Have you Seen Colorado Birds Sick with Conjunctivitis?

Infected House Finch. Photo Credit Stanton Hunter and Vashon Audubon

With reports of sick and dying birds in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is on the lookout for any signs of similar concerns in Colorado.

Sick birds with finch conjunctivitis have swollen, red, watery, and/or crusty eyes. Birds may recover from this disease, although severe cases can be fatal. Finches are most commonly affected. The Mycoplasma gallisepticum bacteria is spread by contact between birds and is usually spread in crowded groups.

So far, no cases compatible with this “mystery disease” have been confirmed in the state of Colorado. The syndrome observed in other states is characterized by swollen eyes, blindness, and signs of neurologic impairment. The birds most commonly affected have been young blue jays, grackles, European starlings, and American robins. The cause of this disease remains unknown.

Please contact your nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office if you observe birds with swollen eyes, birds that appear sick or act abnormal, or if you observe three or more dead birds in one location within a two-week period.

In Colorado, house finches can be infected by bacteria (Mycoplasma gallisepticum) that cause swollen, crusty eyes, but this finch conjunctivitis disease has not been seen in other species. Finch conjunctivitis and other bird diseases are often spread at bird feeders.

Remember to clean bird feeders and birdbaths regularly by removing all debris, cleaning with a 10 percent bleach solution, rinsing with water, and allowing them to air dry completely before refilling. Please take down feeders if you notice sick or dying birds.

CPW does not recommend bird feeders be used at all from mid-March through Thanksgiving if you live in bear country.

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