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What is Salmonella?

Subgenus 1 is the type of salmonella that birds are most commonly infected by. Native wild birds can serve as carriers and as a reservoir of the bacteria. Companion birds can pass on the infection to their humans and vice versa, especially when low immunity conditions exist. All species of birds can be infected by salmonella, it depends on the level of health within your bird, its health, and now potent the bacteria are. Spreading of the organism is through direct interaction and contact among birds, or contaminated food or water.

The Salmonella bacteria genus includes around 2000 species that are divided into five subgenus groups, with subgenus 1 & 3 affecting bird species.

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Symptoms of Salmonella in Birds

  • Poop droppings of a sulphur yellowish green colour is very much a symptom of this microorganism
  • Your bird may have a ‘fluffed up’ appearance which is the sign of an unwell companion 
  • Damages to vital organs such as liver, spleen, kidney or heart 
  • Dermatitis and signs of scratching more than usual
  • Weight loss and diarrhea can occur 
  • Arthritis is a symptom with pigeons 
  • Conjunctivitis in extreme cases 
  • Excessive persistent thirst 


  • Salmonella are a group of rods shaped gram-negative bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family 
  • There are two species of Salmonella – Salmonella enterica, and Salmonella bongori- both making up of over 2000 individual species
  • Salmonella enterica can then be further divided into six subgenera types with subgenus 1 & 3 affecting bird species 
  • Subgenus 1 is the type that is commonly found in most birds and is easily transmitted from bird to bird
  • Subgenus 3 is sometimes found in birds especially those that have had contact with reptiles

Causes of Salmonella in Birds

  • It can be spread from other animals for example rodents, where it passes out in the faeces and can contaminate your bird’s food or water areas 
  • It can pass by vertical transmission, that is transmission of the bacteria to the egg with infected chicks hatching to spread it further
  • Flies can also carry the bacteria, so remove old seed and food and keep the condition sanitary to eliminate flies 
  • Bacteria shed can remain stable outside the host, and be inhaled through dust by another potential host
  • Often salmonella is transmitted where large numbers of birds congregate such as at feeding stations 
  • Poor hygiene standards such as contaminated feed bowls or water stations 
  • Weakened immune systems (weaker or ill birds are more easily infected
  • Stress and overcrowding in cages/aviaries can cause an outbreak
  • Contaminated food from an infected hen feeding their young 
  • Fecal contamination of water

Diagnosis of Salmonella in Birds

There are no distinctive signs that are associated with salmonella infection, the symptoms could easily apply to several different diseases or illnesses. It is important to take your bird to an avian veterinarian if it is displaying any of the symptoms listed above. A quiet bird sitting with all its feathers fluffed up is a sure sign that something is wrong with your little companion. A general attitude of depression and lack of interest in food accompanied by diarrhea should have you bundling up your bird and heading for the specialist as soon as possible. Some very sick birds can start having seizures, this bacterium is that potent.

Your avian specialist will do an examination, discuss the symptoms your bird is exhibiting and he will take some tests for the laboratory to determine the exact cause. While the results may take a day or two, treatment will begin almost immediately. Salmonella is treatable but the success relies on the age of your bird, the general health, and how advanced the bacterial infection has gone. But birds have been carefully nursed back to good health from this disease.

Treatment of Salmonella in Birds

Because of the diverse number of species of salmonella, it is vital to get a positive identification on the cause of your bird’s illness. Laboratory tests can take a day or two to come back to your specialist, but he will usually start your bird on a broad-spectrum antibiotic. There is a range of antibiotics that are available to treat your bird, and your specialist will determine which one is best for your little companion. This will provide immediate treatment for the disease, and later, once the species of salmonella is determined, your avian veterinarian will switch to a more specific antibiotic to target the organism. Other worrying symptoms, such as diarrhea, need to be treated to allow your bird to regain its health. A medication based on kaolin will firm up the stool and will not affect the antibiotic.

Other support, such as plenty of clean water available to prevent dehydration, will be necessary. Keeping your bird warm and offering tempting food to get him to eat are part of the treatment for this condition. For the wild bird population, treating this organism is almost impossible and salmonella is the most common cause of mortality. If you are feeding wild bird populations, keeping the water and feeding containers clean will help.

Recovery of Salmonella in Birds

Prevention is the best management tool in dealing with salmonella outbreaks. Keeping your bird’s home scrupulously clean and hygienic is vital. Prevent overcrowding, and keep nest boxes clean and fresh. To prevent the spread of bacteria, try washing feeding bowls with water and a concentrate of 10% bleach, ensuring you rinse the dish well and dry. If you are feed a flock of birds or wild species, spread the location of feeding bowls or put more out to avoid overcrowding and contamination.

If your bird is recovering from treatment of salmonella, keep his environment clean, especially food and water containers. Your bird may feel the cold with being unwell, so a little added heat may help, but don’t overdo it. Time and a full dosage of antibiotics will assist your bird to return to full health.