Avian disease killing UK Birds

To: <>
Subject: Avian disease killing UK Birds
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2006 10:01:33 +0100
Hi all,

following the posting by L + L Knight I thought I'd post this article.  There 
are guidelines for helping prevent the disease and general good housekeping 
practice for anyone with feeders.

All the best, Andy Adcock, UK


Garden Bird Health initiative - Trichomoniasis


Trichomonas gallinae is a single cell parasite that can cause a disease known as

trichomoniasis in British birds.

Species affected:

Trichomoniasis typically affects pigeons and doves in the UK. It can also 
affect birds of prey

that feed on pigeons and doves that are sick with the condition. The common 
name for the

disease in pigeons and doves is "canker" and in birds of prey the disease is 
known as


Since summer 2005, disease caused by a Trichomonas parasite has also been seen 
in finch

species. As far as we are aware, this is the first time that this has 
occurred*. Whilst

greenfinches and chaffinches are the species that have been most frequently 
affected, other

finch species and house sparrows are susceptible to the disease.

An increase in the number of reported disease outbreaks in finches thought to 
be caused by

trichomonas has occurred during and following the recent spell of hot weather 
in July 2006.


Trichomonas typically causes local sites of infection to develop at the back of 
the throat and


Clinical signs:

In addition to showing signs of general illness, for example lethargy and 
fluffed-up plumage,

affected birds may drool saliva, regurgitate food, have difficulty in 
swallowing or show laboured

breathing. Finches are frequently seen to have matted wet plumage around the 
face and

beak. In some cases, swelling of the neck may be visible from a distance. The 
disease may

progress over several days or even weeks, consequently affected birds are often 

Disease spread:

Trichomonas is vulnerable to desiccation and cannot survive for long periods 
outside the host.

Transmission of infection between birds is most likely to be by birds feeding 
one another with

regurgitated food during the breeding season; through food or drinking water 

with recently regurgitated saliva, or possibly, from droppings of an infected 

Risk to human and domestic animal health:

Trichomonas gallinae is a parasite of birds and does not pose a health threat 
to humans or

mammals such as dogs and cats. The parasite has the potential to affect captive 
poultry and

pet birds.

However, garden birds in the UK may carry other diseases that can affect humans 
and pets,

for example Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli bacteria. The GBHi recommends 

sensible hygiene precautions as a routine measure when feeding garden birds and 

bird feeders and tables. Following these rules will help avoid the risk of any 

transmitting to people and help safeguard the birds in your garden against 
disease (See


? Clean and disinfect feeders/ feeding sites regularly. Suitable disinfectants 
that can be

used include a weak solution of domestic bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) and 


specially-designed commercial products (See Further information). Always rinse

thoroughly and air-dry feeders before re-use.

? Brushes and cleaning equipment for bird feeders, tables and baths should not 
be used

for other purposes and should not be brought into the house, but be kept and 

outside and away from food preparation areas.

? Wear rubber gloves when cleaning feeders and thoroughly wash hands and 

afterwards with soap and water, especially before eating or drinking. Avoid 

sick or dead birds directly.

Diagnosis: Diagnosis of trichomoniasis in wild birds relies on post mortem 
examination. The

signs of the disease at post mortem are fairly characteristic, and a variety of 
tests can be used

to confirm presence of the parasite.

If you wish to report finding dead garden birds, or signs of disease in garden 
birds, please

call the Garden Bird Health initiative on 0207 449 6685.


Whilst medicines are available for treatment of trichomoniasis in captive 
birds, effective and

targeted dosing of free-living birds under field conditions is not possible.

Where a problem with trichomoniasis exists, general measures for control of 
disease in wild

bird populations should be taken:

? Ensure optimal hygiene at garden bird feeding stations, including 
disinfection (See

Further information)

? Consider leaving bird baths with standing water empty for a short period. 
Otherwise, be

particularly vigilant to provide clean drinking water on a daily basis.

? Feeding stations encourage birds to congregate, sometimes in large densities, 

increasing the potential for disease to spread between individuals when 

occur. Where large numbers of birds are sick or dying, consider significantly 

or stopping feeding for a short period (around 2 weeks). The reason for this is 

encourage birds to disperse, thereby minimising the chances of new birds 

affected at the feeding station. Gradually reintroduce feeding, monitoring for 

signs of ill health.


Following best practice for feeding garden birds is recommended to help control 
and prevent

transmission of disease at feeding stations all year round.

? Routine good table hygiene (See Further information).

? Provision of clean and fresh drinking water on a daily basis.

? Provision of fresh food from accredited sources.

? Rotate positions of feeders in the garden to avoid build up of contamination 
in any one

area and pay particular attention to clearing food remains that fall beneath 
onto the


Further information:

Best feeding practices should be followed at all times to help ensure that the 
birds visiting your

garden remain healthy. More information can be found in the GBHi booklet 
"Feeding Garden

Birds - Best Practice Guidelines" and in the accompanying GBHi leaflet. Details 
of how to

obtain these publications are available on the GBHi page of the UFAW website Tel: 01582 831818

* Pennycott, T.W., Lawson, B., Cunningham, A.A., Simpson, V., Chantrey, J. 
(2005) Necrotic ingluvitis in wild

finches Veterinary Record 157, 360

* Holmes, P., Duff, P. (2005) Ingluvitis and oesophagitis in wild finches 
Veterinary Record 157, 455

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