Protecting Your Bird From Poor Air Quality

Dandenongs burn off

A planned burn in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia. It doesn’t look it to the untrained eye, but this actually a controlled fire.  Firefighters do these burns to reduce fuel load to reduce the risk of serious bushfire. The smoke blankets numerous suburbs when they do this.

Occasionally something may happen in the area that you live that can create poor air quality. It wasn’t that long ago that there were reports of pigeons falling dead out of the sky in Singapore due to a dangerous deterioration in air quality. Fires in a neighbouring country were polluting Singapore’s air. It got so bad that the public were advised to stay inside. This sort of situation isn’t limited to Singapore. There have been times when volcanic ash has impacted multiple countries at the same time. Gas leaks, chemical Leaks, bushfires, any normal smoke-producing fire, can happen pretty much anywhere and they can all impact on the air quality in many people’s home environments.

A bird’s respiratory system is quite different to ours; in simplest terms it is a lot more efficient than our own. Consequently birds will be affected by poor air quality a lot more quickly than we will ever be. There is a reason Teflon, air fresheners, cigarette smoke and cleaning product fumes are so dangerous for birds (not that they’re so great for us either). Air quality is something we as bird owners need to be mindful of. It is something you should have a plan for when outside forces come into play.


Wild galahs in flight. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of taking the attitude of “Wild birds cope in poor air quality so my pet birds will be alright”. Wild birds can fly away to safety, a captive bird doesn’t have that luxury.

What to have on hand/preparation:

  • “There is an app for that!”:  We live in a world where smart phones and social media exist. They’re not just there for communication; they’re there for information. There are smart phone apps that are run by fire authorities and police that are designed to put out emergency alerts and to advise when incidents arise. Likewise there are facebook pages and twitter accounts designed to give out these sorts of alerts. It pays to download those apps and follow those pages. Set yourself up with those that are local to you so that you will know when something could be affecting your air quality. It can be a sunny clear day, everything can look fine but a nearby scrap metal yard could be going up in flames releasing toxins into the air. You need to be alerted if that happens.
  • Have multiple evacuation plans:  Not all evacuations mean leaving your home. Sometimes you might just need to evacuate your birds to an inner room. Check out this link for more information on different types of evacuation plans.
  • Purchase a HEPA air filter.

Galahs bathing. Poor air quality and air conditioners can take their toll on your bird. Give them plenty of bathing opportunities.

What to do when your poor quality happens:

  • Evacuate your birds either indoors or to safe location.
  • Close all doors and windows.
  • Place a moist towel at the base of any external doors to prevent toxins coming in any gaps.
  • Run your air conditioner.
  • Maintain air circulation (ceiling fans)
  • Run your air filter if you have one.
  • Cover your bird’s cage with a moist cover (not saturated as you still want air to pass through).  Don’t forget to cover any travel cages if you’re going to a safer location.
  • Increase bathing opportunities for your birds.  Misting sprays are wonderful for this.
  • Provide plenty of fluids for your birds.
  • Reduce flying opportunities or any activity that increases a bird’s breathing rate. Keep your birds quietly occupied.

Wild Australian bird, forced out of the hills and into a suburban garden during a bushfire.


Watch your bird for any signs of sickness. If a bird has been exposed to poor air quality it can take days before signs of a respiratory illness can appear.  Sneezing isn’t the only symptom of a respiratory issue.  Regularly scratching at their head, discharge from nostrils, weight change, sitting fluffed, changes in droppings are all other symptoms to watch for.

 Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.

1 comment


Hi – Because there’s so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I’m not surprised that you’re concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont, and hope you’ll let me share some information about helping to safeguard your pet bird from the dangers in the kitchen. Just so that you know, fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, can damage a bird’s lungs with alarming speed. Simple tips to keep your feathered friends safe can be found on our website:


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