Finch eye mystery: Pirate syndrome maybe...


I've noticed for the past couple of years that many of the House Finches at my feeder appear to have injuries to their eyes. I assumed this was from the incessant fighting that takes place at the feeders. This winter I've noticed that several of the finches have the same injuries although it appears to generally only affect one eye. Are these guys going for the pirate look? Is this from fighting or could it be some sort of disease that affects finches? I haven't seen much fighting around the feeder and I'm wondering whether it is still from the spring/summer. Any answers would be appreciated.

I tried to take some pics over the weekend, but unfortunately they are pretty poor quality and I couldn't capture the true pirates (the ones I captured are a few stages away from true blindness in the one eye). Anyway, the pics are purely illustrative and I'm sure someone will have an answer for me as I've seen this at my outlaws' house too.

Any one got an explanation for the pirate finches?


Susan Gets Native said...

This is pretty straightforward. Not Pirate Disease...
It's called avian conjunctivitis. It has been ripping through the house finch population in recent years. Pine siskins, goldfinches and cardinals are also being affected, but on a smaller scale.
Here's what to do:
Take down all your feeders and clean them with 1 part bleach and 4 parts water. It might even be helpful to take them down and keep them down for a week or so. But if it's really really cold, I would just keep them up.
Also, rake under your feeders really well.
(this is to rid the area of as much of the bacteria as possible.)
Next, sign up for the House Finch eye Disease Study at Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Cornell House Finch Eye Disease Study
You sign up, get a user name, etc. Then you report both SICK and HEALTHY house finches at your feeders. They want to know what percentage of finches are getting this.
I wouldn't try to capture any of the sick birds, though it's kind of easy, since you can sneak up on their bad side. Most rehabbers are in agreement that treatment, while it may be successful, might also cause resistant strains of this bacteria.

Owlman said...

Thanks Susan,

I will definitely take the precautions you mention. I actually have seen that many at my feeders although my in-laws have many more.

I figured it wasn't pirate syndrome ;-) although that's catchier (no pun intended) than avian conjunctivitis.

Thanks again for popping in!