Professionals warn against dangers of touching birds

Birds are everywhere this time of year.
The tiny creatures that hatched just months ago are already beginning to fly around and search out their own food.
However sometimes these birds are not flying around; sometimes they are fluttering, seemingly helpless on the ground.
Many people believe they are doing a good thing by picking up a bird and taking it into their home to keep it safe.
Unfortunately, many birds can carry and transmit diseases.
“Birds are strongly connected to the West Nile virus. West Nile has been found in over 300 species of birds in the U.S. since 1999. Other diseases that birds carry can cause human illnesses that affect the respiratory system, digestive system and cause flu-like symptoms," explained Shauna Allen, Infection Control Nurse at Bolivar Medical Center
"Various types of avian influenza have also been of concern," said Nick Winstead an Ornithologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Birds that have died are also a concern.
"People should always wear disposable gloves when handling dead birds because bacteria, insects and mites could transfer any diseases the bird may have carried. If possible, use a small shovel or other tool to move a dead bird. Wash hands with hot soapy water after handling dead birds even if you were wearing gloves,” added Allen.
In addition to being potentially problematic for the person who handles the bird, these interactions can also be harmful to the bird.
"It always best to avoid disturbing a bird's nest as much as possible. Once the chicks are able to move about the nest heavy disturbance can cause them to prematurely fledge and be vulnerable to predators or injury," said Winstead.
Fledging is when a young bird develops feathers large enough to allow for flight.
It is quite common to see a baby bird on the ground that appears to have been abandoned or fallen from its nest.
If the bird has feathers rather than down and does not appear to injured leave it where it is.
The Audubon Society explains that, "Many species of birds such as robins, scrub jays, crows and owls leave the nest and spend as many as two to five days on the ground before they can fly. This is a normal and vital part of the young birds' development. While they are on the ground, the birds are cared for and protected by their parents and are taught vital life skills, finding food, identifying predators, flying. Taking these birds into captivity denies them the opportunity to learn skills they will need to survive in the wild."
If the bird you find has no feathers and its eyes are closed look for a nest.
It you see a nest place the baby bird back into it while wearing gloves to prevent the transfer of any germs.
"One thing is that people are fearful of is that the mother bird will smell them if they touch the baby. Birds actually have a very poor sense of smell, and they will not reject the bird if you place it back in the nest," said Cody Haynes with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
If you cannot find a nest, call a wildlife center or animal rescue.
If you do find a bird that appears to be injured, or a bird that does not have feathers and you can not see a nest, call the Mississippi Wildlife Rehab Center at (662) 429-5105.


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