is vaseline harmful to birds

Is Vaseline Harmful to Birds? Read This First

Birds’ feathers are miraculous in their immaculate design. They’re made for flying as well as for maintaining the birds’ body temperature. Most often, these delicate feathers can take a bit of water. But they weren’t made to withstand greasy or oily materials. Environmental incidents like the Gulf of Mexico and industrial petroleum leaks aren’t the only ways birds could be subjected to oils. They could get in touch with vaseline around residential places or from pet owners. That’s why several people were asking, is vaseline harmful to birds?

In this article, we’ll answer this question fully. Additionally, we’ll talk about the possible causes of birds’ exposure to vaseline, and what to do if that happens.

What Is Vaseline Made From?

Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, is actually a versatile and beneficial substance. It’s been around since 1850, which shows how indispensable it is for us. We have Robert Augustus Chesebrough to thank for that soothing ointment that treats our tired and dry skin.

Several people are shocked to learn that vaseline isn’t an organic lotion that comes straight from mother nature. Maybe that’s why it’s not marketed under the more accurate name of ‘petroleum jelly’.

The main ingredients are often mineral oils and various waxes. The good brands use highly filtered premium-quality oils, and they mix them up with wax to create this semi-solid petroleum jelly.

Why Would a Bird Go Near Vaseline?

Squirrels occasionally sneak into bird feeders and other parts of residential backyards. And of course, homeowners find this behavior quite annoying. Thus, they resort to covering the feeders, patio banisters, and other structures with vaseline, in an attempt to deter the squirrels.

Author Note: The vaseline could get mixed up with the bird food. And once a bird ingests it, the consequences are often unpleasant. Birds feed on specific items, and any variation in their diets could be harmful to them.

Other incidents where a bird might ingest vaseline include having some on its belly or legs. Pet owners sometimes use human remedies for animal problems. A little itch, inflamed skin, or dry scaly feet are often treated by a little vaseline. This works like a charm on humans, but not on birds, though.

Why Is Vaseline Harmful to a Bird?

Lilac breasted roller in Kenya

You might recall the Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident back in 2010. It had one of the worst environmental effects on wildlife at the time. An estimated 82,000 birds lost their lives as a result. And even ten years later, it still affects nature in a big way.

The natural habitat of birds doesn’t include vaseline or other greasy materials. The fact that they could be exposed to such materials is a direct consequence of humans getting too close to nature.

There are a number of ways that vaseline could affect a bird negatively, here are some of them.

How Vaseline Can Harm Birds

  1. Birds’ feathers need to be fully dry and healthy for them to be able to fly. If they’re weighed down by an oily substance, they wouldn’t be able to fly.
  2. After the rain or if a bird wades into a puddle of water, its feathers are often clumped and dysfunctional. The birds usually ruffle their feathers and dry up in the sun. This is quite sufficient for them to regain their ability to fly. Contrary to that, they can’t shake off an oily substance. It would stay with them indefinitely.
  3. A bird that’s not able to fly, would hardly reach any food at all. Birds wouldn’t survive that, and if they have baby birds in a nest, they wouldn’t be able to feed them either.
  4. Predators are always on the lookout for sick or disabled animals. A bird that can’t fly too well is easy prey for all kinds of wild animals.
  5. Birds stay warm during the chilly winter season by puffing up their feathers. They stay warm by trapping as much air as they can and using it as a heat insulator. If their feathers are greasy, they wouldn’t be able to maintain their body temperatures.
  6. Birds that regularly take to the water, like ducks, penguins, and albatrosses, have special glands on their bottoms that help them to waterproof their feathers. If they get excessive grease, they wouldn’t be able to perform that pruning and insulation process. This alone could threaten their lives.
  7. Birds aren’t prepared to ingest chemicals or greasy substances. Especially the small insect or grain-eaters. These birds could get sick and there isn’t that much even a vet could do for them at that point.

Can Any Other Oil or Grease Be Used for Birds?

Petroleum jelly, or vaseline, isn’t the only greasy material that’s harmful to birds. The list includes materials such as:

  • Mineral oils
  • Cooking oils
  • Butter
  • Vitamin E ointments or oils
  • Cod liver oil
  • Car oil
  • Greasing mixes for domestic uses
  • Pet cosmetics containing oils
  • Human creams and oil-based lotions

Author Note: All these are considered domestic hazards that birds shouldn’t be around. These birds could be ones that you keep as pets or occasional visitors. They could be hopping about the garden, windows, or patio, and we need to keep harmful materials out of their way.

What to Do if a Bird Gets Vaseline on Its Feathers?

Yellow Warbler

Birds’ feathers have multiple functions, like helping them to fly, keeping them warm, in addition to giving them a distinctive appearance. Several birds are capable of wading into waters or living around ice since their feathers are adapted to these functions.

Water and snow might not affect the birds’ feathers to a serious degree, and drying up a bit in the sun, should get them back to normal. However, being subjected to vaseline, or any other oils, would compromise their feathers. They’d no longer be able to fly or to stay warm.

This is a serious matter, so the best thing to do would be to take the bird to the nearest veterinarian hospital. If that’s not feasible, or it would take too long to get to the hospital, then you could try to remove some of the vaseline or oil with a soft cloth, and wash off the remaining contamination afterward.

What to Do if a Bird Ingested Vaseline?

Birds feed on particular items only that are suitable for their digestive system. Regular foods that are perfectly fine for us, could be toxic for birds. For example, chocolates, onions, dried beans, apple seeds, and mushrooms, are all harmful to birds.

The size and species of the bird matter, of course. And as you might expect, small-sized birds are the ones with more limited diets and higher susceptibility to food poisoning.

Author Note: The exact effects of a bird’s eating vaseline aren’t fully studied. But several sightings report the birds’ getting sick after pruning their vaseline-covered feathers.

Thus, if a bird accidentally ingested vaseline, the best course of action would be to take it to a vet. Alternatively, you can give the bird clean easy-to-digest food for a while, and give it someplace to rest.

How to Keep the Birds away from Vaseline and Other Oils?

Juvenile bird fate is in the hands of human

Healing nature and keeping the various industries from polluting the environment might be hard work. However, protecting the birds from being exposed to the wrong type of material is pretty simple.

  1. Birds are mostly exposed to vaseline from the residents’ attempts to deter squirrels. Replacing this method by putting up a slinky on bird feeders and patios is a good solution. This way, the birds would be safe from having vaseline on their feathers or ingesting it.
  2. Pet owners sometimes apply vaseline to their pet birds’ skin or legs to cure them of inflammation or itchiness. This does far more harm than good. The problem here is that many people don’t have the right kind of information on pet care. So spreading awareness is wise.
  3. Little birds might hop inside your house, garden, or garage if you’re used to leaving the windows opened. Then, it would be best to keep the vaseline and other greases well covered.

These measures should minimize the possibilities that a bird would be exposed to harmful materials. And if you’re interested in contributing more, you could get in touch with the local wildlife organizations and see what needs to be done.

In Conclusion

Wildlife has been affected by our intrusion to a great extent over the past decades. Yet, many organizations and individuals are constantly trying to reverse that. We are part of the environment, and we are fully aware now, that it needs to remain healthy if we want to stay healthy.

Incidents like seeing vaseline on a bird’s feather or knowing that it had ingested it aren’t as infrequent as we’d want to believe. Seemingly benign actions like smearing a backyard bird feeder with vaseline to deter squirrels, or treating a sore bird with that concoction, could have unwanted consequences.

A bird covered with vaseline wouldn’t be able to fly, find food, or escape from potential predators. Additionally, in cold weather, it wouldn’t be able to stay warm. And if the little creature eats a little vaseline or ingests it while pruning its feathers, then it would get sick.

It’s best then to always resort to environment-friendly measures for keeping a backyard free from unwanted intruders. Also, to get proper veterinarian advice before administering anything at all to a pet. We hope you enjoyed this article on is vaseline harmful to birds.

Fly high friends!

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