Monday, March 16, 2009

Salmonellosis in house finch?

This house finch fell asleep on the feeder. When I went to close the curtains after dark, I discovered him, just a dark blob where there shouldn't be one, and opened the window, a bare two feet away. He didn't wake up, so I got the camera.

The first photo, a face shot, didn't turn out because the feeder was swinging in the wind. The second woke him up, and he left. I hope he found a better place to sleep.

One of my finches has something wrong with one eye. It was swollen shut a week ago; today I saw it again, and it is looking much better, but the eye is open a mere slit. I'm wondering if this is the same finch; I can't tell from the back.

I am worried about this bird; there is a possibility that he is suffering from salmonellosis, which attacks the eyes. I found the symptoms on the Wild Birds Unlimited website:
If you have Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch or House Finch at your feeders showing symptoms of salmonellosis, these are the symptoms. They include droopiness, diarrhea, and severe lethargy, fluffed out feathers and birds are easy to approach. Some birds may appear severely emaciated or be observed to seizure.
I have seen none of this, unless sleeping on the feeder tonight was a result of the "severe lethargy". Otherwise, the finch seems happy and active enough.

The Cornell Ornithology Lab mentions the swollen eyelids and lethargy. Another symptom to watch for seems to be "pasted vents". I have not seen this.

They also describe House Finch Disease, which causes swollen eyes, sometimes leading to the death of the finch.

What to do? Again, from WBU:
What to do if you find any sick birds
1. Remove all feeders for a few days.
2. Clean and sanitize all feeders, poles and the feeding area
3. Reinstall multiple feeders in new locations that are spread far apart from one another. Reducing crowding at feeders helps reduce stress and the transmission of the disease.
4. Replace wooden feeders with ones made of plastic or recycled materials. Wood is very difficult to sanitize.
5. Do not reinstall feeders that allow contact between fecal material and food (such as platform or tray feeders)
6. Initially provide food and feeders that will not attract finches (suet, safflower, peanuts, hummingbird feeders, etc.)
7. Reinstall finch feeders and food after an additional two weeks.
8. Clean feeders and birdbaths with a 10% bleach solution several times a week, be sure that feeders are dry before filling them with seed.
I cleaned all the feeders with hot water, then bleach, last week, and removed the bucket the finches use, and the bowl of nyger seed. I don't use a platform feeder. The chickadee feeder gets sanitized and thoroughly dried every few days. Tomorrow, I'll bleach the perches on the chickadee feeder again, and start looking for plastic to replace the wooden chopstick. I'll bleach the bird bath while I'm at it: I didn't do that last week, since it was frozen solid until yesterday.

Looking for info, I discovered that Jayne, at Journey Through Grace, has an outbreak of salmonellosis in her pine siskins. Very sad; she has seen several dead and dying birds. I hope it doesn't come to that here.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, we had a similar experience when we were up in Port Townsend. We always kept the feeders clean, but started taking them down every couple of days to disinfect them. It mostly did the trick and we didn't have any more sick birds showing up. The unfortunate thing is that many of our neighbors weren't quite as diligent, and continued to contribute to the outbreak.


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!