Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

In Meirionnydd, north Wales, you’ll find one of the most important populations of breeding hawfinches in the UK. However, a rise in the cases of trichomonosis, a deadly disease that affects birds, is threatening this rare and beautiful bird. In this blog, we discuss what can be done to help protect this striking bird this summer.

What are hawfinches?

The hawfinch is a rare woodland bird that is attracted to sunflower seeds provided in gardens. The area around Dolgellau holds one of the five most important populations of hawfinch in the UK and is one of the two principal breeding areas in Wales. Hawfinches have massive bills, which are powerful enough to split yew seeds, cherry stones and beechmast, and their jaws can exert pressure a thousand times its own weight, equivalent to 150lbs per square inch.

Sadly, the population of hawfinches in Meirionnydd is suffering from a severe increase in a nasty disease called trichomonosis, which is causing them to decline.

What is trichomonosis?

Trichomonosis is a disease that causes lesions in the throat of the infected bird, which makes it progressively harder for the bird to swallow its food. In addition to showing signs of general illness such as lethargy and fluffed-up plumage, affected birds may regurgitate food, have difficulty swallowing or show laboured breathing. Finches frequently have matted wet plumage around the face and beak, and uneaten food in and around the beak. Sometimes it is possible to see swelling in the throat area of an infected bird and it may stretch its neck in discomfort.

Trichomonosis is the primary cause of a 79% decline in greenfinch in Wales over the last 10 years, and a 38% decline in chaffinch, so a similar decline could be catastrophic for the hawfinch population.

What can we do?

To stop the spread of this disease, we’re urging people living in Meirionnydd, including the towns of Blaenau Ffestiniog, y Bala, Penrhyndeudraeth and Barmouth/Abermaw to stop providing bird food in in gardens for the remainder of the summer and to stop providing water for birds at any time. By doing this, we’ll be encouraging birds to disperse across the countryside, where they are less likely to pass the disease to each other.

This may be disappointing, but it’s an easy way to help protect a rare and vulnerable bird.

To learn more about the importance of keeping bird feeding equipment clean and for more tips on how to prevent spreading bird diseases, click this link.