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Study highlights link between bird feeders and disease
Garden feeders can encourage birds to repeatedly gather in the same location.

Public urged to feed birds in moderation and rotate feeding sites

Garden bird feeders put wild birds at risk of serious diseases, according to research led by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

A study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. found that garden feeders can encourage birds to repeatedly
gather in the same location. Scientists say this often brings them into regular contact with other species they wouldn’t otherwise be in contact with.

The study was carried out in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Fera Science Ltd. The scientists analysed more than 25 years’ worth of data on the frequency of wild bird health threats, focusing on protozoal (finch trichomonosis), viral (Paridae pox) and bacterial (passerine salmonellosis) diseases.

“Our study shows how three of the most common diseases that affect British garden birds have changed both dramatically and unpredictably over the past decade, both in terms of the species they affect and their patterns of occurrence,” said lead author Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

“Both finch trichomonosis and Paridae pox have emerged recently, causing disease epidemics affecting large numbers of birds, while passerine salmonellosis – previously a common condition – appears to have reduced to a very low level. These conditions have different means of transmission – so deepening our understanding of disease dynamics will help us develop best practice advice to ensure that feeding garden birds also helps to safeguard their health”.

The study makes some recommendations to minimise the potential risks assisted with feeding wild birds. When disease outbreaks occur, people are encouraged to report their observations to the Garden Wildlife Health project, seek veterinary guidance, and consider a temporary halt to garden feeding to encourage birds to disperse.

“We’re calling on everyone who feeds wild birds to be aware of their responsibilities for preventing disease,” commented co-author Kate Risely from the BTO. “Simple steps we’d recommend include offering a variety of food from accredited sources, feeding in moderation so that feeders are typically emptied every 1-2 days, the regular cleaning of bird feeders, and rotation of feeding sites to avoid accumulation of waste food or bird droppings.”

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Sale of microbeads now banned

News Story 1
 The sale of products containing microbeads is now banned across England and Scotland, Defra has confirmed.

As part of government efforts to prevent these plastics ending up in the marine environment, retailers can no longer sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads. These tiny plastics were often added to products including face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.

Just a single shower is thought to send 100,000 of these beads down the drain and into the ocean, where it can cause serious harm to marine life. A ban on manufacturing products containing microbeads previously came into force in January this year. 

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George Eustice announces funding for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

Farming minister George Eustice has announced a 5.7million funding package to help farmers tackle Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

The funding will be available in England for three years through the Rural Development Programme and farmers will be able to apply for one-to-one farm advisory visits by a veterinary practitioner.

The project will recruit local vets who will then work with keepers of breeding cattle to tackle BVD on their farms.