Crusty-Eyed Birds? Take Down Your Feeder!

A house finch with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.

A house finch with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.Ever have a really bad case of pink-eye? It’s uncomfortable, itchy, painful… and without treatment, it can even spread enough to cause blindness and death. As any teacher or parent knows all too well, bacterial conjunctivitis is also extremely contagious.

That’s why, if you happen to see a feathered neighbor with eyes like this, it’s important to take down your bird feeders immediately. In birds, these goopy, painful eyes usually caused by an extremely contagious infection called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. It appeared about 25 years ago in house finches, who caught it from chickens.

Uncontrolled, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis spreads rapidly through communities of birds, who leave the bacteria on feeders and in bird baths, and also exchange germs directly when crowded around a single site looking for food. Infected birds eventually become blind and may struggle to breathe and fly, leading to death.

You can help control the spread of mycoplasmal conjunctivitis and other diseases by removing your bird feeders, at least temporarily, when you see signs of illness in your visitors. Be sure you wash them thoroughly before hanging them back up!

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