Diseases infecting finches, other songbirds can spread to feeders
Birdwatchers at feeders and elsewhere are more aware of the disease after a mysterious illness hit songbirds in Indiana and other states, particularly along the East Coast.
But not all puffy-eyed birds suffer from the disease, which authorities are still trying to identify.
Mysterious disease in birds:Songbird rehabbers, researchers still working to get to the bottom of mystery disease
Already this year, Allisyn Gillet, state bird biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said there have been several cases of finches with red, crusted and swollen eyes caused by a known condition – house finch conjunctivitis, also known as mycoplasma conjunctivitis.
“The only way to help prevent any spread is to clean your feeders regularly,” Gillet said.
His recommendation is to remove all debris, then clean the feeder with a 10% bleach solution at least once a month. Feeders should be rinsed and dried.
Anyone who sees a bird with an eye disease should immediately take down their feeders, clean them and leave them until they no longer see any birds with the symptoms, Gillet said.
House finch conjunctivitis infects not only house finches, but also American goldfinches and sometimes purple finches, evening grosbeaks and pine grosbeaks. Just as COVID-19 can spread among different species of mammals, house finch conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria also known to cause respiratory infections in other birds, including turkeys and chickens. The first outbreak in finches was reported in Maryland in 1994, slowly spreading across the United States
“We have wild animals affecting domestic animals,” Gillet said. “It happened the other way around.”
More information and case reporting
Anyone who sees a sick bird at a feeder, in their yard, or elsewhere is asked to report it to the State Department of Natural Resources on their website at https://bit.ly/3qThBwZ.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s FeederWatch project collects people’s observations to monitor house finch eye disease. Go to https://bit.ly/3tUZTed for information on the disease as well as photographs showing birds with it.
the Sassafras Audubon Society will have its semi-annual fundraiser for bird feeder cleaning on April 30 at Bloomington Hardware, 2700 E. Covenanter Drive. People are invited to drop off the feeders from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 30, with pick-up from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. A donation of $5 is requested for each feeder.
Contact Carol Kugler at [email protected], 812-331-4359 or @ckugler on Twitter.