The Garden Bird Health initiative - GBHi

GBHi logo


The Garden Bird Health Initiative was established as a UFAW Working Group in 2003 and operated until Spring 2010. The Working Group set out to:

  1. Develop and publish guidelines about how to best feed garden birds in order to maximize the benefits for their welfare and conservation;
  2. Undertake a major garden bird health surveillance and research project.

Good Practice Guidelines

As well as informing the literature produced by the GBHi partners, the working group also produced a 32-page booklet ‘Feeding Garden Birds: Best practice guidelines’. This is available, price £4.99 each, from UFAW, with profits going to the initiative. With colour photos throughout, the booklet reviews food types and feeding practices, discusses food quantity and quality, the siting and design of feeders, and outlines some common diseases and how to minimise the risks of their occurrence. You can order a copy here

The Research Project

The core component of the research project, which was launched in March 2005 and ran until Spring 2010, was aimed at investigating the causes of disease outbreaks in garden birds and establishing means to secure their prevention. This project was coordinated by the Institute of Zoology, and also involved the Scottish Agricultural College, Liverpool University, the Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre, BTO, RSPB and UFAW, in collaboration with other organisations.

Garden birds, particularly finch species and House Sparrows, are susceptible to a number of conditions, including infection with Salmonella bacteria or the Trichomonas parasite. Clinical signs (symptoms) can be very across the different diseases and post mortem examination is required to confirm the cause of any garden bird mortality.

The project used volunteer recorders, drawn from BTO Garden BirdWatch, who collected systematic information on disease occurrence on a weekly basis. If a dead bird was found, then the volunteer contacted a nominated wildlife veterinarian, who may then have requested the carcass for post mortem examination.

A number of research papers have been produced through the project, which can be accessed here.

The GBHi was generously sponsored by:

Birdcare Standards Association
British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation
British Trust for Ornithology
CJ Wildbird Foods Ltd
Cranswick Pet Products
Gardman Ltd
RCVS Trust
Tom Chambers Ltd
The John and Pamela Salter Trust

The GBHi network of collaborating organisations remains in place and the Institute of Zoology receives funding from Defra to participate in the GB Wildlife Disease Surveillance Partnership and undertake disease surveillance of British garden birds.

If you wish to report finding dead garden birds, or signs of disease in garden birds, please visit - the new project for reporting diseased and dead birds (and other garden wildlife).