Warning for Garden Bird Lovers & Poultry Keepers
With winter approaching, many of us are starting to put out birdfeeders in our gardens.
Although this is largely beneficial for garden birds and human bird watchers alike, it is not without its risks...
Whether the good summer, or climate change in general is to blame or not, we are seeing an increase in a disease called Trichomonosis in garden birds.
A word of warning for people keeping Pigeons, Chickens or Ducks: if your domestic birds have access to (the spill of) birdfeeders, they do have an increased risk of contracting trichomonosis.
Your domestic fowl can be treated, so if you are concerned at all, please do phone and arrange an appointment.
Most cases are seen in greenfinches and chaffinches, but other species can be affected as well. In both wild birds and domestic fowl, the disease causes ulceration and a build up of cheese-like debris in the beak, throat and gullet of the animals. This makes feeding very difficult: the birds can pick up food, but not swallow the grain.
Birds appear to be hungry and reluctant to leave the bird feeding areas, they are dull, fluffed up and reluctant or unable to fly. They may show difficulty breathing. Food debris may be seen sticking to the beak, and the feathers of the head and neck may be wet. Eventually, as they cannot eat, the birds die.
Although medicines are available for the treatment of trichomonosis in captive birds, effective and targeted dosing of wild birds sadly is not a practical option. Sadly we find that nearly all free-living birds brought to our practice affected by this disease are already beyond help, and the only thing we can do is to euthanase them humanely.
How to control Trichomonosis
As the disease spreads where birds gather in close contact, we recommend separation of wild and domestic birds where possible, and the following general control measures:
- Use several feeding sites, to reduce bird numbers at any one site. Move the feeding sites regularly to prevent build-up of debris and infectious agents. Don't use all the feeding sites all the time - rest periods will help to reduce levels of contamination.
- Clean and disinfect feeders and feeding stations regularly. Rinse the feeders and allow them to dry before using them again.
- Consider leaving birdbaths or drinkers empty for a short period. Birds do not often go thirsty in Scotland!
- Consider significantly reducing or stopping feeding for two weeks. This will temporarily deprive you of your birds, but will encourage them to disperse, and reduce the chance of new birds becoming infected at the feeding station. Feeding can then be gradually re-introduced, keeping a keen eye for further signs of ill health.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after cleaning bird feeders or handling sick or dead birds.
We are not suggesting that you not to feed our wild birds, it does them a lot of good. But we want to keep the birds and your poultry as healthy as possible, and with a bit of thought this can be achieved.
Enjoy watching your garden birds!