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Trichomoniasis in birds

Trichomoniasis is an infectious disease of birds that is caused by a protozoan (single-celled) parasite, Trichomonas gallinae. Pigeons and doves are mostly affected, but other species, such as finches, can become infected. In Wisconsin, it has been identified as the cause of mortality in mourning doves, purple finches, house finches and one peregrine falcon.


This parasite is commonly found in the upper gastrointestinal tract of adult pigeons and doves and can be transmitted to their young during the feeding process where adults regurgitate food for their offspring. Food and water sources, such as backyard bird feeders and birdbaths, can become contaminated from the mouths of infected birds. Raptors that prey on small birds, such as peregrine falcons, can become infected from eating infected prey.


In general, sick birds appear weak and have a “fluffed up” appearance. The parasite causes inflammation of the linings of the crop and mouth. As the disease progresses, ulcers form which becomes masses that eventually cause blockages within the mouth. Birds appear to have difficulty swallowing or breathing.


Not all birds that are infected with this parasite become sick. Once the noticeable lesions appear, affected birds generally are at risk of starvation or suffocation. Control of trichomoniasis in wild birds includes reducing potential transmission to unaffected birds. When visibly affected birds are present, bird feeders and birdbaths should be removed and disinfected with a 10% bleach solution. Feeders and baths should not be put back up until the affected birds are gone from the area.


This parasite does not infect people.