Trichomoniasis killing numerous birds in Atlantic Canada

A disease called trichomoniasis is likely the cause of numerous bird deaths across Atlantic Canada, according to an Island bird expert.

Disease affecting purple finches, American goldfinches and siskins

Island bird expert Fiep de Bie says people should keep their birdbaths and bird feeders clean to prevent the spread of disease. (CBC)

A disease called trichomoniasis is likely the cause of numerous bird deaths across Atlantic Canada, according to an Island bird expert.

Fiep de Bie, a wildlife technician with the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative (CWHC) at the Atlantic Veterinary College, said the disease is a well-documented illness found in many bird species, including pigeons, doves and finches.

The parasite was first discovered in the region in 2007, and de Bie said it's affecting primarily purple finches, American goldfinches as well as siskins.

"It's affecting the throat of those finches," de Bie told CBC News: Compass. "It's so bad that they actually can't swallow the food, so they regurgitate and also their throat is swollen."

"Overall they are very sick from this disease," she said.

Test results reveal signs of trichomoniasis

According to de Bie, some of the dead birds were tested by the Atlantic division of the CWHC and test results revealed what is likely trichomoniasis.

"We found out that together with the clinical science and the necropsies that this is what it is, it's the disease again," de Bie said.

De Bie said the disease typically emerges in July and August. However, this year bird experts saw it spread earlier.

"It was actually the end of June that we started getting reports," she said.

Keep birdbaths and feeders clean

De Bie added that Islanders should be cautious to keep their birdbaths and feeders clean, as they are a breeding ground for diseases such as trichomoniasis.

"This parasite cannot live in a dry environment," she said.

"We just have to consider that if a lot of birds congregate in the same area the disease can spread more easily," de Bie said.

With files from Kerry Campbell and CBC P.E.I.'s Compass