14 October 2011

Importance of proper hygiene at the bird table

Please find below an article published by a friend and fellow wildlife and bird lover/rescuer and rehabber, Samantha Bedford (Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue) on the need for proper hygiene at bird feeders/tables and baths. With the cases of this horrible ailment on the increase, seen by rescue centres up and down the country, awareness needs to be shared and responsibility taken by all those that love seeing birds in their gardens. This ailment, commonly known as 'canker' can be very easily controlled and eradicated from your garden by following simple hygiene practise. So over to Sam and please share with everyone:
Alternatively known as frounce or canker, this ailment is caused by an organism called Trichomonas gallinae, a flagellated protozoan that lives in the sinuses, mouth and throat of birds. It has become a well known garden disease after the noticeable effect that it has had on Greenfinches in recent years.
Rescue Centres tend to see it more in pigeons and doves, as well as the Birds of Prey that feed on these birds such as Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Tawny Owls. It is most prevalent in warm, damp weather, particularly late Summer/early Autumn.
Characterised by yellow/white lesions in the mouth and throat of the bird, a thick, mucoid saliva and swellings around the eyes, the organism will grow until eventually the bird cannot feed properly and dies of starvation or predation. The more advanced the disease is, the more difficult it is to treat.
Other signs of the disease that would be noticeable to members of the public would be birds that have dirty looking beaks with patches of wet feathers around the beak area and swollen eyes. Any birds that have difficulty swallowing food are fluffed up, lethargic and slow to fly off will also need help. It should be noted that this is a disease of birds only and cannot be passed on to cats, dogs, rabbits or humans.
Young pigeon (squab) showing classic signs of ailment

It is believed that the increase in the spread of this disease in recent years is due partly to a lack of hygiene around bird feeding and watering stations. A bird with trichmoniasis drinking from a bird bath is likely to pass the disease on. If caught early, this disease can be treated either with Carnidazole or Metronidazole by an experienced rehabilitator.
You can help combat the spread of this disease:-
  • Disinfect and dry out your feeders for 48 hours (really important to ensure all cracks and crevices are completely dried out), then

  • Clean and disinfect bird tables and bird baths, weekly

  • Change drinking water daily

  • Spread feed stations out to reduce crowding

  • Make drainage holes in any exposed tables to prevent moisture build up
all images copyright Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue - reproduced here with permission of the founder

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