RSPB Cymru and BTO Cymru have called on householders in Meirionnydd to suspend providing food and water for birds for the remainder of the summer. This area includes the towns of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bala, Penrhyndeudraeth and Barmouth. The move is an effort to reduce the risk of Trichomonosis spreading in the Hawfinch population. People have been reporting sick and dead Hawfinches in gardens throughout spring and summer in the Dolgellau area, making it the worst year since studies began 10 years ago.
Hawfinch is a scarce and localised woodland breeding bird that is attracted to sunflower seeds provided in gardens. The area around Dolgellau holds one of the five most important populations in the UK and is one of the two principal breeding areas in Wales.
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. Trichomonosis causes lesions in the throat, which makes it progressively hard for the bird to swallow food. Sick birds may be lethargic, fluffed-up, regurgitate food, salivate excessively or show laboured breathing. It is bird-specific, and does not pass to mammals, including humans.
Diseases can be spread by birds congregating at bird feeders and water. Householders elsewhere in North Wales are reminded to maintain good hygiene where food and water are provided, and to withdraw food and fresh water if sick birds are seen. Birds will disperse across the countryside where they are less prone to transmitting disease. Despite the dry weather, there is plenty of fruit, nuts and fresh water in Meirionnydd during the summer. In this area, householders are advised not to provide bird baths to reduce the risk to the survival of Hawfinches. To find out more about Hawfinch studies in North Wales, see this Daily Post article from 2017.
The first of a new generation of North Wales Ospreys took to the air at the weekend, with the maiden flight of the eldest chick in Nant Glaslyn. Three Spotted Redshanks were at Connah’s Quay nature reserve last week, a Marsh Harrier has spent a week on Bardsey, and a small number of Mediterranean Gulls are scattered around the coast.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.