention to:

Unusual Behaviour

When wild birds are dying, they tend to act differently from how they would normally act. This may include:

  • Being reluctant to fly or unable to fly at all
  • Unresponsive to stimuli or interaction with humans
  • Becoming more aggressive than normal
  • Losing their balance frequently

Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of a wild bird is another essential factor when determining if it is dying. Certain changes or abnormalities may indicate that the bird is dying. These include:

  • Disheveled and ruffled feathers that have lost their shine
  • Significant weight or muscle loss
  • Bleeding from the eyes, wings, or beak
  • Fractures or broken bones that may be visible to the naked eye
  • Visible lumps, bumps, or growths
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing or gasping
  • Swollen, watery, or sunken eyes
  • Discharge from the nostrils

Energy Levels

The energy levels of a wild bird may also be an indication that it is dying. Lack of energy, lethargy and overall weakness are signs that could indicate that the bird is not well. This may manifest as:

  • The bird being lethargic or not moving at all
  • Not being able to hold up its head or wings
  • Difficulty perching
  • Not drinking or feeding
  • Sleeping excessively, even during daylight hours

What to Do When You Spot a Dying Wild Bird

If you notice any of the physical signs noted above in a wild bird, it is crucial to act quickly to give the bird the best chance of survival. Here’s what to do when you see a dying wild bird:

Contact Your Local Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

If you find a wild bird that you suspect is dying, it’s advisable to contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre as soon as possible. They have the necessary skills, experience and equipment to help the bird in distress.

Protect the Wild Bird

If the bird is in danger, take steps to protect it from threats like pets or cars. One can move the bird to a protected area, for instance, a bush or a nearby park.

Provide Food and Water

If the bird is conscious, offer it some water and a small amount of food. In such cases, provide enough food to keep it from starving, but not too much food that the bird may find difficult to digest.

Handle the Wild Bird With Care

When handling a wild bird that is ill, one should take great care to avoid causing unnecessary stress or injury. Ensure that one is gentle and cautious when moving the bird to a safe place, as further injury could exacerbate the situation.

Causes of Wild Bird Deaths

Wild birds can die from many causes, including natural causes such as old age, as well as human-caused factors such as pollution and habitat destruction. But there are many things that one can do to protect wild birds and reduce the chance of their untimely demise.


Predators are one of the most significant threats to wild birds. Domestic animals and other creatures, such as snakes and raccoons are known to hunt and kill wild birds. Birds need to be protected from predators to improve their chances of surviving in the wild.


Pollution impacts both the environment and the health of wild birds. Exposure to toxic chemicals and heavy metals can cause illness, respiratory problems, and even death. Excessive light pollution at night can also disorientate birds, leading to injury or death.

Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction is another huge factor that leads to the demise of wild birds. Destruction of natural habitats leads to nesting sites being destroyed or disturbed, leaving birds homeless and exposed to natural predators. Also, birds that migrate or travel long distances face many difficulties, such as habitat destruction, which complicates the journey, leading to injury or death.

Different Approaches to Prevent Wild Bird Deaths

The human factor plays an important role in ensuring the safety of wild birds. Here are some measures that individuals can adopt to help prevent wild bird deaths:

Provide Safe Nesting Sites

The creation of safe nesting sites is one of the best approaches to ensure bird safety. Birdhouses, shelters, and roosting boxes can provide temporary protection from predators, harsh weather conditions, or other external factors that can cause bird fatalities.

Ensure a Healthy and Adequate Supply of Food and Water

Feeding wild birds keeps them from starving while ensuring they consume the necessary nutrients to maintain good health. It’s important to provide enough food to cater to their energy demands while avoiding overfeeding to prevent digestive issues. Additionally, it’s essential to provide fresh water daily to ensure that birds stay hydrated and maintain good health.

Prevent Window Collisions

Window collisions are one of the leading causes of bird deaths. To prevent window collisions, one should install window screens, spacers, one-way film, or exterior shades, so that the birds do not collide with the window panes.

Reduce Pollution

One can reduce pollution in the environment by using environmentally-safe products and managing waste properly. This ensures that the environment is clean and not contaminated with toxins that could affect wild birds.


Wild birds are a vital part of our natural heritage and it’s important to protect them from threats that could lead to their untimely death. Early detection of physical signs of illness in wild birds and acting quickly can significantly improve their chances of survival. Providing safe nesting sites, maintaining a healthy food and water supply, and reducing pollution are some of the approaches that we can adopt to preserve our feathered friends. By taking these steps, we can help preserve our natural heritage and enjoy the beauty of wild birds for years to come


Here are some of the most common questions and answers related to the topic of ‘How to Tell If a Wild Bird Is Dying.’

  • What signs indicate that a wild bird is dying?

    The physical signs of dying in wild birds include unusual behavior, disheveled feathers, changes to physicality, lack of energy, and lethargy.

  • What should I do if I find a wild bird that seems to be dying?

    Get in touch with your local wildlife rehabilitation center right away, or provide the bird with food and water (if it is still conscious) and move it to a safe, protected area. Handle with care to avoid causing additional stress or injury.

  • How can we prevent wild bird deaths?

    We can help protect wild birds by providing safe nesting sites, ensuring a healthy and adequate supply of food and water, preventing window collisions, and reducing pollution.


  1. Kaplan, A. (2019, February 5). How to Help a Dying Bird. Retrieved from
  2. Asirvatham, R. (2020, December 15). How to Tell If a Wild Bird Is Dying. Retrieved from
  3. Wild Bird Trust. (2018, March 14). Causes of Wild Bird Deaths. Retrieved from

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