Bird Feeders Can Be Virus Breeders

The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust is asking people who feed birds in their gardens to be extra vigilant about cleaning their bird feeders after a severe case of Avian Pox was confirmed in Leicestershire. Avian pox is a skin condition that affects many bird species commonly found in gardens. It causes lesions particularly on the face of birds which look like warty tumours. In severe cases these lesions grow very large and can affect the bird’s vision which ultimately results in a greater risk of predation or a slow death from starvation. In this case a Dunnock was spotted in a Cropston garden.

Neil Pilcher, Senior Conservation Officer said “This poor Dunnock was spotted in someone’s garden hopping around under a feeder. From the photo we received it was clear that this was a severe case of Avian Pox. The home owner in this case is very careful about hygiene issues with feeding birds and cleaned their feeders every week. This is excellent as it reduces the chance of the disease being spread to other birds using the feeders.

Bird Feeders Can Be Virus Breeders
This case highlights the need for everyone to be vigilant as this was the first occasion that this bird had been seen in this particular garden. Therefore it is highly likely that it had been visiting other gardens and feeders in the area which are all at risk of spreading the disease if they are not regularly cleaned.

The Trust is calling on everyone who loves feeding birds in their gardens to get into the routine of cleaning their feeders regularly, ideally once a week. Infected birds are not always obvious and it is better to be safe than sorry. By feeding birds homeowners are encouraging birds to congregate in the same place time after time therefore increasing the risk of diseases being passed on. Simple good hygiene routines can allow people to carry on enjoying their garden birds without the risk posed by this and other nasty diseases.”

The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust recommend that the public should contact the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) for further advice or to report possible cases. The BTO are running a Garden Bird Health Initiative and they want people to report suspected cases to them so that they can track the disease across the country. They can be contacted at www.bto.org.

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