Fat birds – Finch disease

From time to time I spot particularly fat birds with fluffed-up plumage at the feeders. They are generally lethargic and don’t seem to bother when I walk up close to them. After about five days after noticing a bird like this I usually never see it again.

Siskin with Trichomoniasis disease video, 0:40 with background music, try 480p quality.

The Siskin male, shown above, I believe was suffering from the disease which is called Trichomoniasis and is most prevalent in finches. It is caused by a parasite and I suspect that at this time of year is most likely to be picked up at busy feeders and tables. I haven’t seen this siskin since this video was taken so I suspect it has died.

Hygiene is absolutely crucial in preventing the spread of this and other diseases at the feeders and tables. I have read differing opinions on what action should be taken when a bird is spotted in the garden. My approach is to:

Thoroughly clean the feeders with a scraper and then I use a brush with an antibacterial spray especially for bird feeders – giving a final rinse with boiling water.

Chase away the bird if it comes to the feeders – it will only pass the disease on to other birds. However I don’t particularly enjoy chasing it away but feel it must be done.

Slow-up feeding – this action is a bit more controversial. If I keep clean feeders and a diseased bird comes in and I stop feeding the birds, they could then go to unclean feeders and tables and pick up the disease there. I haven’t stopped feeding and have continued to scatter plenty of sunflower hearts on the ground – the chaffinches and greenfinches will feed there too. However I have been deliberately slow in refilling the feeders that the finches use – but today gave them all a good clean and refilled them. It has been very cold these last few days and I suspect some birds may have gone elsewhere as my clean feeders had no birds.

For more information on trichomoniasis and hygiene advice go to
http://www.cbwps.org.uk/CBWPS%20news.htm (scroll down page for photos)
http://www.sac.ac.uk/news/currentnews/gardenbirdshygiene (photo)

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 17th 2007.

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