Pigeon are dying across the UK, and the abundance of food could be a contributing factor to their demise. Last year?s harvest of beechmast and acorns was one of the most fruitful in years, and bird life has mostly benefited. Despite this, pigeon are dying of starvation as a result of contracting Trichomoniasis, also known as pigeon canker.

The Trichomoniasis parasite is spread through food or drinking water that is contaminated with fresh saliva or droppings from an infected bird. The disease is most prevalent in autumn and winter, particularly when the birds are grouped in large flocks. Garden birds, raptors and gamebirds all carry the parasite, but it is only when the parasite multiplies in the bird that it becomes life threatening. The parasite affects the bird?s digestive tract and causes lesions in the throat of the infected bird. These make it progressively harder for the bird to swallow its food and breathe. The infected birds die from choking or starvation.

Keepers around the country have reported finding dead pigeon on their shoots. One shoot in the Newcastle area reported coming across more than 60 dead birds in December.

Richard Byas is a vet who has assisted BASC in putting together its Gamebird Management pocket book, an excerpt from which states: Trichomona and Hexamita are normal inhabitants of the bird?s gut, but when present in large numbers may contribute to causing disease. Affected birds become depressed and pass yellow, frothy caecal droppings. The organisms are not known to persist on land from one year to the next.

Mr Byas explained: ?In gamebirds Trichomoniasis was previously treated with Emtryl, which has now been withdrawn from use. There is no other treatment for this condition other than supportive therapy in the form of better housekeeping and cleanliness surrounding the birds. All gamebirds have trichomoniasis in their guts and it is only when the bird gets rundown or picks up another disease that the trichomoniasis becomes problematic. We wouldn?t recommend that you eat infected birds.?

For more information on Trichomoniasis and the symptoms, visit www.basc.org.uk – If you find five or more dead birds in your area, contact DEFRA on (08459) 335577.