September, 2009


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • What's making the phones ring this week?

    Finch disease - Trichomoniasis
    Still lots of reports coming in of sick and dead finches. More information can be seen here - Please help us keep a track of these incidents by filling and returning the downloadable form. Trichomoniasis isn't the only disease that can affect birds - see attached PDF file below for details of other possibilities.  

    Sparrowhawks and white-tailed eagles
    Lots of queries and some complaints about sparrowhawks in gardens. Also a troublesome white-tailed eagle taking chickens from a garden in Scotland.

    We received quite a few queries about cormorants in distress. These are usually around the coast so the birds may be exhausted and washed ashore. Some, including juveniles, have been seen inland around rivers - unless obviously injured or distressed these are nothing to worry about -

    Lots of nestbox queries. We recommend cleaning them now to give birds a cosy winter roost - information here    We were also sent a cardboard nestbox to comment on. There were a few words that sprung to mind.......

    Tufted puffin
    The tufted puffin seen off the Kent coast last week caused a big stir, but only made a brief appearance for the lucky few who were in the right place at the right time.

    We received a very good description of a yellow-browed warbler in Bucks. These birds are regular but rare migrants to the UK. Worth looking out for amongst goldcrest flocks.

  • Whats hot with wildlife enquiries!?

    Baby Pigeons
    Although the breeding season is now over for the vast majority of birds. We continue to have calls from concerned folk who have come across pigeons and doves including one found in a toilet bowl? Its perfectly normal for them to spend a few days sitting around looking very sorry for themselves whilst they learn to grasp their surroundings. The parents continue to feed them for a short while and encourage them to develop their flight muscles by calling to them. Unless your sure the bird is injured we still recommend leaving well alone and let the parents take the lead - despite the numerous other risks! 

    Racing Pigeons
    We have had numerous calls of late from members of the public who have strangely friendly doves and pigeons showing up in their gardens or even houses! if the bird has rings on its legs is most likely to be a domesticated racing bird. We recommend not feeding them for more than a day, allowing them to perk up there energy and move on or getting the ring numbers and contacting the "Royal Pigeon Racing Association"..

    Bird Disease
    Trichomoniasis reports are still regularly received and we are also getting reports of avian pox. This causes reddish growths normally around the face. Dunnocks and great tits are most frequently reported with it. See:

    Grey squirrel control
    Queries about our role in controlling grey squirrels to protect reds have continued following a mention on Animal Aids website. Ruddy ducks also get a mention. For further details on this please see the news blog.

    Nestbox cleaning
    A few queries about whether to clean nestboxes out now the breeding season has finished.

    The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, which remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed in the autumn, from August onwards once the birds have stopped using the box. Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used. If there are unhatched eggs in the box, these may be removed legally only between August and January, and must be disposed of. If you place a small handful of clean hay or wood shavings (not straw) in the box once it is thoroughly dry after cleaning, it may be used during the winter by small mammals to hibernate or by birds to roost. It is quite normal for a few eggs to fail to hatch, or for some young to die. Blue and great tits lay up to 14 eggs to allow for such losses. Cold weather and food shortage may lead to nest desertion, or to only the strongest young surviving. The death of one parent or interference from animals or humans may also cause desertion. Nestboxes in use should not be inspected. Simply watch and enjoy from a distance. If you want to see the chicks as they grow, consider installing a nestbox camera.

    We were send a photo of a wryneck in a garden in Wiltshire and an escaped Harris's hawk which was apparently part of a pair. There was also a report of a few slender-billed curlews, which are almost certainly just curlews.