Hello. I'm new to this comminity and generally to garden bird feeding and, like many, discovered the joys of birding feeding over the last 15 months. I also joined the RSPB last year. However I am very much a naive, novice and sadly, ignorant enthusiast. 


Im very sad and devastated to have found Trichomonosis in both house sparrows and chaffinch in my garden. Please could anyone offer me extra advice on this awful disease which appeared in my garden 6 days ago.

I have been feeding the birds for 18 months with 3 seed feeders, a table and peanut feeder. They were washed every 2 weeks but not moved in location.  I have a large rural garden with natural hedges on all 4 sides and fields surround our immediate vicinity. We have several nest boxes around the garden with about half now being occupied by sparrows, blue tits and robin. The hedges are full of sparrows. 

On the advice of the RSPB help service, I removed all my feeders and bird bath. I do still have a wildlife pond. I had hoped the birds would disperse within a day or two, but I'm continuing to see dozens of very hungry sparrows, tits and chaffinch mainly, searching my garden all day for food. The nest box females call and call out of the hole all day to be fed. The Robin's fly straight over to me every time I go out in the hope of being fed. I have a pair of bemused and hungry greater spotted woodpeckers who are scratching around the ground below where the peanuts used to be. They spend a huge amount of time searching instead of flying off to find another food source. 

The goldfinches and siskins disappeared very quickly to find new food sources but I think the remainder of the birds have become so dependent they are unwilling to give up.

I monitor the birds constantly from the window and so far have seen 2 Chaffinch and 2 sparrows with obvious Trichomonosis as they hang around near the feeding areas and are easy to see. So far, I havent had any bodies, but our garden has too many hedges and cover if they die in these areas, I am unlikely to find them.

We only have one neigbour who is approximately 200m away. They also feed the birds daily and are refusing to remove their feeders, despite me seeing a poorly sparrow on one of their tables when I went round to ask them.

I'm at a complete loss what to do. Everything I read and have been advised to do tends to relate to summer or early autumn outbreaks. Nothing advises on the balance between halting the disease by stopping feeding and letting the existing and nesting birds starve. As my neighbour is refusing to stop feeding too, surely this situation will go round and round in a perpetual loop with some of our starving birds heading over to our neighbour? 

To make things worse, a new flock of Redpolls has appeared next door and I have seen them drinking  from our pond. 

Please can anyone off more advice or reassurance that I'm doing the right thing in denying the healthy birds a continuing food source?

Thank you for any helpful information or advice you can give me.

  • It will be tricky if your neighbor is not on board. If you have access to a decent animal feed store Ark cleanse is a useful product for sterilizing feeders, also rake up the ground around the areas where the feeders were. Are you able to print out material about it to get your neighbors to maybe understand about it a bit more.

    As awful as it seems, yes you are doing the right thing. Hopefully there will be a warm, dry spell and this will assist in stopping it in its tracks. You won’t really be able to stop the birds accessing the pond but hopefully as it’s a larger body of water than a bird bath it won’t cause a problem

    So sorry you have had this experience

    Cin J

  • In addition to Cin's comments, I think a month is the minimum recommended time for not feeding.
  • I’m having the same problem stopped everything the birds didn’t disperse 8. 1/2 wks later just starting feeding again as birds are nesting but have seen 2 sick birds feeding at neighbours have said and shown them evidence and that they have to clean regularly don’t want to know so do I feed or not I haven’t seen any in my garden yet but only matter of time My garden is about an acre so distant from neighbours
  • In reply to Jakeg:

    Thank you. That's really useful. I'm torn with what to do. We have 1/2 acre ish garden and several birds nesting. The blue tits are desperate - yesterday, one was calling and calling from the top of the tree they are nesting in to be fed. She did it until nearly dark. It was awful to hear. There is an obviously sickly sparrow close to the house and I've seen a fluffy chaffinch again. In a garden of this size, that's not a lot of infected birds. I understand the advice to stop feeding in a garden with less habitat to offer, but here we have a huge area for them. Surely the healthy birds that are nesting will suffer and lose their opportunity to breed this year. Blue tits only raise one brood a year. Surely theres and argument that more birds would suffer or die by not feeding them! They are not dispersing anyway and would just go to my neighbour and spread it there! There must be a balance here somewhere. It's not as clear cut as the blanket advice to stop feeding. Sprinkling seed on the ground over such a huge area of garden would see the birds feeding over a huge area. This must carry less risk than starving several nesting birds and their broods?

    Thank you for your input. It's good to just to get info from an actual person and not just a fact sheet.
  • Supplementary feeding is 'extra'. It used to be Winter feeding, but turned into an industry.

    RE advice, as has been said, and is widely documented, the right course of action with disease outbreak is to immediately stop feeding, Doing otherwise is not doing birds a favour.

    Supplementary feeding that is totally relied upon is unsustainable. Move house and the Bird population will crash.It would also be affecting the natural balance, so you have dominant species overwhelming the area. Birds like pigeons, magpies, crows and blue tits for example, will out compete less combative similar sized species.

    Blue tits referred to need to feed their chicks caterpillars and other insects.

    're "blanket advice", why is it deemed inappropriate in your cases, and when do you think it is appropriate? 

  • I didn’t think it’s deemed inappropriate I stopped feeding and water 8 1/2 weeks ago which was very hard as the birds didn’t disperse as I was told they would I began feeding 3 days ago as I saw no sick birds which I was told to do I have know been around to my neighbours a couple of days ago which is a few miles away who has dirty feeders and water and a few sick birds. So I’m concerned that I might get some of those birds again I’m sure you have an negative opinion to write about as you seem to I Won’t ask anything again I will go where people speak kindly to each other and not judge people who are trying to learn 

  • In reply to Jakeg:

    Sorry you feel that way, Jake.

    Re your reply to me, I was replying to Linda as she interpreted your response as a green light to carry on feeding. I was quoting her re "blanket advice". I used plural "cases" as she thought in both cases the advice wasn't correct/valid. I didn't mean to suggest you thought the advice was inappropriate.

    Sorry your neighbours don't take bird disease seriously.
  • In reply to Robbo:

    Thank you Robbo for your input. I think its important to take in different opinions in order to make informed decisions and you've been very helpful.

    I realise that it was my mistake to feed the birds so enthusiastically, believing it was the right thing to do. I understand that by creating this artificial habitat with plentiful food is un-natural and that my garden would not otherwise be sufficient habit to sustain a higher level of birds in this way, naturally.

    However, the RSPB on their own website recommend feeding all year round! Is this commercially driven from their own feeding product sales or is it good advice? Several other organisations also recommend the same feeding advice.

    With such a surge in enthusiasm for our wildlife and birds in our gardens in particular over the past 15 months, are we, the general enthususatic public, doing the wrong thing?

    I have, as I said, stopped feeding but the way forward if I manage to shake off this disease from my garden, is confusing!

    Happy to hear any input, even if it means you skating me, in order to gain more knowledge and experience.

    Thank you again.
  • I'm more old fashioned when it comes to bird feeding. I'm also a cynic by nature. Money influences too much, and experts are paid to advertise bird feeding.

    Clearly, there is a case for targetted supplementary feeding, for conservation reasons. Helping vulnerable species establish or cling on is an example. Cirl buntings in Cornwall.

    Many vulnerable species have absolutely nothing to do with bird feeders (or food scattered on ground).

    Bird feeding helped drive up greenfinch numbers a few decades ago. Much of that (almost all?) was merely Winter feeding with peanuts and seeds. As feeding got rolled out, by coincidence or inevitability, diseases spread more and greenfinch numbers collapsed. Chaffinches have since done that too.

    If scientists were paid to properly look at supplementary feeding, and decide whether it has a place in conservation, I suspect the conclusion would be 'mixed'.

    The bird feeding here has completely mucked up the ecosystem. The housemartins have all but been driven from the area by house sparrows that attack them, steal their nests (often for no purpose), and they've also taken over a great tit nest & swift box. Without feeding a decade or more ago, sparrows would be at far, far lower numbers and therefore not cause all these issues.

    Humans need to accept habitat loss caused by them is a primary reason for wildlife population collapses in many species. Bird feeding won't replace habitat loss.

    Many garden nests fail due to lack of suitability. Every year, loads of blue tit nests fail. Some are documented on here. The photos of box sitings show the habitat/back garden is not suitable for blue tits to nest and rear young.

    UK will never get back 1960's populations of garden birds, not least because gardens aren't what they were. Fences instead of hedges, drives instead of lawns, nectar free bedding plants instead of 'real flowers', new houses built in gardens. Far fewer native trees in gardens too.

  • I should add that loads of people have different views on bird feeding. I do feed in Winter, mostly just niger for the goldfinches, siskins and redpolls, all of which appear irregularly most years, and all appear harmless to other species.