look out for avian pox in great tits

I just read a recent Guardian article about this.

Great tits are being severely affected by a new strain of avian pox in Britain. The pox significantly reduces the reproductive output of great tits by reducing the ability of parents to fledge their young successfully and rear them to independence. Diseased parents can transmit the pathogen to their offspring, with high mortality rates for affected chicks.

In 2011 the disease reached south-west England, Wales and as far north as Merseyside and the Humber.

Photograph: Jenny Davis/Zoological Society/PA

Photograph: Jenny Davis/Zoological Society/PA

Affected birds develop warty, tumour-like growths and lesions, mainly on the head and neck and at the base of the wings. Infection is thought to be spread by biting insects, direct bird-to-bird contact or indirect contact from contaminated surfaces. Regularly cleaning bird tables etc is therefore really important.

Avian pox is found only in birds, and does not pose a threat to the health of humans or other mammals.

Report sightings of affected birds by emailing wildlife@rspb.org.uk or calling the RSPB on 01767 693 690

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