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Thread: a bird feeder hobby, and the problem of infected finches

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    a bird feeder hobby, and the problem of infected finches

    I don't know what to do. House finches with infected eyes keep showing up at my bird feeder.

    I found three kinds of advice on the net:

    1) take the feeder down, throw out all your seed, wash everything with bleach, and keep the feeder down for 2 weeks till the bird with the eye infection has gone away;

    2) wash the feeder frequently, and if the finches are crowding it then put up another feeder to help them keep their distance from one another;

    3) ignore it. The infected birds will just congregate at other feeders in the area if you take yours down.

    The first time I saw an infected bird at the feeder, I followed #1. After putting the feeder back up after the scrubdown and 2-week wait, there's now another infected house finch again.

    The bird's health matters more than me wanting to watch them and take pictures. But, this is important to me so I'm really hesitant about removing the feeder.

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    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    What does the vet and/or wildlife personnel say to do? I know living up in the mountains a while back I called the wildlife people several times about injured animals.

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    It must be in my area but I've never observed it, and I see lots of house finches.

    If you want to help the birds you need to take down the feeder for a few days and disinfect it. Also clean up underneath the feeder if possible or just move it to another location when you put it back up.

    I feed with black oil sunflower and millet, nothing else.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    How can you tell the finches have infected eyes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    What does the vet and/or wildlife personnel say to do? I know living up in the mountains a while back I called the wildlife people several times about injured animals.
    Ok, I got in touch with the vet at the wildlife rescue that I volunteered at a few summers ago. She advises I take the feeder down long enough for the infected bird to either heal or die. It's down, and I intend to put it back up in 2 weeks and watch again. Hopefully then there won't be another infected finch showing up.

    She also suggested I try catching any infected birds and bring them to her (as a wildlife rescuer, the notion of trying to treat their problem would be a natural response). It's remotely possible since they're half-blind... Hmm, I'll think on that one...

    I've sent out emails to a couple ornithologists and will wait to see if they respond.

    Thanks Floof

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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    It must be in my area but I've never observed it, and I see lots of house finches.

    If you want to help the birds you need to take down the feeder for a few days and disinfect it. Also clean up underneath the feeder if possible or just move it to another location when you put it back up.

    I feed with black oil sunflower and millet, nothing else.
    I live in a small apartment two stories up, so I have the one place to put it - on my balcony.

    I give them unshelled sunflower hearts. I wonder how much the choice of food influences which small perching birds come to the feeder.

    The vet was saying that they press their faces on the feeder's wire to reach the seeds and that's how it spreads. So maybe I should use a platform feeder instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    How can you tell the finches have infected eyes?
    Crusty eyes. Red-rimmed eyes. Sometimes even blood-dripping eyes.

    They have a hard time flying around. They'll hover over a branch while struggling to see it. Then once they've got a perch they'll sit with uncharacteristic stillness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    It must be in my area but I've never observed it, and I see lots of house finches.

    If you want to help the birds you need to take down the feeder for a few days and disinfect it. Also clean up underneath the feeder if possible or just move it to another location when you put it back up.

    I feed with black oil sunflower and millet, nothing else.
    I live in a small apartment two stories up, so I have the one place to put it - on my balcony.

    I give them unshelled sunflower hearts. I wonder how much the choice of food influences which small perching birds come to the feeder.

    The vet was saying that they press their faces on the feeder's wire to reach the seeds and that's how it spreads. So maybe I should use a platform feeder instead.
    That's a good idea, I use both types. The tube feeder is quite large, I inherited it from a neighbor. The openings are large enough that I don't think the birds faces contact the feeder, only the seeds.

    I can understand your using shelled seed, as the shells do create a bit of a mess which would fall onto the lower apartment.

    We routinely trap and eliminate English Sparrows. I don't spread that around but if we didn't eliminate these invasive birds the native cavity nesters would never stand a chance in the yard. I've never caught a house finch in the trap, though we have caught and released many other native species. If you have a flat area to feed from, trapping the house finches is doable.

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    Thanks everyone for the responses.

    My plan of action is:

    - clean the feeder frequently
    - put less food in it (I'll contrive something... a tube down the middle of it so there's less seed. The less seed the less I have to throw out if I see a diseased bird.)

    Less food = more frequent new food, and more frequent cleanings of the feeder.

    Also I'll keep the wire mesh feeder. The birds are not pressing their faces into it to reach the seed. The vet who suggested that happens was thinking of the tube feeders with large holes in them that the birds have to put their heads inside to reach the seed.

    I'll keep watching and taking photos, and will report instances of avian conjunctivitis to Project Feeder Watch. And rethink my plan if there's an increase in the problem. If I see just the one bird returning, I'll figure out a way to catch her and take her to the wildlife rescue. But if there are lot of sick finches out there, I'll have to take the feeder down so I'm not helping the illness spread.

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    Bird feeders: Twitter done right.

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