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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2018 May 5;373(1745). pii: 20170091. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0091.

Health hazards to wild birds and risk factors associated with anthropogenic food provisioning.

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Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK.
Fera Science Ltd, National Agri-Food Innovation Campus, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK.
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.


Provision of supplementary food for wild birds at garden feeding stations is a common, large-scale and year-round practice in multiple countries including Great Britain (GB). While these additional dietary resources can benefit wildlife, there is a concomitant risk of disease transmission, particularly when birds repeatedly congregate in the same place at high densities and through interactions of species that would not normally associate in close proximity. Citizen science schemes recording garden birds are popular and can integrate disease surveillance with population monitoring, offering a unique opportunity to explore inter-relationships between supplementary feeding, disease epidemiology and population dynamics. Here, we present findings from a national surveillance programme in GB and note the dynamism of endemic and emerging diseases over a 25-year period, focusing on protozoal (finch trichomonosis), viral (Paridae pox) and bacterial (passerine salmonellosis) diseases with contrasting modes of transmission. We also examine the occurrence of mycotoxin contamination of food residues in bird feeders, which present both a direct and indirect (though immunosuppression) risk to wild bird health. Our results inform evidence-based mitigation strategies to minimize anthropogenically mediated health hazards, while maintaining the benefits of providing supplementary food for wild birds.This article is part of the theme issue 'Anthropogenic resource subsidies and host-parasite dynamics in wildlife'.


Paridae pox; epidemiology; finch trichomonosis; garden bird feeding; mycotoxin; passerine salmonellosis

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