I recently had a brush with house finch eye disease that I want to share with you. I’ve written about it before in an article I wrote here. Here is an article from AllAboutBirds addressing the disease.
I hope this article helps you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.
Keeping your birds safe from house finch eye disease doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. If you pay attention to what’s going on at your feeders you’ll gain the ability to anticipate and prevent problems.
Unfortunately, I broke my own rule and some poor little birds may suffer because of it.
The First Inkling of Trouble
A few weeks back, I noticed a steady increase in my house finch feeder traffic. Yes, they ARE known for mobbing feeders so that wasn’t too off-putting. I vowed to keep an eye on it in case it got worse.
Little by little, more and more house finches were coming to the feeder. Because of the heat here in Tennessee right now, I only put out a day’s worth of food. Still, it was being completely emptied EVERY day.
I’ve had a few of my feeders in to the local Wild Birds Unlimited store to be cleaned so I didn’t have any more than one feeder out. Needless to say, the increased traffic meant a LOT of birds were competing and bickering over the ONE offering I put out. I thought I’d just get my feeders back, put out more seed and the congestion would be eliminated. The woman who was going to clean them had just sustained the loss of a very close friend and I felt like I’d just give her some space.
I should have called her and asked how she was and about my feeders. This is on me. I’m a softy that way and really believed she’d call me any day now.
She never called me and that’s on me.
I should have taken down the feeder then. I also didn’t want other birds to suffer until I could get my other feeders back.
The Problem Continues
Every day, I was seeing ridiculous amounts of traffic and squabbling going on at the feeder. I know from experience if house finches congregate like that there IS going to be trouble. House finch eye disease is usually the outcome.
I saw a male house finch just sitting on a bird bath barely moving. I also have seen at various times birds attempting to land on water that seemed uncertain. Binocular checks of both revealed no obvious eye disease.
Still, I waited on those feeders. I’m sure I mentioned before that I run my company out of my home so there’s no reason I shouldn’t notice something and take action.
I’m sorry to say I did the first part but ignored the second part. For that, I am truly sorry to the little birds.
Point of No Return Reached
Yesterday, I was doing my daily check of the feeders and birds and noticed a couple house finches at the base of the feeder picking about. One of them had the telltale feathers sticking up straight around her eye. Closer inspection revealed a nearly closed eye.
My heart sunk. How could I have all this knowledge about feeding back yard birds and still allow a feeding situation to escalate to disease?
I decided then to take down the feeder a day late and a dollar short.
Five Ways to Avoid House Finch Eye Disease
- Consider taking down feeders in summer. You’re probably away more and they really don’t need help surviving then.
- Watch to see if your feeders are being slowly mobbed by house finches. They generally don’t come all at once. If they are TAKE THEM DOWN before trouble strikes.
- If your house finch numbers stay consistent, make sure they have plenty of feeders to choose from. Helps eliminate overcrowding and bickering.
- If you can keep your feeders up, make sure you clean them weekly if you can. Even if you just soak them in a 10% bleach solution, that’s better than not cleaning them.
- As soon as you see an infected bird, take your feeders down! I know I may catch some flack on this because there are people with way more degrees than me who say that only spreads the problem out. In my view, spreading out a few infected birds is not nearly as dangerous as leaving them to become one hundred infected birds! House finch eye disease will spread a LOT faster if more of the feeder population is infected.
How Have You Done This Year?
Have you been successful in keeping house finch eye disease away from your feeders? Were you able to do as Barney Fife says and “Nip it. Nip it in the bud!”? Or did you have a lapse in judgement like me and allowed an infection to start? Either way, tell me about it by leaving a comment below.
Also, if you enjoyed this article and feel somebody else might benefit from it, please share it on social media using the buttons below. I’d really like as many people as possible to join in and help stop this disease.
PS- A special thanks to Marc Devokaitis, Public Information Specialist at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology