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Pigeon canker



Pigeon canker has been found in dead pigeons from many parts of the Netherlands. The online register run jointly by the DWHC and Sovon indicates that wood pigeons are most affected.

To-date this infectious disease has been detetced in the Dutch provinces of Gelderland, Utrecht, Limburg and North Brabant. The disease is caused by infection with the Trichomonas gallinae parasite and is typically seen in pigeons / doves, birds of prey and finches. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with an infected bird or indirectly via contaminated food or water. The disease is not a danger to humans, dogs or cats.

Recognizing pigeon canker

Birds with canker are typically lethargic with puffed up feathers and too weak to fly. As the infection usually affects the beak, throat, crop and oesophagus birds have difficulty eating, drinking and swallowing. This can result in regurgitation leading to starvation and sometimes choking. The disease can progress rapidly and is characterized by whitish yellow plaques in the mouth, throat, crop and oesophagus. Similar lesions and signs are seen in other diseases such as avian pox and for this reason further investigations are needed in order to confirm infection with T. gallinae. 

Preventative measures

If you put food out for birds in your garden then follow this advice to minimise the risk of creating a source of infection.

  • Clean feeders and bird tables daily and disinfect them regularly with a product such as dilute household bleach (5% Sodium hypochlorite); rinse them thoroughly and allow to dry before putting out new food.
  • Reposition feeders regularly to avoid dropped food and feces accumulating in one spot.
  • Rinse out bird baths daily and allow to dry before re-filling.
  • During an outbreak feeding should be reduced stopped during 2-4 weeks.
  • Disposable gloves should be worn when handling dead birds and when cleaning; wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, especially before eating or drinking.

Dead birds

If you find a dead bird you can report it via the form on the DWHC website.