So, the poor little bird was on the ground and seemed disoriented … when I approached her she didn’t fly away, just kept pecking at the ground in front of her as if oblivious to my presence. Then I spotted it – her crusted eye on the left and a slightly swollen and reddened right one. AVIAN CONJUNCTIVITIS!
What does conjunctivitis look like?
Infected birds have red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes; in extreme cases the eyes become swollen shut or crusted over, and the birds become essentially blind. Birds in this condition obviously have trouble feeding. You might see them staying on the ground, under the feeder, trying to find seeds. If the infected bird dies, it is usually not from the conjunctivitis itself, but rather from starvation, exposure, or predation as a result of not being able to see.
What causes the conjunctivitis?
Although infected birds have swollen eyes, the disease is primarily a respiratory infection. It is caused by a unique strain of the bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum, which is a common pathogen in domestic turkeys and chickens. The infection poses no known health threat to humans. Researchers at various institutions are currently trying to learn more about the transmission, genetics, and development of this disease.
What should I do if I see a bird with conjunctivitis?
Take down your feeders and clean them with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach and 9 parts water). Let them dry completely and then re-hang them. Also, rake underneath the feeder to remove old seed and bird droppings.
1. Space your feeders widely to discourage crowding.
2. Clean your feeders on a regular basis with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach and 9 parts water) and be sure to remove any build-ups of dirt around the food openings. Allow your feeders to dry completely before rehanging them.
3. Rake the area underneath your feeder to remove droppings and old, moldy seed.
4. If you see one or two diseased birds, take your feeder down immediately and clean it with a 10% bleach solution.
Should I try to treat an infected bird?
By law, only licensed professionals are authorized to handle most wild birds. Some veterinians are familiar with this problem in the Finch populations and can help you get in touch with rehabilitators in your area.
In the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area, you may call the Wildlife Center Rehab @ 228-669-2737 or Wild at Heart Rescue @ 228-669-7907 or 228-493-6191.