Saturday, December 26, 2015

House Finch

We don’t see many House Finches at our feeders. House Finches are famous for their explosive range expansion in 1994. Escaped captive birds from New York took over most of eastern North America. This “explosion” caused an outbreak of mycoplasmosis—bird pox—that left individuals blind and crippled. Since the outbreak, birds have developed resistance to the disease and populations have rebounded.

On 1 December 2015, this male House Finch appeared at our feeder. It was sick, although it did not seem to have bird pox. When not eating, the bird spent most of its time preening its feathers. Studies show a high correlation of mite infestation with various bird diseases and parasites. In California, 85% of birds with pox also had mites. In Wisconsin, fecal tests yielded at least 13 species of parasites, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Bacillus (Badyaev et al. 2012). At least a few mites infected most of the 305 birds in this study. After reading these accounts, I ran to the pharmacy and bought Clorox wipes to wash my hands after bird banding.

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