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Conjunctivitis, House Finch Disease
March 01, 2010

(Sparrow Tracks on the deck.)

We continue to grow and that is exciting.

You guys and gals are the best.

Newbies, Welcome and stick around.

Hopefully we will become long term friends.

We end February with the closing of the Olympic games.

I enjoy the games, but I'm glad they only come around every four years.

Sometimes they are to intense for me.

Welcome to March.

March is an important month this year.

In a couple of weeks we switch to daylight savings time (Hurray).

We usher in the first day of Spring (Rejoice).

We pay tribute on 'Palm Sunday' as we remember Jesus' victory ride into Jerusalem .

Victory for us, a week later, WE WIN (Hallelujah).

This past week was a busy one.

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you are always on the go or there is something to do?

After the week is over, you wonder where the time went and what you did?

That was my week.

This past week was also one of the snowiest weeks of winter for us in Southwest, Michigan.

Yeah, I Know all about the East Coast and New England areas having record years.

All I can say.................

It's about time:-)

Nothing bitterly cold, but plenty of snow.

This was also the first February in more than 30 years that we didn't reach 40 one time.

Yes, an odd winter for sure.

Odd for most of us weather wise.

I'm not as energetic as some of you, but I do have some seeds planted and more to plant later as the calendar dictates.

I suppose, if I had more room to plant and possibly a green house of some kind, I would be more aggressive doing so.

(Deer Tracks.)

One thing I enjoy or like to do when the ground is snow covered...................

I look for animal tracks and other signs of life when I go on my walks.

The pictures you see today, are from a couple of my walks in the nearby fields.

I especially enjoy the whisper of a bird's wings on the fresh shroud of snow, you'll see two different images.

I understand that many of you lack snow, but it is still fun to learn animal tracks and even their scratching for food.

Last week I mentioned a bit on what you look forward to about Spring.

For new readers and the shy bunch, listen up.

This is your newsletter and I would like for you to be a big part of it.

At least from time to time.


You get a chance for your moment of fame or, you may feel free to share with friends.

I'm looking for things you really look forward to.

Those first signs of Spring or activities you can't wait to start every year.

(In deep snow, ducks slide down the bank to reach the food I offer the birds.)

You know,

Listening to the Peeper frogs.

The first Robin.

Purple Martins or maybe swallows.

The first crocus to bloom.

Checking your gardens to see what survived the winter.

Washing windows or other Spring time, fun time.

Return to this letter address:

Your first name (last is optional)

City or location you are near.

State or Province you live in.

Along with your response.

Then you can show it to friends and family and let them know that you are mentioned throughout the United States of America and Canada.

If nothing else, your moment in the sun.

Come on gang, let's make this a big hit.

If this works, I'll spread it out for several weeks.

Thank You for your time and participation.

(Squirrel tracks and squirrel dig below.)

Today or this week is also the first of the month.

You know what that means don't you?

You got it...............

It is time to give your feeders and water sources a good cleaning and sanitizing.

As the season wears on, natural food sources dwindle and more birds come to your feeders.

Last week I gave you one reason why to clean as I wrote on Salmonella poisoning in birds.

Salmonella is deadly for birds and spreads.

This week, I'll give you another reason to keep your feeders clean.



If you or one of your children ever had 'Pink Eye' (conjunctivitis), then you know how miserable this can be.

I recall as a child having this disease.

Waking up with my eyes crusted shut until mom put a warm, wet cloth on my eyes to soften up the crust and wipe it off.

How the eyes would continue to ooze and crust during the day.

Not to mention, swollen, pink, blood shot eyes with that made for a Hollywood movie look.

We have also gone through this with our kids and grand kids.

Temporary blindness (eyes crusted shut) and feeling lousy is not a fun thing.

Now imagine how totally helpless and hapless your feathered friends are when they contract........

House Finch Conjunctivitis.

(Once again, with the help of Michigan's 'Department of Natural Resources.)


Historically, mycoplasmosis has been a respiratory disease of domestic poultry and captive raised upland game birds and waterfowl.

Until recently, mycoplasmosis was not considered to be infectious to songbirds.

During the winter of 1993-94, House finches (Carpodacus mexicanus ) with severe conjunctivitis (swollen, crusty eyes) and impaired vision were reported at bird feeders in Virginia and Maryland.

Birds with these conjunctivitis symptoms were diagnosed as infected by the microorganism Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG).

Within seven years the disease was diagnosed in house finches in nearly all of the states east of the Rocky Mountains.

This disease has been mostly confined to the eastern populations of house finches, although it has begun to show up in the northwestern U.S. as well.

Experts believe that eastern house finchs may be more sensitive to this disease because they are an introduced species, highly inbred and therefore less resistant to disease.

The house finch population was introduced to the eastern portion of the U.S. when a flock of caged house finches from California (known as "Hollywood Finches") were sold to people on Long Island, New York in the 1940's.

(Rabbit tracks)

When laws changed and it became illegal to sell and own American songbirds, these captive finches were released.

Their descendants now occupy most of the eastern U.S. and are rapidly spreading westward toward the original range of the species.

In domestic poultry and captive raised upland game birds and waterfowl, mycoplasmosis is a chronic respiratory disease affecting the lungs, air sacs and sinuses.

The disease was originally identified in domestic turkeys in 1905 and in chickens in the 1930's.

Losses in the poultry industries are the result of condemned and downgraded carcasses at slaughter, reduced egg production, poor feed conversion and medication costs.

Mycoplasmosis is the most costly disease of domestic birds worldwide.


As mentioned above, Mycoplasmosis has been diagnosed in house finches in the U.S. from the east coast to most of the states east of the Rocky Mountains since the winter of 1993-94.

The disease has also been identified in several free-flying species: American goldfinch in Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee, purple finch in New York, and evening grosbeak and pine grosbeak in Quebec, Canada.

A captive Blue jay, which was placed in a cage previously occupied by an infected finch, contracted the disease also.

Here in Michigan, conjunctivitis due to M. gallisepticum has been found in at least 25 different species of birds, and many states and provinces want you to report symptoms in birds other than House finches.


Mycoplasmosis is a highly transmissible disease and is transmitted in house finches and other passerine birds via ocular discharge (eye).

The disease is most commonly spread at bird feeders and at roost sites. M. gallisepticum does not survive outside the body for any length of time.

Transmission usually occurs when large flocks feed or roost closely together and the organism is spread via the eye secretions to neighboring birds.

Tube style bird feeders are the most likely type of feeder to allow transmission because eye secretions from a diseased bird can be rubbed on the feeder opening and other birds feeding in that opening can then acquire the bacteria.

(Whisper of wings in the snow.)

Eye lesions develop within 12 weeks of exposure.

Infected finches are responsible for spreading this disease because they move between bird feeders and to other areas during migration.

No known natural transmission has occurred between house finches and domestic poultry.

The disease has been transmitted experimentally to both chickens and turkeys although an extended exposure time to the infected house finches was required.

Severe air sac infections developed in both the chickens and turkeys.

In poultry, transmission occurs by direct contact, air-borne respiratory droplets, dust (dried fecal material), contaminated equipment and via eggs.

Clinical Signs:

Pay attention now.

Clinical signs observed in wild avian species with mycoplasmosis are red, swollen eyelids and conjunctival tissue (mucous membrane covering the anterior surface of the eyeball) with a clear ocular discharge.

The condition can become more severe resulting in extreme swelling of the eyelid and conjunctiva, crust formation along the eyelid margins resulting in ulcerations on the cornea and purulent discharge and loss of sight.

Inflammation of the sinuses may occur resulting in discharge flowing from the nares.

The birds may also display wet, matted feathers on the face (especially around the eyes), fluffed body feathers, inactivity (sitting on the ground and remaining at feeders after other birds have left), weight loss, loss of appetite and death due to starvation, exposure or predation.

Domestic poultry display respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge. They are lethargic, stop feeding and undergo severe weight loss. In turkeys, the sinus under the eye becomes swollen.


Mycoplasmosis in wild songbirds causes conjunctivitis and rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane) with associated hyperplasia (increase in the number of cells) of lymphoid (lymph tissue) and epithelial (skin surface) tissues.

Occasionally keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and tracheitis (inflammation of the lining membrane of the trachea) occurs.

Once domestic birds are infected, they remain carriers for life, if they manage to survive.


In order to confirm a diagnosis of mycoplasmosis it is necessary to identify the causative organism.

The organism can be isolated from the conjunctiva or the infraorbital sinus of sick or fresh dead birds.

The organism is one of the most difficult to isolate because it has specific growth requirements, has an intimate dependence on the host species it colonizes, and grows slowly (may take 2 to 3 weeks to grow) on artificial media.

There are other techniques that may be used to confirm the presence of M. gallisepticum:

Direct Immunofluorescence on agar media, Polymerase Chain Reaction (antibodies to M. gallisepticum) and Rapid Plate Agglutination (serum antibodies to M. gallisepticum).

A recent study (2001) found Polymerase Chain Reaction to be more sensitive than culturing in the detection of M. gallisepticum and samples did not need to be as fresh.

(Vole or mouse tunnel under the snow.)


There is no recommended treatment of birds exhibiting clinical signs consistent with mycoplasmosis.

The concern in prescribing antibiotic treatment of the birds is that it may result in further spread of the disease and an asymptomatic carrier state, with the potential release of birds with organisms that have acquired antimicrobial resistance.

This has often resulted from the treatment of domestic poultry.

Some rehabilitators have treated M. gallisepticum infected birds and have successfully eliminated the infection, but long term topical and systemic antibiotic treatment was necessary.

Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is highly transmissible and it is possible that the infection could be transferred to other bird species housed nearby.

If treatment is given, 3 antibiotics must be administered simultaneously:

Oxytetracycline hydrochloride with polymyxin B sulfate eye ointment daily in both eyes.

Tetracycline systemic antibiotic given orally twice daily for 14 days.

Tylosin tartrate in the drinking water until release.


If mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is observed in birds in a residential area, there are various methods of control which need to be instituted immediately.

Infected birds should be collected and humanely euthanized.

If it is not possible to collect the diseased birds, encourage them to disperse and minimize contact with other birds by eliminating feeding sites.

Bird feeders prolong the life of infected birds that otherwise would be unable to feed.

Bird feeders need to be cleaned with a 10% bleach solution and not be put back up for at least 2 weeks.

To be more organic, I use ' Oxygen Bleach ' A concentrated, granular form of Hydrogen Peroxide.

Oxygen bleach, cleans deep and all materials.

It's bubbles clean deep and any residue is harmless and wont degrade the materials of your feeders like bleach will do over time.

It may take longer, but is so much better for you and our environment.

(Turkey Tracks.)

Another bonus to Oxygen bleach. Spills or splashes wont ruin the colors of your cloths.

Fecal droppings and old wasted or moldy seeds and hulls should be raked and removed from under feeders.

Tube feeders should not be used because of the ease with which surfaces can be contaminated by infected birds feeding.

The best way to prevent overcrowding birds is to not supplementally feed them.

(Yeah Right).

Availability of food will result in birds congregating and make disease transmission easier.

Restricting contact between wild birds and domestic poultry by excluding free-flying wild birds from farms is an effective measure and should be part of any farm's biosecurity policy.


Mycoplasmosis is not a threat to human health.

In house finches, dramatic drops in populations have been observed within 2-3 years following the beginning of an epidemic.

The population stabilized at approximately 40% of its previous abundance.

In domestic poultry and captive reared game birds it can be a significant mortality factor.

There you have it.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, start thinking of things you look forward to about spring or maybe a favorite or two.

Now, here is your thought for the week.

Two for the price of one today.

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to live the width of it as well.

Diane Ackerman

The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

Jack London

Two quotes from two different people, that say pretty much the same thing.

I don't simply want to live a long life, what fun is that?

What fun is it to out live everyone I know and have no memories or nothing else to share with new friends.

I want to live everyday to the fullest.

I want a day chock full of living.

I want it so wide, I can't wait for tomorrow do get at life and living again.

Don't get me wrong.........................

I want a long life too, but what good is it to out live everyone and not really live?

Don't you want full days?

Don't you want to look forward to another day?

Long days or long lives can be full of mundane or full of living.

Life and experience......................

You can be dirt poor, but live a full and happy life.

You can be wealthy and not really live at all.

Your to busy counting your money or to worried that someone is out there to get you.

Living is stretching your comfort zone.

Challanging yourself.

Really living.

I'm not talking about jumping out of a perfectly good air plane (many do that) or going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

I'm referring to life and living.

Caring for others.

Sharing with others

Helping others.

Helping to make a life for another does indeed make living more full for you and me.

God will see to that (his laws).

When you go to bed, you may be tired, yet satisfied yet, you can't wait to do it all over again, or maybe a bit different.

I have many days like that, but I want more, how about you?

Live, love, laugh.

Live a wide day

Love a full day.

Laugh all day.

Dare to be different.

Now that is living a wide life and that is worth a smile.

Smile and be sure to share it.

Smiles are a simple way to share and help others.

Smiles are a universal language.

Live long.

Love wide.

Laugh smiling.

Until next time my friend.

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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