Monday, November 12, 2007

House Finch Conjunctivitis, John Blakeman, and Whooping Cranes.


A Male House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, bright eyed and seemingly healthy. That is if the scuzzy stuff below his eye is feeding debris and not bits of matter from his eye
My apologies for not being more clear about bird conjunctivitis for those who were unaware of it or didn't know what it looked like. And thank you to reader Marian Anderson for pointing that out.


Here's a closer look at our guy. The eye is clear as is the skin around the eye. There is no matter staining and gumming his feathers together around the eye. Remember having "Pink Eye" as a kid? Same deal only the human version. (Trivia Bit: Humans can transfer their pink eye to their cats.)

This female House Finch has Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. At the moment her left eye is gooed shut, though that is not always the case. The slit of the eye is just before the bird's head goes out of frame. Sorry about the photo. She was keeping her good eye towards me most of the time in order to make sure I didn't get too close so the diseased eye was tough to document.

Here she is from the other side. Note the feathers sticking up stiffly on the top of her head. The matter spreads into feathers and makes them stick together, that's a clue to investigate further.
Goldfinch are also quite susceptible to the disease. Some other species of Finches are less susceptible.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been running a Citizen Science project for some years tracing the geographic progress of the disease, collecting numbers on sick birds, and collecting survival statistics from people who note the disease at their feeders. Their site is extremely helpful and informative.
If you see a sick bird, it is well worth your time, in hopes of understanding the disease, to report your sightings to Cornell.
Here's their Blurb---
"The House Finch Disease Survey is an unprecedented opportunity for you to help researchers track the spread of an infectious disease in a wildlife population. The survey is easy to do: participants record the visits of House Finches and American Goldfinches at their feeders and the occurrence of diseased birds, and then send their data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In doing so, they help scientists document the occurrence and spread of mycoplasmal conjunctivitis in the United States and Canada (view map showing the prevalence of the disease since it was first observed). Your observations are needed so that we may better understand this avian disease. "
Also on Cornell's site are photos of House Finch with bad cases of the disease for those who wish to investigate further and educate themselves. I did not publish the photos of the bird that was very ill in my area and did die. They aren't for the sensitive. I tried to catch her to try and nurse her through the disease but she was able to fly to the end. Birds can live through the disease. It doesn't always kill them. It is the lack of ability to compete for food and care for themselves that can lead to their demise beyond the infection itself.
WHAT YOU CAN DO BEYOND REPORTING CASES OF CONJUNCTIVITIS--
Disinfect your feeders and bird baths very frequently. I clean my bird bath daily with vinegar, a scrub brush, and lots of water. I was cleaning the feeders once a week, and now do it every other day. I throw the feeders into the heavy duty cycle of the dishwasher at night and then hang them again the next day.
If disease becomes too endemic some suggest removing feeders for awhile and dispersing the flock. I've always wondered about that because wouldn't that just send sick birds to the neighbor's feeders where more birds may be infected? So far cleanliness has kept things from going that far in past years.

And from John Blakeman who did research on the seasonal caloric demand of Kestrel's in his salad days--
Just great birds, however small. Their personalities are not so small.

Today in Ohio, we have only a fraction of the kestrels of three decades ago. Cooper's hawks are really nailing them. Glad you got those superb photos.

And that's exactly how kestrels eat a vole. They consume it very slowly, in small bites. If they get filled up, they will often take the uneaten remains and cache them in a tree or on a pole top somewhere, to be eaten the next day.
I was pleased to get collaboration from Mr. Blakeman about Kestrels and the stashing of food. Therefore perhaps when Mr. Kestrel took off with his retrieved vole yesterday on my last sighting of him, he wasn't going off to eat it but rather perhaps he was going to stash it in the still leafed tree.
I've inquired as to why Cooper's seem to be taking more Kestrels than they did previously. We'll see if John has a theory.

Also, something I failed to notice yesterday about the Kestrel's ploy to hide his lunch. Yes he's scrunched down on it, but he's also spread his tail to further obscure the vole. Check the photo above.

And from wonderful blog reader and contributor Karen Anne Kolling--some delightful links so you'll be able to follow the progress of the Whooping Crane migration.

Short video of baby whoopers learning to migrate:

Where they are today on map:

Daily journal of migration:
Donegal Browne

1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I think Marie Winn's web site had a note from John Blakeman awhile back saying that the Coopers' population had increased, due to bird feeders attracting prey.