The nation’s love affair with feeding the birds in their garden is still showing huge growth but the lack of awareness about properly maintaining feeders and bird baths in order to prevent disease, is a concern, says the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

has also observed that consumers are learning more about the value of putting out quality food and specialist seed mixes over cheap food that is “full of fillers” and has little nutritional value to the birds. “We have seen a massive uptake


in feeding wild birds and we are currently looking into what effect that is having on bird populations in the UK,” she says. “The amount of food put out for birds is staggering. Thirty years ago people might have put out peanuts and suet coconut feeders but, now, people are looking at more natural sources and taking a real interest in the food they are putting out for wild birds. They are looking at specialist mixes to attract specific bird varieties to their garden. There is a real urge to learn as well as help. They feel they are doing something good.” However, she believes consumers

need to be educated about the risk of spreading disease by not keeping feeders and bird baths clean. “There needs to be more information out there about how the public can help prevent diseases,” she says. Species that wouldn’t normally meet in close proximity may

18 DIY WEEK 12 OCTOBER 2018 he BTO’s Kate

Risley says she is encouraged by the public’s continued interest in feeding wild birds. She

congregate at garden feeders, or birds may gather at higher densities than seen in other habitats – both of which can increase the risk of disease transmission.

Awareness of disease According to the BTO, greenfinch numbers have fallen dramatically due to finch Trichomonosis – a parasite that typically causes disease at the back of the throat and in the gullet. Historically known to affect pigeons and doves, now the most commonly-affected species are greenfinches and chaffinches. It is most likely to spread via food or water contaminated with infected saliva. Other diseases that affect garden birds include Salmonellosis and Avian Pox.

The charity is keen to raise

awareness of these diseases and what the public can do to prevent their spread by keeping feeding stations and bird baths healthy. If you can give your customers the right advice and support when it comes to feeding the birds in their gardens, not only will it help our feathered friends but it can also provide commercial opportunities

for you as a business, ensuring they have the right equipment. Potential add-on sales could include suitable cleaning products, feeder hygiene brushes, rubber gloves, water dispensers, quality

bird food to help them refresh feeders, or you could even upgrade customers to a more suitable feeding station that is easier to clean or promises better hygiene and anti- bacterial properties.

Prevention is better than cure There are, unfortunately, many factors that make it difficult or impossible to treat disease in wild birds. It is better to take action to help prevent disease transmission. The most likely places for disease

to spread in gardens are garden feeders and bird baths, which sick birds may contaminate with infectious material, such as saliva or droppings. Below are some simple tips you can pass on to your customers to help them reduce the risk of disease in their garden birds: • 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 • Regularly clean and disinfect bird baths, feeders, feeding stations and hard surfaces under feeders with

a suitable disinfectant. Rinse all surfaces with clean water and air dry before using • Do not allow seed to accumulate, for example on the ground below feeders, and particularly on surfaces that are damp and/contaminated with droppings • Provide a variety of good-quality fresh foods and avoid over-filling feeders to ensure they are emptied every few days. This will help to prevent old food building up • Provide clean drinking water on a daily basis

NOTE: Advise customers to clean their feeders outside and maintain careful personal hygiene, including wearing gloves and making sure that brushes and buckets are not used for other purposes, as some diseases can affect human and domestic animal health.

For more support and advice, contact the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) on 01842 750050 or visit its website surveys/gbw/gardens-wildlife/ garden-birds/disease There is also plenty of information on the RSPB’s website www. advice/how-you-can-help-birds/


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