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Morgan Hill
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March 24, 2023

Parasite kills native California pigeons

Hundreds of dead birds reported in Central Coast, Bay Area, Sierra foothills

Hundreds of California native pigeons have died this winter due to a parasitic disease, announced state wildlife officials on Feb. 23.  

California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said they’ve noticed an increase of reported sick and dead band-tailed pigeons since early February, mostly around California’s Bay Area, Central Coast and foothills in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

So far this winter, an estimated 200 to 3,000 pigeons have died from avian trichomonosis, a disease that mostly comes from the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae during some winter seasons.  

Infected birds develop “cheese-like” lesions in their mouth or throat, which lead to starvation or suffocation, said wildlife officials. Birds with the disease may appear weak, uncoordinated and swallow repeatedly or have difficulty breathing. 

Though band-tailed pigeons are most susceptible to the disease, other bird species, including their predators, can also catch avian trichomonosis. 

The parasite typically spreads in water sources like bird baths, fountains and livestock troughs. 

“Historically, larger outbreaks generally have been associated with drier conditions because the pigeons may be more likely to share a reduced number of water sources and the parasite can spread more rapidly among birds in the flock,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Krysta Rogers, who is an avian disease specialist. 

Community members can prevent disease transmission by removing bird feeders and bird baths, especially when pigeons are in the area.  

Residents can report sightings of sick or dead pigeons via CDFW’s mortality reporting form at  

Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc.

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