Jul 12, 2017 | Featured Web Article

A House Finch with Puffy Eyes is at My Birdfeeder. What Should I Do?

While observing the avian visitors at your feeders, take note of symptoms that might indicate a sick bird.

Mycoplasmosis is an eye disease caused by a bacterium. House finches are most susceptible, but goldfinches and other feeder birds can be infected, also. Symptoms include swollen, crusty eyes. Birds eventually go blind, and, unable to find food, starve.

The bacterium remains infectious for 12 to 24 hours on the surface of feeders, so as soon as you see a bird with puffy, sick-looking eyes, take down all your seed feeders for a week or so to encourage sick birds to disperse. Healthy birds will find other food sources; they won't starve! (You can leave your nectar feeders in place, unless finches have been imbibing from them.)

To clean the feeders, first remove all accumulated debris and gunk. Wash the feeders thoroughly—in a sanitizing dishwasher (with no other dishes), if possible, or hand wash with soap and boiling water, or in a nine-to-one water-to-bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and let them dry. Again, wait a week or so before refilling and rehanging your feeders.

Meanwhile, rake debris from under the feeders. Scoop it up and throw it in the trash to remove another potential source of contamination.

While the Mycoplasma bacterium is present in your neighborhood, wash your feeders weekly, and be careful not to allow birdseed to spoil in your feeders. Offer less seed-only what the birds consume in one day. Even when you no longer see sick birds, remember to replace seed before it spoils, and to wash your feeders regularly.

Sadly, even if sick birds are treated with antibiotics, they are rarely cured and can carry the disease for the rest of their lives. For that reason, wildlife rehabilitators are reluctant to invest time and effort on birds with conjunctivitis caused by mycoplasmosis.

About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson III was the beloved editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds until March 2019, when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

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