Bird populations hit by epidemic

New research has discovered that a disease which made the jump across the "species barrier" has killed large proportions of some of the nation’s best-loved garden birds.

Trichomonosis initially affected just pigeons, but made the jump to finches in 2005 and has wiped out hundreds of thousands of birds a year ever since.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), research from the Garden Bird Health Initiative showed that as many as 500,000 birds fell victim to the epidemic in 2007.

It destroyed 35 per cent of greenfinches and 20 per cent of chaffinches within a year of making the transition to the species.

Passed through saliva, birds can pick up the parasite from feeders, baths and regurgitated food during the breeding season.

Garden and greenhouse enthusiasts can help out by keeping an eye on the wildlife in their garden and reporting any sick or dead birds to the British Trust for Ornithology.

They can also reduce the chances of the local bird population succumbing to the parasite by regularly cleaning feeders and baths.

In other news, the RHS has reported that the UK’s butterfly populations have bounced back after recent dramatic falls.