If finch at feeder looks sick, it could be trichomonosis, vet says

·2 min read

Islanders are being urged to keep an eye on their bird feeders as a deadly parasite appears to be killing birds, especially finches.

It's usually safe to feed birds during the winter, when cold weather kills the parasite, said Dr. Megan Jones, a veterinarian with the Atlantic division of the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative.

However, three cases of trichomonosis have been confirmed in New Brunswick, and some birders on P.E.I. are reporting on social media that they are also seeing songbirds with symptoms of the parasite. Symptoms can include birds that appear "puffed up" or reluctant to fly away. The disease makes it hard for birds to swallow so they might have feed stuck to their beaks, Jones said in an interview with Island Morning's Laura Chapin.

"We tend to see it in the summers, June, July, one year as early as May and then it peters out in the fall," she said.

Uncommon in winter

"The fact that we've seen cases in January is really the first time we've ever seen that so it kind of turns our regular, what we expect about this disease, a little bit on its head. It's been a bit of a surprise."

Jones said this winter's unusually mild weather could be to blame.

"We haven't had enough of a cold spell to dispatch with the parasites in our areas. But that's just pure speculation. It's just based on what we know about the parasite. So far, we don't have any evidence to prove that."

Jones said there are also more finches than usual in the Maritimes this winter, which could also be contributing to the unusual number of parasite deaths.

Jones recommends people who keep their feeders up for the winter practise "good feeder hygiene," by cleaning it thoroughly at least twice a month and getting rid of any wet feed.

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