minimizing bird breathing problems during wildfires

Preventing Bird Breathing During Wildfire Season

In the midst of fire season, ensuring your bird's respiratory health is paramount. This comprehensive guide offers essential tips to safeguard bird breathing during wildfire season. Learn how to create a clean room and employ air purifiers to maintain optimal air quality for your feathered friends.
Revised: April 13, 2024


As wildfires get worse, it's important to keep our bird friends safe. This guide helps you understand how to protect bird breathing during wildfire season. Learn simple steps to help your pet birds stay healthy and happy.

Are birds affected by fire smoke?

At, I've been fielding some questions on how the declining air quality and inside outside of the home affects your pet bird's respiratory system.

So I thought that now might be a timely time (can I say that? - English majors be kind!) to cover the topic.

To start, I'm going to go over the bird respiratory system to help you understand how birds are affected by fire smoke. Then, I'll discuss some common household conditions that you should be aware of to protect your pet. And, finally, I’ll talk about how to protect your bird's respiratory system from the poor air quality that we experience due to raging fires.

Can wildfire smoke kill birds?

Birds are incredibly susceptible to wildfire smoke because of the way that their respiratory system is designed.

bird respiratory system

So first, it's good to know that in general birds are really sensitive to air quality, and if you don't take care, it's very easy for your bird to become very sick, and just as easy for them to die of smoke inhalation.

Birds don't have lungs like we do.  Their respiratory system is very different from mammals.

Birds need an Incredibly efficient respiratory system in order to fly great distances. They also metabolize much more efficiently.  As a result of their much higher relative energy needs, and their needs to process oxygen more efficiently to maintain light, birds have air sacs throughout your body cavity as opposed to lungs. 

If you examine the image above you'll see seven different breathing systems in a bird's body cavity.  This highly efficient breathing system allows a bird to absorb significantly higher amounts of oxygen for each breath than our two lung systems.

Unfortunately, this means that birds' lungs are also much more efficient at processing and absorbing toxins in the air, including deadly wildfire smoke. Now, more than ever, we must be vigilant to protect our pet birds' respiratory health. You'll want to protect your bird like you would protect yourself if you had a respiratory condition.

 Household Air Quality

We've always been aware that the household air quality can be deadly for our birds.

Do This Don't Do This
  • Keep doors and windows closed.

  • Designate a clean room for your birds.

  • Run an air filter with a HEPA filter.

  • Use damp rags for dusting surfaces.

  • Run the central air conditioner to avoid smoke from entering your home.
  • Avoid taking birds outside during smoky days.

  • Avoid adding pollutants to indoor air (e.g., cooking on gas stove, using aerosols, candles).

  • Avoid using harsh household cleaners that emit fumes.

  • Don't run the vacuum unless it has a HEPA filter.

  • Avoid using swamp coolers that bring outside air in.

How do I protect my pets from wildfire smoke?

Clearly, the best way to protect your pets from wildfire smoke is to keep them inside and to run the air conditioner around the clock. Our central air systems are designed to filter out nasty are particles.

Creating a Clean Room


Creating a "clean room" for your birds during smoky days is essential for their respiratory health. Choose a well-ventilated room in your home where your birds spend most of their time. Ensure that this room can be easily sealed off from the rest of the house to minimize smoke infiltration.

Equip the clean room with an air purifier featuring a HEPA filter to capture smoke particles and other pollutants. Keep the windows and doors of the clean room closed to prevent smoke from entering. Additionally, consider adding an extra layer of protection by using weather-stripping or draft guards to seal any gaps around doors and windows.

Regularly clean the clean room to maintain air quality. Vacuum the floors if your vacuum has a HEPA filter and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth to remove settled dust and smoke particles. Avoid using aerosol sprays or strong-smelling cleaning products, as these can irritate birds' sensitive respiratory systems.

By creating a dedicated clean room and taking proactive measures to maintain air quality, you can help ensure that your feathered friends stay healthy and happy, even during smoky days.

If you must take your bird outside when the sky is full of hazy, toxic smoke, place your bird and its carrier. Then grab a moist towel  or a sheet. A pillowcase would work just fine on a smaller bird carrier. 

Moisten the fabric and cover the carrier.  This tip worked well for me when I had to evacuate during Colorado's wildfires a few Summers back.

If the  fires are close, get your bird carrier ready and gather up an evacuation kit. I've had to evacuate my flock twice due to wildfires.  Head over to this article to learn how to create an evacuation kit.

Another way to protect your bird respiratory system from toxic, smokey fumes is to invest in an air purifier. One of the most efficient brands on the market is Rabbit  Purifiers. They're a little pricey but they've got great reviews and they're very efficient.

When you run a high quality air purifier in your bird's living quarters, not only are you cleaning the air from the smoke but also from the dust and dander that birds put off. Thus, saving your HVAC system from damage.

When it comes to bird respiratory infections, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Treatment for avian respiratory problems is critical towards saving your bird's life.  Your avian vet will assess your bird to find out the cause of the respiratory problem so that the appropriate treatment can be administered. 

It would be irresponsible to try to diagnose your pet yourself. Don't fall into the trap of trying over-the-counter medications for respiratory infections because time is of the essence when treating an avian respiratory infection. Your bird could succumb to the infection in as little as the day.

So, it goes without saying that if your bird is showing any symptoms at all of respiratory tract irritation then you should go straight to the vet.

How do I know if my parakeet has a respiratory infection?

Symptoms include the following

  • Your bird being listless and having no energy

  • Nasal discharge

  • Tail bobby as the bird struggles to breathe

  • A dry or raspy or "clicky" sounding breathing

  • Lack of oxygen makes a bird too weak to perch so it sits on the cage floor

In addition, to your bird is spending a lot of time on the floor of the cage or spending a lot of time clutching the side of the cage with it's mouth and 'hanging' these are all signs that your bird is struggling to breathe and is trying to work out ways to get air.

Whatever you do, don't wait, as birds are notoriously susceptible and succumb quickly in many cases.

What Are The Best Supplements For Lung Health?

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in Hemp, Red Palm Oil, and UnRuffledRx FeatheredUp! Vitamin D and E have been found to improve lung function.

bird supplements for preventative Bird Respiratory Health

So have I missed anything, or has your bird been affected by the fires or any of the above? 
Let me know how it's going for your bird, or things that you avoid, as there is a wealth of experience out there, and always more to learn! (and I just like hearing about other people's pet birds.)

Related Posts:

Can Aspergillosis Kill My Bird


United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, November 1). Create a Clean Room to Protect Indoor Air Quality During a Wildfire. Retrieved from

Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies. Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive. TAGS: #BirdBreathingProblems #WildFiresAndBirdBreathing SHARING IS CARING! PLEASE SHARE ON YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA NOW!