Feeding birds

To: "" <>
Subject: Feeding birds
From: Simon <>
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2016 04:57:50 +0000
A major concern with feeding wild birds is the potential for disease
transmission through faecal and bird-to-bird contact. This is of particular
concern in the countries where psittacine species are endemic (like
Australia, but unlike the US and Europe) together with one of their major
diseases: beak and feather disease. This disease, caused by a circovirus
that is shed in the faeces and the dander is increasingly widespread in wild
cockatoos and other psittacine species that commonly visit feeders, as well
as in aviaries (this disease is threatening the breed and release program
for the orange bellied parrot, for example). The infection can cause a
lethal acute or sub-acute disease in young birds or a more chronic condition
in older birds with typical abnormalities of the beak and feathers and
suppression of the immune system, rendering the birds vulnerable to other
infections. Chronically infected birds consistently shed the virus. The
virus is particularly persistent in the environment, being able to survive
outside the infected bird for months.

Whilst this disease is a real threat to our parrot populations, I do not
consider the danger should, of itself, mitigate against feeding wild birds,
provided that proper hygiene is maintained. It is essential to remove stale,
faecally contaminated food daily, to keep bowls and utensils scrupulously
clean and regularly disinfected - ideally every day. Although the virus is
resistant and persistent, it can be inactivated by exposure to common
household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite solution) for 20 minutes, or to
more sophisticated, but less easily obtained, disinfectants such as Vircon
SR. (Such a program will also help to control other infections that can
potentially infect humans, such as Salmonella).

My worry is that few bird feeders are aware of the dangers or diligent
enough to keep up the biosecurity precautions.

Simon R Robinson

BSc, BVetMed, MBA, MRCVS, Grad Cert Ornith

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