I’ve seen a sick House Finch with red, swollen, or weepy eyes. What’s wrong with it?

April 1, 2009
A House Finch with eye disease A House Finch with eye disease. Photo by Tamami Gomizawa.
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House Finches with weird-looking eyes are probably afflicted with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, also known as House Finch Eye Disease. In early fall, the prevalence of this infection increases dramatically, and sick birds may appear at feeders. From 1994–2008 we conducted a citizen-science study of House Finch Eye Disease. You can read about what we learned, the disease’s causes and symptoms, and find useful links on Project FeederWatch’s  House Finch Eye Disease page. You can also participate in Project Feeder Watch to help track sick finches.

There is little evidence that feeders play a direct role in disease transmission, because House Finches are highly gregarious and stay close together near or away from feeders. But to be safe, if you notice sick birds, we recommend that you take down your feeders and clean them. To clean your feeder, take it apart and use a dishwasher on a hot setting or hand wash either with soap and boiling water or with a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before refilling. Let them dry completely and then re-hang them. Also, rake the ground beneath your feeders to remove old seed and bird droppings. If more than one bird gets sick from this or any other illness, it’s not a bad idea to close down your feeding station for a couple of weeks to at least encourage the flock to disperse, to minimize the risk of other birds catching it.

You may also want to contact a local wildlife vet or wildlife rehabililtator for help with sick birds.

Comments

  • Dave Scudder

    There’s been a black & yellow finch-like bird at my feeder all year long. Wings are black, body is bright yellow & has a light brown beak. Feeds fine with the other red head finches & sparrows. The size of a house sparrow. Is this bird likely a finch of some kind ? From southern Ohio. Thanks