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Texas is seeing an uptick in a common bird disease, with cases identified in West Texas

A Mourning Dove in Texas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Trichomoniasis mostly affects doves and pigeons in Texas, experts say.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is advising the public to be on the lookout for sick or dead birds on their properties, after the infectious disease Trichomoniasis was spotted in doves in the Trans-Pecos and Rolling Plains regions of the state.

Trichomoniasis does not pose a health risk to humans, the department said this month.

The disease is different from the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu that has impacted Texas dairy cattle and recently infected a human for the first time in the state.

“It can’t be transmitted to you or your dogs and cats,” said Owen Fitzsimmons, an expert on migratory birds at TPWD.“It’s primarily just a bird-to-bird disease.”

Marfa Public Radio spoke with Fitzsimmons for more on what West Texans should know about the disease and how to help prevent its spread.

Interview Highlights

On what Trichomoniasis does to birds

The disease is “extremely common” in doves in pigeons, Fitzsimmons said, and mostly affects young birds.

“It causes these big lesions in their throat that can keep them from swallowing food, and they end up losing a lot of weight,” he said. “In some cases it can be fatal.”

“It seems to flare up in some years, and this is one of those years,” Fitzsimmons said.

Experts say the disease can potentially infect backyard chickens, but is not a threat to humans or pets.

On how to spot infected birds

Birds with the disease will often have a “fluffed up” appearance, TPWD said in its advisory this month.

Fitzsimmons said people should be on the lookout for birds on their properties that are “acting unusual,” particularly wild doves.

“A lot of times, infected birds that are really symptomatic, they’ll look very lethargic,” he said. “They might not fly away, or they might fly away very weakly, and a lot of times with those lesions in their throats, you’ll see their mouth opening and closing like they can’t breathe.”

Sightings of infected birds can be reported to a local TPWD wildlife biologist.

On ways to help prevent the spread

The parks and wildlife department said simple steps can be taken to help prevent the spread of the disease.

“Take your bird bath, take your bird feeders, and maybe once a week or so disinfect them with a very light bleach solution,” Fitzsimmons said. “If you do end up seeing sick or dead doves in your backyard, we recommend taking all feeders and waterers down for at least a few weeks, to kind of let that infection clear out and keep from reinfecting anything else.”

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.