One of the common questions often asked by people who feed garden birds is why, from time to time, they find a dead or dying bird - in particular a greenfinch - near the area they have their feeders.
The reason is generally that the bird has contracted Salmonella poisoning and this bacteria can build up to dangerous levels (for birds) when feeders, or the area birds feed in, isn't kept clean. Other species can be affected - e.g. House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch and Siskin - but it seems Greenfinches are particularly prone.
The symptoms are usually that the bird's feathers become puffed-up and it appears lethargic and often doesn't fly away when approached. The bird will often continue to feed, but the infection caused by the Salmonella poisoning will probably mean it is unable to digest the food properly.
Another problem can be 'Tricomoniasis' (which is actually a single cell parasite) and this can especially affect Collared Doves. However and more recently, finches have also been affected - again the Greenfinch being the most prone. The symptoms of Tricomoniasis are similar to Salmonella, but the bird may also have a visible swelling in the throat.
These problems are less likely to occur in the wild as birds such as finches wouldn't congregate in such numbers to feed in one very specific area day after day. So this is essentially a garden problem but one that can easily be prevented.
- If you feed a seed like Black Sunflower which has a husk, then it's vital that the waste is cleared up every few days (the husks can be a bit messy, but will really add to your compost heap - worms love them!).
- If you don't have the time to clear up husks, then it's far better to feed foods like Sunflower Hearts and Huskfree Advance . These will still leave a little waste, but it really is very little indeed and can easily and quickly be cleared up every week or so.
- Feeders such as tube feeders for any of the above foods must be cleaned every few weeks using a proper disinfectant. That also applies to other types of feeder and of course bird tables.
- It really is best to move your feeders or bird table to different positions in your garden every two weeks or so. This will then mean that the ground below them can recover and the risk of harmful bacteria building up is minimised.
- Keep your bird bath clean and drain out any soiled water before refilling with fresh water
We have a very large range of cleaning and hygiene products on this site.