If you live in North America and feed with sunflower seeds, chances are you’ve seen your share of house finches. These small but vocal visitors generally travel in small flocks during most of the year. Here is a link to pictures of both the male and female from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.
While it is estimated that less than 10% of the population is affected by the House Finch Eye Disease (mycoplasmal conjunctivitis), the large numbers that can flock and hit your feeders makes it imperative that you keep an eye on them and take steps at the first sign of infection. Here is another link dealing specifically with House Finch Eye Disease from the CLO.
You’ll find a great list of preventive and reactive measures that you can take when you spot a sick bird. You will probably need a pair of birding binoculars to pick up on it at first. Later, you will be able to tell just from their behavior. For instance, I don’t need any other help than finding a bird sitting on the bird bath or feeder doing nothing but sitting to tell they are suspect. At that point, I’ll walk into my backyard and will be able to walk right up to them if they are sick.
Probably the two biggest things I want to leave you with are:
- Tube feeders are the quickest ways for the birds to spread the disease.
- Cleaning your feeders with a 10% bleach solution and cleaning under your feeders regularly can go a long way to prevent the spread of the disease.
Let’s hope that the statistics that say the disease has gotten below epidemic levels are correct and we’ll soon start seeing less and less of these poor birds at our feeders.