House Finch Eye Disease, also known as Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, is a disease that affects House Finches and other finch species. Caused by a parasitic bacterium called Mycoplasma gallisepticum, this disease primarily impacts the eyes of the birds, leading to swelling, infection, and potential blindness. It first appeared in infected House Finches in the winter of 1994-95 in Washington D.C. The disease spreads through close contact between birds, which commonly occurs at bird feeders. To prevent further spread, it’s recommended to take down bird feeders, thoroughly clean them, and wait 14 days before reinstallation. While less common, other finch species like American Goldfinches can also be affected. Adopting proper hygiene and regularly cleaning bird feeders can significantly contribute to preventing the spread of various diseases among birds.
Causes of House Finch Eye Disease
House Finch Eye Disease, also known as Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, is a disease that affects House Finches and other finch species. The primary cause of this disease is the parasitic bacterium called Mycoplasma gallisepticum. This bacterium infects the birds’ eyes, leading to swelling and infection, ultimately resulting in partial or complete blindness. Once infected, the birds become carriers of the bacteria and can transmit it to other susceptible birds.
Symptoms of House Finch Eye Disease
Swelling and infection
Partial or complete blindness
One of the most notable symptoms of House Finch Eye Disease is the swelling and infection of the birds’ eyes. The infection causes the eyelids to become red, swollen, and crusty. As the disease progresses, the eyes may produce discharge and become clouded. In severe cases, the birds may experience partial or complete blindness. These symptoms significantly impact the birds’ ability to navigate, find food, and escape from predators, rendering them vulnerable in their natural habitat.
First Appearance of House Finch Eye Disease
Winter of 1994-95 in Washington D.C. area
House Finch Eye Disease was initially observed in infected House Finches during the winter of 1994-95 in the Washington D.C. area. Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts noticed a sudden increase in the number of House Finches exhibiting symptoms of swollen and infected eyes. This marked the first recorded appearance and identification of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis in House Finches, causing concern among researchers and bird conservationists.
Spread of House Finch Eye Disease
Close contact between birds
Occurrence at bird feeders
One of the primary ways House Finch Eye Disease spreads is through close contact between infected and healthy birds. When infected birds come into contact with their healthy counterparts, they can transmit the bacteria through sneezing, coughing, or sharing perches and feeders. Another significant factor in the spread of the disease is the occurrence at bird feeders. Infected birds visit feeders, leaving behind the bacterium on surfaces and in food sources, which other birds can subsequently contract.
Prevention and Control of House Finch Eye Disease
Take down bird feeders
Thoroughly clean bird feeders
Wait 14 days before putting feeders back up
To prevent and control the spread of House Finch Eye Disease, it is recommended to take down bird feeders in affected areas. By removing the feeders, the frequency of close contact between infected and healthy birds can be reduced. Additionally, it is crucial to thoroughly clean bird feeders to eliminate any traces of bacteria left behind by infected birds. This involves washing feeders in a solution of bleach and water, scrubbing them thoroughly, and allowing them to dry completely before putting them back up. It is advisable to wait for at least 14 days before re-hanging the feeders, as this period allows any infected birds to disperse, minimizing the risk of further transmission.
Impact on Other Finch Species
American Goldfinches can also be affected, but less commonly
While House Finches are most commonly affected by Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, other finch species can also be impacted, although less commonly. American Goldfinches, in particular, have been known to contract the disease. However, the likelihood of infection among American Goldfinches is generally lower compared to House Finches. Nonetheless, it is essential to monitor the health of all finch species and implement preventative measures to minimize the potential impact on their populations.
Importance of Hygiene and Cleaning
Prevent spread of other diseases among birds
The hygiene and regular cleaning of bird feeders have far-reaching benefits beyond the prevention of House Finch Eye Disease. By practicing proper hygiene, bird enthusiasts can contribute to the overall well-being and health of the avian population. Regular cleaning of bird feeders helps prevent the spread of other diseases among birds, ensuring their overall vitality and survival. It is recommended to establish a routine cleaning schedule for bird feeders, using appropriate cleaning solutions and techniques to maintain a safe and disease-free feeding environment for our feathered friends.
In conclusion, House Finch Eye Disease, caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum, poses a significant threat to House Finches and other finch species. The disease spreads through close contact between birds and occurs at bird feeders, making it essential to take preventative measures. By taking down bird feeders, thoroughly cleaning them, and waiting for a period, the spread of the disease can be minimized. Furthermore, proper hygiene and cleaning practices not only prevent the spread of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis but also contribute to the overall health and well-being of the avian population. By working together and implementing these measures, we can protect our beloved finches and ensure their continued presence in our communities.