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Old Friday 8th September 2006, 13:34   #1
Andy Bright
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Hygene & Disease Prevention in the Garden

Hygene & Disease
Outbreaks of disease may occur in populations of wild birds wherever they occur, including those visiting gardens. Because garden birdwatchers take so much interest in the birds visiting their gardens, they may occasionally come across diseased birds and a number of different diseases have been reported from birds seen at garden feeding stations. These include those caused by Salmonella and E. coli but other, less familiar disease may also occur.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some bird species may be more susceptible to disease than others. Certainly, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Siskins, House Sparrows and Collared Doves appear to be the most commonly reported victims of diseases. This may, in part, reflect the gregarious nature of these birds and their tendency to feed in flocks.
It is known that the transmission of disease between individuals tends to be increased where birds gather together in large numbers and this may go some way to explaining why some species may be more susceptible than others.

Feeding station layout
Since the risk of disease transmission is related to the numbers of birds congregating together, one of the best things you can do is to use several feeding sites within your garden and to not just place all your feeders in one spot. This helps to disperse the feeding birds over a larger area and reduces the potential for disease build-up.

It is also important to move your feeding sites periodically, especially those where you feed directly onto the ground. Allowing areas to ‘rest’ will help to reduce levels of contamination. Finally, think about where you position feeders in relation to other garden features. For example, it is best to avoid placing a bird table under a tree in which birds perch or roost, since it soon becomes heavily contaminated with droppings.

Hanging seed feeders typically retain the food within a clear plastic tube and this means that there is a very low risk of the food becoming contaminated with droppings.

Bird tables, where birds actually stand on and amongst the food, have a greater risk of contamination. Whilst this implies that hanging feeders are better from a disease prevention point of view, it is worth remembering that many species are unable to use hanging feeders and that, with good hygiene practice, bird tables or ground feeding trays are just as safe.

Feeders
When choosing a feeder or bird table, look for one that reduces the risk of contamination and keeps the food dry. If food becomes damp, then it is likely to be more susceptible to moulds and contamination by other harmful agents

Some mesh peanut feeders leave the peanuts open to the elements and the nuts may become damp and deteriorate more quickly than other types of food held in tube feeders. This means that you should pay particular attention to the peanuts you provide to ensure that they are fresh and safe for the birds. One of the best ways to ensure this is to only put out a small quantity of peanuts so that fresh ones have to be put ut every few days.

Keeping things clean
Regular cleaning and disinfecting of bird tables, bird baths and hanging feeders is an important part of good hygiene practice when feeding garden birds. Alongside these measures, it is important not to provide more food than birds need. Ideally, bird tables should be swept clean each day to remove droppings and any uneaten food.

Tables and other feeding surfaces should be disinfected on a regular (weekly or fortnightly) cycle using an appropriate disinfectant such as Ark-klens or Tamodine-E, followed by thorough rinsing and air drying before subsequent use.

Cleaning equipment should not be used for other purposes and should be kept and used outside. Rubber gloves should be worn for the purpose, and hands and forearms should be washed thoroughly after handling or cleaning feeders. The ground beneath feeders may be kept clean by regular sweeping and disinfected through the use of products such as Gardenklens powder. Bird baths should also be cleaned in a similar manner.

Food Safety
Purchase foods from reputable sources and from retailers that regularly check their peanut supplies for aflatoxins. Under some circumstances, stored foods (e.g. peanuts and cereals) can be attacked by moulds that produce very dangerous toxins. Foods should be stored in a clean, dry and cool environment inaccessible to pests. This will minimise the risk of fungal or bacterial contamination and will also avoid encouraging rats and mice. Keep a regular check on food provided in hanging feeders and try not to overfill feeders, otherwise uneaten food may remain in feeders for too long a period.

text courtesy of BTO Garden BirdWatch
http://www.bto.org/gbw/index.htm
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Old Friday 8th September 2006, 13:47   #2
Andy Bright
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Disease Outbreak in Finches

Since summer 2005, a disease caused by a Trichomonas parasite has been seen in finch species. As far as I am aware, this is the first time that this has occurred. Whilst greenfinches and chaffinches are the species that have been most frequently affected, other finch species and house sparrows are susceptible to the disease. An increase in the number of reported disease outbreaks in finches thought to be caused by trichomonas has occurred during and following the recent spell of hot weather in July 2006. Formerly, this disease was known from doves, some raptors and gamebirds.

In addition to showing signs of general illness, for example lethargy and fluffed-up plumage, affected birds may drool saliva, regurgitate food, have difficulty in swallowing or show laboured breathing. Finches are frequently seen to have matted wet plumage around the face and beak. In some cases, swelling of the neck may be visible from a distance. The disease may progress over several days or even weeks, consequently affected birds are often emaciated.

Trichomonas is vulnerable to desiccation and cannot survive for long periods outside the host. Transmission of infection between birds is most likely to be by birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season; through food or drinking water contaminated with recently regurgitated saliva, or possibly, from droppings of an infected bird.

Where a problem with trichomoniasis exists, general measures for control of disease in wild bird populations should be taken:

Ensure optimal hygiene at garden bird feeding stations, including disinfection/

Consider leaving bird baths with standing water empty for a short period. Otherwise, be particularly vigilant to provide clean drinking water on a daily basis.

Feeding stations encourage birds to congregate, sometimes in large densities, thereby increasing the potential for disease to spread between individuals when outbreaks occur. Where large numbers of birds are sick or dying, consider significantly reducing or stopping feeding for a short period (around 2 weeks). The reason for this is to encourage birds to disperse, thereby minimising the chances of new birds becoming affected at the feeding station. Gradually reintroduce feeding, monitoring for further signs of ill health.

Good hygiene practice, specifically the regular cleaning of all feeders, bird baths and feeding surfaces, is an essential part of looking after garden birds.

text courtesy of BTO Garden BirdWatch
http://www.bto.org/gbw/index.htm
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