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Bird charities issue trichonomosis warning for Welsh Hawfinches

24 Jul 2022 4 minute read
Hawfinch by Andrej Chudy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Bird charities have called on householders in Meirionnydd, north-west Wales, to suspend providing food and water for birds for the remainder of the summer after an outbreak of trichomonosis in the Hawfinch population

RSPB Cymru and BTO Cymru (British Trust for Ornithology) have made the call after have reports of sick and dead Hawfinches in gardens in the Dolgellau area.

So far this spring and summer has seen the worst outbreak since studies began 10 years ago, affecting birds in north west towns including Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bala, Penrhyndeudraeth and Barmouth.

The charities say that Hawfinch is a scarce and localised woodland breeding bird that is attracted to sunflower seeds provided in gardens.

The area around Dolgellau holds one of the five most important populations in the UK and is one of the two principal breeding areas in Wales.

Trichomonosis is the primary cause of a 79% decline in Greenfinch in Wales over the last 10 years, and a 38% decline in Chaffinch, so a similar decline could be catastrophic for the Hawfinch population.

Trichomonosis causes lesions in the throat, which makes it progressively hard for the bird to swallow food. Sick birds may be lethargic, fluffed-up, regurgitate food, salivate excessively or show laboured breathing. It is bird-specific and does not pass to mammals, including humans.

Householders elsewhere in North Wales are reminded to maintain good hygiene where food and water are provided, and to withdraw food and freshwater if sick birds are seen and householders in the area are advised not to provide bird baths

Birds will disperse across the countryside where they are less prone to transmitting disease and despite the dry weather, there are plenty of sources of fruit, nuts and freshwater in Meirionnydd during the summer.

to reduce the risk to the survival of Hawfinches.

Reducing the risks

Diseases can be spread by birds congregating at bird feeders and water.

Birds that wouldn’t normally meet in close proximity may congregate at garden feeders or may gather at higher densities than seen in other habitats.

This can lead to possible contamination with infectious materials such as droppings or saliva and increase the risk of trichomonosis spreading in the Hawfinch population.

The BTO Cymru website has set out some simple guidelines for maintaining hygiene at the feeders and reducing the risk of contamination.

Your feeding set-up

  • Use several feeding stations to reduce the number of birds in any one place.
  • Rotate the use of feeding stations so they’re not all in constant use; rest periods can help reduce the accumulation of potentially infectious material under feeders.
  • Avoid placing feeders under garden features where birds perch or roost; this will prevent contamination with droppings.

Keeping things clean

  • Regularly clean bird baths, feeders, feeding stations and hard surfaces under feeders, and treat with a suitable disinfectant (e.g. a weak solution of domestic bleach).
  • Carefully rinse all surfaces with clean water and air dry before using.
  • Clean your feeders outside and maintain careful personal hygiene – wersr gloves, and ensure that brushes and buckets are not used for other purposes.
  • Provide a variety of good-quality fresh foods, and avoid over-filling feeders, to ensure they are emptied every few days.
  • Do not allow seed or old food to accumulate on the ground below feeders, and particularly on surfaces that are damp and/or contaminated with droppings.
  • Regularly clear accumulations of old food and droppings from any areas that cannot be disinfected (e.g. bare earth or grass).
  • Provide clean drinking water on a daily basis.

More information on what to do if you find sick birds or other wildlife can be found here


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
15 days ago

Thanks for the warning I’ve let my neighbour know…

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