3 days ago Mystery disease is killing Germany blue tits. Picture © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikipedia
There is a new mystery bird illness being investigated in Germany…
After more than 11,000 German blue tits were found dead or sick overnight.
More than 11,000 cases of dead and sick birds, mostly blue tits, have been reported to the German conservation group NABU in the past fortnight. Most of these are reported from the west of Germany.
Mystery infection causes Pneumonia
The infection discovered causes pneumonia in tits – predominantly blue tits – and they become lethargic with fluffed-up plumage and breathing difficulties. There are no reports of this affecting any other animals apart from birds.
Note: What about humans right now?
According to NABU, symptoms of the diseased birds include breathing problems, no longer taking food and making no attempt to escape when approached by people.
The group is advising people to stop feeding or providing drinking troughs for birds to reduce the risk of transmission between them.
The first laboratory test results on the dead birds have found a bacterial infection (Suttonella ornithocola) that has been known in the UK since the 1990s and which affects birds similarly.
The infection was reported in Germany in 2018. Further test results on birds are expected over the next few days.
Only in Germany?
Dr Becki Lawson, a disease specialist at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said she had not yet seen any recent increase in mortality in blue tits or any other garden bird species in the UK.
“We are aware of the recent reports of blue tit mortality from Germany and understand investigations are under way to determine the cause,” Lawson said. “Once a diagnosis is reached, we will be able to comment on whether the condition affecting blue tit populations in Germany is one that we also see in Great Britain.”
A spokesperson for the RSPB said the risk to UK bird populations was currently extremely low. “This disease predominantly affects blue tits which are largely sedentary birds and do not move far from where they fledged. If this disease is not already present in the UK, transmission across countries from Germany to the UK will be slow,” they said.
Note: I think it is exactly what they said for the current pandemic, no?
Members of the public have been urged to report any sick or dead blue tits through Garden Wildlife Health, a monitoring project run between the ZSL, the British Trust for Ornithology, Froglife and the RSPB.
Now if you add up all the recent bird mass die-offs in Europe and across the world, it seems that there is really something strange happening in our sky. Look by yourself:
The blue tit is found across Europe and is one of the most common visitors to UK gardens. They eat insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts and can be spotted all year round in the UK, with the exception of some Scottish islands.