There are many diseases that can plague both mourning and white-winged doves in the United States. And some of these mourning dove diseases and white-winged dove illnesses can cause problems for local and migrating dove populations. Avian trichomoniasis, a naturally-occurring parasite, is the likely cause of minor dove die-offs observed recently in the Central Flyway.
“It’s a fairly common occurrence, but folks should be aware of it,” said Corey Mason, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) dove program leader. Trichomonas gallinae is a single cell protozoan common in nature that circulates within bird populations, impacting many different bird species including mourning and white-winged doves. In fact, trichomoniasis is considered by many avian disease specialists to be the most important disease of doves in North America. Outbreaks at bird feeding stations and similar locations reported to the National Wildlife Health Center have occurred from coast-to-coast within the USA.
Epizootics due to T. gallinae can happen year-round, but most disease outbreaks have been reported during late spring, summer and fall. Because oral lesions often affect the ability of the mourning and white-winged doves to feed, infected birds lose weight, appear listless, and stand in groups. Although avian trichomoniasis poses no human health risks, precautions should always be taken when handling sick or dead doves and other birds.
Officials state that because this parasite is transmitted through cross-feeding and bill contact, impacts to mourning and white-winged dove populations can be minimized by taking precautionary measures, including removal of dead birds and temporary removal of artificial water and feed or routine cleaning of artificial watering areas and replenishing bird feeders with fresh feed daily. Platforms and other surfaces where feed may collect, including the area under feeders, should be frequently decontaminated with 10 percent solution of household bleach in water.
Though trichomoniasis is disease that impacts white-winged and mourning dove populations, it by no means threatens their populations currently. However, it is something that everyone must work to identify and avoid, especially those with backyard bird feeders. Mourning dove diseases and white-winged diseases can vary between different locations and times of the year, so learn as much as possible about each of the illnesses before making your diagnosis.