Keep bird feeders away, warn experts, as deadly bird infection continues – Nova Scotia

The head of the Nova Scotia Bird Society says the public saved countless birds in Eastern Canada this summer by putting away bird feeders and curbing a deadly infection that continues to spread across the region.

But it’s still too early to put the feeders back up, says Dave Currie.

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative has received 105 reports of dead birds spanning Quebec to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I think that number is a small reflection of what actually happened,” said the bird society’s Currie. “I think the number of deaths were considerably higher than that.” 

Birds unable to swallow

It’s believed the birds died of the avian parasite trichomoniasis. It attacks the throat, leaving birds unable to swallow.

The parasite largely affects finches, who are social birds and pass it on through contaminated food and water. The sick birds look puffed up and lethargic.

This summer, experts asked people to remove their bird feeders and bird baths to stop the spread.

The avian parasite trichomoniasis largely affects finches. (Diane Poirier)

While cases are still being reported, it’s nothing like the initial outbreak earlier in the summer.

“We may not ever know the exact value that happened,” Currie said of the community efforts. “It’s obvious that the number of calls that we got for dead and dying birds certainly didn’t happen at the end of August when the disease was prevalent.”

105 reported deaths

The deaths are being monitored by the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, which is tracking them through a map. The breakdown includes: 

  • 19 cases in Prince Edward Island.
  • 31 deaths in New Brunswick.
  • 39 reports in Nova Scotia.
  • 9 cases in Quebec.
  • 7 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fiep de Bie, a wildlife technician for the CWHC, agrees that the 105 reports to the organization just scratches the surface of the number of birds that likely died this summer.

Many more could have died in locations away from humans, or if they were spotted, people might not have realized the cause.

Either way, she says the number is alarming.

“It seemed to have started earlier than usual,” said de Bie. “We got our first report at the end of June, and usually it will be in July, the end of July.”

The parasite naturally dies over the winter, so de Bie says the outbreak this year likely won’t be an indication of what will happen next year.

“I hope it’s not a trend. Of course we’re speculating, does it have anything to do with change of…

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