Seeing the good in the bad

I hope you’ll enjoy the twist here (with a little help from James Brown). I’m looking at a positive way to spread bad news today… Trichomonosis. I’d like to suggest you listen to the video but scroll down and read my little ditty below at the same time.

Video from YouTube see here.

shirls gardenwatch

Oh -no-oh no-oh-no! I feel bad, I know it’s for the best, now
I feel bad, I know it’s only temporary, now
So bad, so bad, it’s upsetting me 🙁

Whoa! I should feel good, as I am really helping them
I should feel good, as I am really helping them
So good, so good, more birds will live 🙂

(Bird feeders are taken down and bird baths emptied)

When I see you looking for food
I know that I can’t do anything
and when I see you looking for water
My decision will cause you less harm 🙂

and I should feel good, as I am really helping them
I should feel good, as I am really helping them
So good, so good, more birds will live 🙂

(Bird feeders emptied, washed and stored away)

When I saw a greenfinch all fluffed up in my garden yesterday
I knew what I had to do right, then
and when I saw a greenfinch all fluffed up in my garden yesterday
I knew it only had a few more days to live

and I should feel good, as I am stopping other birds die now
I should feel good, as this spreading disease should stop now
So good, so good, more birds will live 🙂

Whoa! I will feel good, I know that I will, now
I will feel good, I know that I will, now
So good, so good, this disease will be gone from my garden again
So good, so good, after a few weeks my feeders will be up again
So good, so good, I told you about it too 🙂

Yesterday morning, we had a bit of frost. Temps are dropping here. After seeing the Female chaffinch trying to drink through a thin layer of ice. I went out and refilled all birdbaths.

Next, I reinstated a feeding station under my small Acer tree that birds have had no interest over the summer. During winter this is a very popular spot.

All sorted, I sat down with my breakfast at the window and began a birdcount to see who was visiting my garden at the moment. It’s been a while since I’ve done this.

Half an hour into my count (after seeing a variety of birds) I spotted the Greenfinch with Trichomonosis shown above. My count stopped and the ditty above tells you what happened next.

The photos below were taken at the beginning of my count before this Greenfinch was spotted. Photo opportunities of birds in my garden will be much reduced now. I will miss seeing their visits for a while but this is the kindest and only thing to do here.

I only wish it wasn’t at a time when the temps are dropping and the birds need extra food for energy to survive the colder nights. Clicking on all photos in this post will enlarge them.

Female Chaffinch with frozen birdbath water.

View from window. Food ready and waiting. The bird count begins.

A Dunnock was first to feed. It was enjoying the fat ball.

The same Dunnock was also spotted drinking.

Blackbirds were the first to spot the sultanas.

Blackbirds were also first to bathe in the newly filled birdbath.
The Chaffinch in the background had to wait for his drink of water.

A young partial albino Blackbird also enjoyed a fresh drink of water.

A young finch waited patiently in the pine tree above
before jumping down to get a drink. Is this a Greenfinch or Chaffinch?

I don’t ‘feel good’ showing images of this sick bird but nothing can save it now. However, by showing a photo of a bird with Trichomonosis it will help other people identify this disease in birds that visit their gardens. Awareness will save more birds from dying from it. That is good.

Yesterday, I really didn’t ‘feel good’. I felt very sad indeed. This morning I woke thinking that I should feel good that I have spotted this disease and have done something about it. I do feel good about that. I instantly though of the James Brown song and the rest just followed. Although this is sad to see I wanted this to be an upbeat message. I hope I’ve achieved that.

That said, this post really has to end with a strong message. So before we get to that, I just want to wish you a good weekend. Our gardens do support a wealth of birds and wildlife even if we don’t put food or water out. Enjoy yours 😀

The diseased Greenfinch is more likely to want to drink than eat
as it can’t swallow easily. It’s throat is becoming blocked with this disease.
It will die from starvation in a few days.

With birdbaths emptied, the thirsty Greenfinch spots the
emptied birdbath water poured over hosta leaves and tries to drink it.
A male Chaffinch spots what its doing and copies. Is this bird affected too?

A male Chaffinch, like Blackbirds and other birds
lands on the upturned birdbath and looks up to the tree confused.
The same happened in the spots where the feeders were.

TRICHOMONOSIS!! We have to stop it spreading.

This disease affects Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Siskins and House sparrows. I have seen it myself. I hope my visiting birds find clean feeders when they finally all leave my garden. If not, they may bring it back to my garden again 🙁

Bird feeders and birdbaths need to be regularly cleaned as it spreads through feeding and drinking. If you think you have a tame finch in your garden as it doesn’t move away when you walk close then it could be diseased. Take a photo and show someone if you are unsure. The latest info and advice from the RSPB can be seen here.

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on October 20th 2010.

12 thoughts on “Seeing the good in the bad

  1. I'm sorry you have this disease in your garden, Shirl, but I'm really glad that you not only know what to do, you took the time to write this post to let others know. A writer friend mentioned dead goldfinches in Halifax last week. I've sent her some information on the disease in Atlantic Canada, thanks to you!

  2. Shirl its been nearly 2 months since I spotted my first diseased bird arriving at the feeders. I waited 4 weeks before starting to feed again and the day before the feeders went out another greenfinch appeared in the garden all puffed up and could hardly fly. So yet again I'm waiting another 4 weeks before I resume feeding.

  3. Oh Shirl..what a difficult thing to do…It would just kill me to deny the birds in our garden food but..you did the right thing, I think. I haven't seen this here, but Jodi mentions goldfinches in Halifax, Nova Scotia, last week..so we will be on the lookout. Thanks for advising about this…so sad. You did the right thing..

  4. It is sad to see this. It seems to run in cycles around here. I don't see any birds with it for months then all of a sudden a few show up…then they are gone. I haven't seen goldfinches with this disease but the House Finches do get it from time to time. It is good that you know what to do to preven its spread.

  5. Hello again, Jodi I’m sorry too, but if I hadn’t spotted it the other day (thanks to a breakfast birdcount) more birds would have been at risk to this (very sad to see) disease.

    Thanks, I had to post on this again. I do mention it when I get the opportunity. I can’t, not show images. I really hope they help.

    Sadly Jodi, this is not the first time I have seen this in my garden. I first spotted it back in 2007. I think I’ve seen it another time since then. On that occasion it was in a Siskin.

    Unfortunately living in a small densely populated town with (on average) really tiny gardens there could be a high volume of feeders in a very small area. Being realistic, not all feeders and drinking water will be kept clean so the spread of disease could happen pretty quickly. I was sad to read that Rosie below spotted it again before she had the chance to put her feeders up again 🙁

    Jodi, I had no idea this disease might be appearing in Nova Scotia. I hope this is not the case and it has been something else that has caused the death of your friend’s goldfinches. If I remember correctly there was another condition/disease that I’ve heard US gardeners talk about some time ago. Can’t remember now what it was though – sorry.

  6. Oh Rosie, I am sad to read of the story in your garden. I know how much you will want to put up feeders and feed your visiting birds again especially as it is getting colder.

    As I said to Jodi above, lots of other garden feeders in a small area will be your problem (mine too). I have heard, birds can have a feeding ‘round’ of up to six miles which doesn’t help in the case of a diseased bird.

    Pre blog I had only been feeding birds for a few months. Now, when I don’t feed the birds my garden feels without life, without soul. I really miss seeing them. I'm not at that stage yet though.

    Today, it is raining and my garden is still busy. Birds are still visiting despite my bird café being closed. They will be wasting valuable energy here 🙁

  7. Hello Brenda, it is hard, especially today when it is raining and the garden gets busier.

    I had my window open for a short while this morning but hearing the birds calling to each other was worse than seeing them.

    I’m not sure, but I possibly saw a juvenile coal tit (like the chickadee in looks) flapping wings in front of another which I’d guess was the parent. I had never seen one either and would love to have gone to the shed for some black sunflower hearts for it 🙁

    Yes, I am doing the right thing here. It is the only way. In the same way I had to share this story and my pictures of a bird with trichomonosis.

  8. Hi there Lisa, it is sad 🙁

    Now, that it news to me that you are seeing Trichomonosis in Indiana, US. I didn’t realise it had reached you. As you said it can run in cycles. I hope you don’t see it again for a long time.

    Yes, knowing how to prevent it is all we can really do isn’t it. I hope this posting helps people ID this condition and then the prevention can begin.

  9. Important post. I have not heard of this. I do not have any feeders but do see tons of birds about feeding in the gardens. Great that you are sharing this info. I must worry about birds hitting the glass windows and doors. I am always working on this problem. Poor little finch . . . and you too for having to witness its demise. ;>)

  10. Interesting post Shirl. In the US we call this disease Trichomoniasis rather than Trichomonosis. Trichomonas gallinae is the causative parasite, and it seems to primarily affect pigeons and doves here. Songbird infections are relatively infrequent, and more often than not believed to be passed from the parents to the juveniles while feeding regurgitated food to their offspring prior to fledging. All good advice though, as we can facilitate the spread through feeders and water baths. I hope you don't see too many more songbirds in your garden with this condition.

  11. I haven't been aware of this disease wich affects our birds and I haven't seen any sick birds in my garden, but thanks to your blog I will clean my bird feeders out at least once a week.

  12. Hi again Carol & David and Hello Curbstone Valley, thanks to you all for leaving comments on this one 🙂

    Info the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) gives is: “Trichomonosis is caused by the single cell parasite Trichomonas gallinae. It is also known as 'pigeon canker'. This reflects the fact that pigeons and doves appear the most susceptible to this disease and are the main carriers. Other species of birds, including other garden birds, game birds and raptors may also be affected.”

    Info the RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) gives is: ”Since summer 2005, trichomonosis, a disease caused by a microscopic parasite has been reported in finches in gardens. Since then, outbreaks have been seen every year during the late summer and autumn. They have been studied by the Garden Bird Health Initiative, of which the RSPB is part . Research findings published in August 2010 show that the population of affected species can drop in those parts of the country that suffer the most serious outbreaks. Greenfinch populations have been recorded dropping by a third, and chaffinch populations by a fifth in these heavily-affected areas.”

    Carol, thanks, I hope by posting on this it helps a little in stopping the spread of this awful disease. Re birds hitting windows I have stickers (of raptors) on mine. I think they help.

    Curbstone Valley, sounds like this is the same disease we are talking about here. I’ve never heard mention of it being passed from parent birds to young. However, it sounds very possible. The RSPB is suggesting it is more likely in late summer/Autumn. That is maybe fortunate as there may be less broods of chicks then. I do hope you don’t see this in your songbirds or finches. It is more common in finches and house sparrows here. Sadly, in my garden I do believe the bird that followed the affected Greenfinch to the hosta leaves for water may have it too. All the more reason to keep the feeders down and birdbaths upturned. I’ve not seen the Greenfinch in the last day or so. I’m guessing it is dead by now 🙁

    David, I am delighted that I have passed this info on to you. I hope you never see it in your garden. If you ever do, you will know that you did all you could to prevent it from spreading. Unfortunately, birds visit more gardens than just ours.

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