The other day when I went outside to take the garbage out I noticed that a few of the House Finches and American Goldfinches on my feeders hardly moved. I was able to get within 3 feet of them (which is quite abnormal). As I crept closer I noticed the birds that remained on the feeder had eye sockets that were greatly swollen. Since this was an unusual phenomenon I decided to find out what might be happening.
My search brought me to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website (my favorite birding site) and I found the likely culprit was conjunctivitis. This disease was first noticed in Eastern populations of finches but has spread westward. This disease is not necessarily fatal but complications due to lack of sight usually result in death (starvation, exposure, predation).
The most useful information I found, however, was how to help these suffering birds. Since finches are a federally protected family (of birds) there are no medical treatments that I can administer. Yet, I can limit the spread of this disease in the following ways:
- Space your feeders widely to discourage crowding.
- Clean your feeders on a regular basis with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach and 9 parts water) and be sure to remove any build-ups of dirt around the food openings. Allow your feeders to dry completely before rehanging them.
- Rake the area underneath your feeder to remove droppings and old, moldy seed.
- If you see one or two diseased birds, take your feeder down immediately and clean it with a 10% bleach solution
It is always unfortunate to find an injured bird however, there are some although limited ways to help. So keep a lookout and continue to enjoy backyard birding!
For more information visit: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/hofi/hofifaqs.html