German Blue Tit disease identified

German Blue Tit disease identified

24 Apr 2020

Blue Tit. Paul Newton

More than 11,000 cases of dead and sick birds, mostly Blue Tits, have been reported to the German conservation group NABU since the beginning of March, mainly concentrated in the west of Germany. The disease has been identified as Suttonella ornithocola, which causes lung disease and pneumonia-like symptoms.

No evidence of unusual disease in the UK so far

The Garden Wildlife Health project (GWH) is a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), BTO, RSPB and Froglife to monitor garden wildlife disease in the UK. GWH surveillance regularly identifies a small number of incidents of Suttonella ornithocola in the UK every year, normally affecting Blue Tits, and typically in spring. This suggests that this disease has long been well-established and endemic in the British tit population. Read a factsheet on Suttonella ornithocola.

Since learning about the disease outbreak in Germany, the Garden Wildlife Health partners have been closely examining all reports of wildlife disease, and have found no evidence of any unusual disease outbreaks in the UK. We will continue to monitor reports of disease made to Garden Wildlife Health and to Garden BirdWatch, and to communicate with our counterparts in Germany, and will report on any new information.

Action you can take

The disease is not believed to affect people or pets. We recommend following standard hygiene precautions and good practice when feeding garden birds and handling bird feeders and tables.

Feeding stations encourage birds to congregate, thereby increasing the potential for disease transmission. If you see any signs of disease in your garden, in any bird species, we recommend that you stop feeding. After at least two to four weeks gradually reintroduce feeding, whilst continuing to monitor for further signs of ill health.

Finally, if you see any signs of ill health in any of your garden wildlife, please report your sighting to Garden Wildlife Health. If you regularly watch the birds and wildlife in your garden we encourage you to join Garden BirdWatch, which allows us to monitor the numbers and health of garden birds across the country.

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