Green finches messy eaters or trichomonosis

Hi there. I've currently been enjoying a charm of green finches visiting my garden every day (about7-10, does this constitute a charm? I liked typing the word anyway) I have two seed feeders one with sunflowers the other with hearts. I do all the recommended things I keep them clean by having four feeders and swopping them over every couple of days for the clean disinfected set. Whilst closely examining (enjoying) them I've noticed some of them are very messy eaters and can get the seed husks stuck around there beaks and after seeing a picture on here is that a symptom of the disease or are they just messy eaters. I have not seen any over symptom they are all quite spiritly healthy looking birds unfortunately I have struggled to take a picture as they can be quite shy (not with each other shouting and tussling for position on the feeders) so my question is should I stop feeding for a while to be on the safe side, something although I will be sad to do as I love watching them from my window along with all the other birds or am I possibly over reacting as there have to been any other symptoms and carry on? Cheers.
  • I don't have GF's Martin but have noticed the same messy feeding habits from Goldie's!

  • Hello, your Greenfinches may just be messy eaters, but it's worth keeping an eye on them to see if anything changes. Symptoms for trichomonosis are birds being unable to feed or drink, lethargic, fluffed up, still trying to feed, a swelling in the throat - there is more information on the link below. Keep your feeders clean, and if nothing changes, then you just have birds that are messy eaters! If you start to see more of the symptoms, or find sick or dead birds, remove all your feeders, discard the food, give everything a good clean, including any birdbaths, and don't feed for a couple of weeks. This can help disperse the birds into the wider area, so there is less chance of spreading the disease. You can also report your sightings on the Garden Wildlife Health web site (see link below) that will help with research into the disease. Thanks

  • Thank you both for your replies. I haven't seen any sickly looking birds and they all look quite tidy with there feathers so I think I will continue. I've tried to do everything to help them and I would hate to think I was harming them. I only have a small garden at the front and it is such a treat to see so many different birds visiting. I've got coal tits blue tits, dunnocks but at the moment it is the rabble of green finches that are stealing the show. I love goldies Wendy and every now and then one comes trying its best to disguise itself as a green finch. Thanks again for taking the time to respond

  • Hi Martin,    hopefully your Greenfinches are just messy eaters as they do tend to consume the sunflower seeds/hearts and discard the husks quickly often leaving some stuck to their beak.

     I've had Greenfinches, a juvenile Bullfinch and a Chaffinch in the past which have had Trichomonosis (all at different times, despite having regularly clean feeders/area) and they appear very lethargic, permanently have food stuck to their bill and are have a fluffed up appearance, laboured breathing, often with damp looking head feathers.   You will see them struggling to swallow food and look like they are "coughing" at times as the parasite lives at the back of the throat/gullet.    Other birds can contract "Trich"  by eating the regurgitated food (or from water dishes containing the parasite) that the affected bird has recently discarded/spat out;   the parasite can't live/survive without a host for more than a short time.   I was told by one of the London Zoological vets to withdraw the feeders and water dishes, etc.,  if I saw two or more sick birds.   Although the recommended time to withdraw all feeding is 3 weeks, I withdrew the food for one month to give the disease time to dissipate.    Even when you keep your feeders/dishes, etc, super clean, the birds only have to visit not so clean feeding areas in your neighbourhood to contract this nasty parasite.      Finches seem to be particularly prone to this disease which reaches its peak from late Summer through Autumn.    I have seen this disease outside of these months also. 

    Here are photos of a Greenfinch and Chaffinch with the Trichomonas disease;  unfortunately, by the time a small bird appears this sick, they are unable to be treated successfully.  

    and this is a Chaffinch with Trichomonas "coughing - trying to regurgitate"  

  • An awful disease with such distressing symptoms ... I think, on the whole, that I am pleased there are no Greenfinches visiting mine & the Goldie's only drop in occasionally, usually when the weather is particularly bad!

  • Thanks hazel. It was your picture that made me look closer. I will keep my eye on them and will stop feeding them if I notice any other signs. I'm now thinking it is just the husks. Poor birds in your pics its a nasty parasite.

  • Hi Martin,  thankfully I haven't seen any sick finch birds since early in the year but recently I saw a juvenile Nuthatch that appears to have a problem due to tick, worms or other as yet unidentified illness.  Weather has been pretty miserable the last couple of days so I haven't seen it again so just hope it is a tick as that would eventually drop off once its had its fill of blood although it can sometimes make birds anaemic.   I'm sure your Greenfinches are just messy eaters as they de-husk the sunflower seeds  as you would, I am sure, notice instantly if they had trichomonas with that laboured breathing and giving signs of coughing up food.  Good luck Martin and all we can do is maintain what we already do with our regular cleaning regime of feeders and area.       I'm due to take feeders down again tomorrow for another light disinfect clean and air dry before putting them back up.   As the saying goes ..... "keep calm and carry on "    lol !!!    

  • An update since my last comment and sad to say it looks like we have a Greenfinch with the dreaded Trichomonas  :(   We are in the peak season for this ugly disease and a reminder to keep a look out for any fluffed up, lethargic looking birds (especially finches) often with food stuck to the beak, coughing up food which can expel one of the parasites that can in turn be picked up by another bird although the parasite can't live for long periods outside of a host.    Really sad day and a real Friday 13th day :(    Feeders are recleaned and should there be a 2nd or 3rd case then it is best to withdraw feeding for three weeks.  

    Currently this bird is still unable to be captured but as it gets sicker and more lethargic then it is best to remove the bird;  as its usually untreatable in small birds then its best to have them put to sleep by a vet or wildlife centre.    

    this shows fluffed up appearace and food stuck to beak  (other than the usual husks from sunflower hearts)

    next is not a clear pic but you can just make out the bird coughing up as it tries to expel the parasite;     this was a clean feeder but had to be disinfected again and perches recleaned to ensure nothing is there for other birds to pick up.      

    It is also advisable to report disease or other health problems in birds to the BTO via this link      I have already reported this bird and sent these photos for their data records.      Fingers crossed we see no more sick birds.  

  • That is a very sad sighting aitch, let's hope it's the only one!

  • So sorry to hear you have this problem again, Hazel. I think I've been lucky not to see it here as we have quite a lot of finches. Hope you don't find any more sick birds.