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Cutaneous form of avian pox (1 Viewer)

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
In June 2016, I had a juvenile male Anna's hummingbird who I thought might have cutaneous avian pox. It's a contagious disease that causes warty growths on unfeathered areas of birds, like feet, base of beak, around the eyes. Initially, I noticed him because his beak was unusually rough and thickened. I learned about avian pox when I was searching for info about what the cause might be.
In case cutaneous avian pox was the bird's problem, at that time I began a regimen of dunking all my feeder parts into a mild bleach solution during every other cleaning (and I clean the feeders every other day).
Today, I saw another bird who is definitely showing some very small warty growths on his upper legs - they look a little like tiny cauliflowers. So, I did a bit more reading about the cutaneous form of avian pox. It can spread if any of the growths have open spots or scabs that break off, with the virus that is in the lymph fluid inside the growths getting onto feeder perches and ports, then transferring to other birds who use those perches and feeder ports. The virus can also be transmitted by mosquitos, but those aren't a problem around here.
Apparently hummingbirds can survive with cutaneous avian pox for quite some time. The bad news is that the growths on the feet can increase to the point where the birds can't perch or if they're around the beak or eyes, they can't feed or see properly. On the other hand, it can progress very slowly or even regress if the warty growths dry up, scab up and then the scabs fall off, leaving behind scar tissue with no virus left. This form of avian pox is sometimes called "dry" avian pox.
I'm going to be doing the bleach dunks now every single time I clean the feeders every other day, now. A 10% bleach solution is recommended. My protocol is to clean the feeder parts (every part, including bottles!) in hot running water, first. Then I dunk all the parts into the bleach solution for a minute, along with the brushes and tools I use to clean the feeders with. Finally, I scrub the heck out of the feeder parts with a few drops of dish detergent and then rinse repeatedly with the hottest water I can manage until there is absolutely no scent of bleach left. The brushes and tools I just rinse with hot water for a minute or two.
I'm hoping that will be enough, although I'll start cleaning the feeders every day, if I decide I need to.
The best way of stopping the disease from spreading is to take down the feeders, but every other house on the street has feeders out. I can only try to prevent those birds who mostly spend their time in my yard from getting the disease. Although, I am thinking about making up a flyer about the disease, how to recognize it and combat it and distributing the flyer around my short street and the street behind me - I do see my birds fly over my back wall to those houses or birds from there come to my yard.
The first hummer who I thought might have avian pox is still around. I just saw him yesterday and he looks pretty good. He was possibly six months old when I first saw him and he now has all his adult plumage. Beak is still rough and thick, although the tip has smoothed down a little, but I didn't see any warty growths on him.
Oddly enough, I noticed the growths on the second bird today because he's broken the tip off his upper beak and I shot a couple of close-up photos of him. Saw the tiny warty growths on his upper feet when I got the photos up on the computer.
I'll be paying even more attention to all the birds at my feeders from now on, watching for other birds who show signs of avian pox.
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Would you please upload and share a photo so we know what to look for.
Thanks.

I should mention first that I've changed my mind about the sex of the bird in question! I originally ID'd her as male partly because of the large size of the throat patch. But there was still no sign of incipient adult iridescent feathers anywhere else on the head when I saw her last, 3 days ago, so I am now referring to her as "female". The other reason I originally ID'd her as male is because she behaves more aggressively towards other hummers than females usually do here in my yard where there are multiple feeders within close proximity of each other. On the other hand, it's nesting season and the girls ARE more combative over food sources than they are at other times of the year. There is a hummer feeder just across the garden walkway from the rose tree this one was perched in. Any self-appointed Guardian of that feeder normally spends a lot of their time perching in the rose tree while guarding the feeder.

If anyone can confirm sex one way or another, I'd appreciate it.

Now, photos. I just started on this site, and have not posted photos before. But I will try! ...(time out)... Okay, according to the "preview post" thingie, this should work, but I uploaded the photos in reverse order from how I intended them to appear. Wanted the whole bird first, then the close-up. Ah, well.

In the enlargement of her feet, see the pale little cauliflower growths on her legs and the top of the claws on the right? Those are the lymphatic-fluid filled growths that harbor the cutaneous avian pox virus. Although, I would be extremely happy for an avian expert to tell me I am wrong in my ID of the growths.

I've been paying a lot of attention to other hummingbirds' feet since I first saw this bird. I check birds' feet through my camera when I see them perching on the feeders and leaning forward to drink. I can usually see the feet fairly well, then, not so much when they are perched on branches in the shrubs; it's been cold and wet here and they're hunching themselves into little balls of fluff when they are resting on branches, so their feet are often hidden by belly feathers. I have not seen another bird with these growths, so far.

But, in addition to my bleach-sterilizing my feeders when I clean them, I am also wiping all the perches down a couple of times a day with alcohol wipes now, since I still see my afflicted bird around regularly. According to my former AF medic/fire department paramedic housemate, the alcohol evaporates completely within a minute and leaves no residue. Based on her medically educated opinion, I might just change to sterilizing all the feeders' plastic base parts with a dunk in alcohol rather than the bleach solution - it requires a LOT more scrubbing and rinsing to get rid of the bleach smell.
 

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deidrahall

Birdacious
Thank you so much for sharing this very important information to us all here! I too reside in So. Calif. The high desert and I get lots of Anna's at my feeder. I've been cleaning it with vinegar. Didn't know what else to use. I will be on the look out for this avian pox.
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Thank you so much for sharing this very important information to us all here! I too reside in So. Calif. The high desert and I get lots of Anna's at my feeder. I've been cleaning it with vinegar. Didn't know what else to use. I will be on the look out for this avian pox.

Hi, Deidra,

I'm on the coast, southwest of you. Nice to "meet" you! Hopefully, you will not see any signs of this disease in your hummers there.

I have changed my hummer feeder sterilizing regimen slightly because the bleach-sterilizing is a PAIN and it's very time consuming. I learned that rubbing alcohol and dishwashing detergent both affect viruses in a way that prevents them from infecting healthy cells - has something to do with hardening the virus cell walls so they can't poke their way into a healthy cell and stick their own material into it to spread the disease.

So, I backed off on bleach-sterilizing to once a week. Instead, every day or two (no longer than that) when I clean feeders, I scrub all the plastic base parts with dishwashing detergent (Dawn, specifically), rinse thoroughly with hot water and let dry. Then I use cotton swabs and pads to wipe the ports and perches with rubbing alcohol and let everything dry again. Alcohol evaporates very rapidly and leaves NO residue behind, not even a smell. If I have any doubt that there might be a drop of alcohol remaining in a port or crevice, I rinse the parts with hot water. I refill the feeders and hang 'em back up.

Additionally, I wipe down the perches on all the feeders in the morning and later afternoon with an alcohol-soaked cotton pad. The alcohol evaporates in less than 30 seconds outdoors. That takes all of ten minutes to do, twice a day. The good news is that the UV rays in direct sunlight also does a number on viruses. This time of year, 3 of my feeders only get 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight a day and one gets none at all for another month or two - hence wiping the perches with alcohol in the morning and mid-afternoon.

Also, if you use your dishwasher a lot, you can put the feeder parts in the top dishwasher rack for a hot water/heated dry cycle. The heat will kill the viruses. I don't use my dishwasher often, so I have not done this.

I've been going through the few hundred photos I've taken of hummers since I started photographing them last June, looking at feet, eyes and beaks for signs of the disease. I saw nothing to worry about, at least until last Sunday when I was checking photos I'd taken that day. One of the female hummers claws was oddly white-tipped. Then, two days later, I saw the same female and took another couple of photos of her. One of those clearly showed the same claw as being thickened and bubbly-looking, but darker in color, not white like the "cauliflower" bubbly growths that the bird I call "Broken Beak" has. I believe this second hummer also has the disease, but that it might be in a stage of regression for her - the growths could be drying out, shrinking and becoming un-infectious. Or so I hope, anyway.

Now, if I can remember how I posted the other photos... okay, there they go. The first one is the white-tipped claw (second claw from front) that caused me concern but you can't make out the rest of the claw clearly. In the second photo, that same claw is up higher because of the stem of the perch; you can see how thick and bumpy that claw is and a teensy bit of the white tip.

I'll keep looking out for this bird to see how it goes with her. While I hated seeing this, I'm actually a bit relieved that this IS only the second hummer that I have seen with the issue, out of the large numbers of hummers going back and forth between my yard and neighboring yards. It's kind of crazy, how many hummers there are around here, but there is so much in bloom because of the rains and lots of the neighbors have feeders, too.

I've not seen Broken Beak since late last week, but will keep my eye out for her, as well, to see if the disease is noticeably progressing in her.
 

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deidrahall

Birdacious
Hi, Deidra,

I'm on the coast, southwest of you. Nice to "meet" you! Hopefully, you will not see any signs of this disease in your hummers there.

I have changed my hummer feeder sterilizing regimen slightly because the bleach-sterilizing is a PAIN and it's very time consuming. I learned that rubbing alcohol and dishwashing detergent both affect viruses in a way that prevents them from infecting healthy cells - has something to do with hardening the virus cell walls so they can't poke their way into a healthy cell and stick their own material into it to spread the disease.

So, I backed off on bleach-sterilizing to once a week. Instead, every day or two (no longer than that) when I clean feeders, I scrub all the plastic base parts with dishwashing detergent (Dawn, specifically), rinse thoroughly with hot water and let dry. Then I use cotton swabs and pads to wipe the ports and perches with rubbing alcohol and let everything dry again. Alcohol evaporates very rapidly and leaves NO residue behind, not even a smell. If I have any doubt that there might be a drop of alcohol remaining in a port or crevice, I rinse the parts with hot water. I refill the feeders and hang 'em back up.

Additionally, I wipe down the perches on all the feeders in the morning and later afternoon with an alcohol-soaked cotton pad. The alcohol evaporates in less than 30 seconds outdoors. That takes all of ten minutes to do, twice a day. The good news is that the UV rays in direct sunlight also does a number on viruses. This time of year, 3 of my feeders only get 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight a day and one gets none at all for another month or two - hence wiping the perches with alcohol in the morning and mid-afternoon.

Also, if you use your dishwasher a lot, you can put the feeder parts in the top dishwasher rack for a hot water/heated dry cycle. The heat will kill the viruses. I don't use my dishwasher often, so I have not done this.

I've been going through the few hundred photos I've taken of hummers since I started photographing them last June, looking at feet, eyes and beaks for signs of the disease. I saw nothing to worry about, at least until last Sunday when I was checking photos I'd taken that day. One of the female hummers claws was oddly white-tipped. Then, two days later, I saw the same female and took another couple of photos of her. One of those clearly showed the same claw as being thickened and bubbly-looking, but darker in color, not white like the "cauliflower" bubbly growths that the bird I call "Broken Beak" has. I believe this second hummer also has the disease, but that it might be in a stage of regression for her - the growths could be drying out, shrinking and becoming un-infectious. Or so I hope, anyway.

Now, if I can remember how I posted the other photos... okay, there they go. The first one is the white-tipped claw (second claw from front) that caused me concern but you can't make out the rest of the claw clearly. In the second photo, that same claw is up higher because of the stem of the perch; you can see how thick and bumpy that claw is and a teensy bit of the white tip.

I'll keep looking out for this bird to see how it goes with her. While I hated seeing this, I'm actually a bit relieved that this IS only the second hummer that I have seen with the issue, out of the large numbers of hummers going back and forth between my yard and neighboring yards. It's kind of crazy, how many hummers there are around here, but there is so much in bloom because of the rains and lots of the neighbors have feeders, too.

I've not seen Broken Beak since late last week, but will keep my eye out for her, as well, to see if the disease is noticeably progressing in her.

Thank you again SoCalHummerLady! Very important info here! I also only put in half the amount of nector during the summer time because I have to clean out the feeder so often. That way I'm not waisting so much food for them. I keep it stored in a few containers in the fridge.

I also learned some years back to make my own nector for the Hummers. 2 cups boiling water to 1 cup sugar ;) Which I'm sure you already know about.

Let me ask you this.... do you ever get the Rufus Humming Birds in that area? Up here I've only seen the Anna's. I know some have reported the Rufus in San Diego.
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Thank you again SoCalHummerLady! Very important info here! I also only put in half the amount of nector during the summer time because I have to clean out the feeder so often. That way I'm not waisting so much food for them. I keep it stored in a few containers in the fridge.

I also learned some years back to make my own nector for the Hummers. 2 cups boiling water to 1 cup sugar ;) Which I'm sure you already know about.

Let me ask you this.... do you ever get the Rufus Humming Birds in that area? Up here I've only seen the Anna's. I know some have reported the Rufus in San Diego.

De nada, Deidra.

I'm sure it's a challenge having hummer feeders in the high desert, where it gets much colder in the winter and so much hotter in the summer than here. I'm betting you will see loads of juvenile and adult birds this spring and early summer, though, because plants will be blooming around your area more than any time the past 3 or 4 years due to the decent amount of rain we've had.

Like you, I make my own nectar and store it in the fridge 'til I need it. I make my nectar less rich than you do, though. 1/4 cup cane sugar to 1 cup water is what I have seen recommended the most; that is about the same level of sweetness that they get from flower nectar, so those are the proportions I use. You could make your sugar go farther by backing off on how much you use in the nectar and it won't bother the birds a bit - in fact, they'll just come to your feeders more frequently if they need more nectar to keep up their energy levels.

I vary the amount I put in my 4 feeders all year long, depending on how much the birds are going through in a 2-day period. Last summer, I was going through 6 to 7 cups of nectar a DAY... right now, it's down to around 4 to 5 cups over 2 days. As the new batches of babies start coming out of their nests and becoming independent of their moms over the next few months, the rate of nectar consumption will skyrocket again.

Honestly, I have trouble telling the difference between Allen's and Rufous hummers - the best way to ID them is to see their tail being flared widely, because the Rufous' tail is a little different from the Allen's. If I've seen Rufous in my yard, I didn't know it for sure! I always have a number of Allen's and lots of Anna's. Last summer, I had several Black-chinned juveniles and females (they were fun, such tiny little things) but never caught sight of an adult male. I also had a Calliope male and a female or two.

Rufous are seen in the LA and San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys region in the suburbs and mountains up to 6000 feet... you might be just outside their range right where you are, but you could probably see them in the hills on your side of the San Gabriel mountains. You ARE in the Black-chinned's summer range, as well as the Calliope's range. Look up photos of them, both juveniles and adults, on the internet (just search Google images) so that you will be able to ID them if you see them. I do that all the time when I am making sure I am ID-ing the birds in my photos properly. Unless they are Anna's - those I know!
 

deidrahall

Birdacious
De nada, Deidra.

I'm sure it's a challenge having hummer feeders in the high desert, where it gets much colder in the winter and so much hotter in the summer than here. I'm betting you will see loads of juvenile and adult birds this spring and early summer, though, because plants will be blooming around your area more than any time the past 3 or 4 years due to the decent amount of rain we've had.

Like you, I make my own nectar and store it in the fridge 'til I need it. I make my nectar less rich than you do, though. 1/4 cup cane sugar to 1 cup water is what I have seen recommended the most; that is about the same level of sweetness that they get from flower nectar, so those are the proportions I use. You could make your sugar go farther by backing off on how much you use in the nectar and it won't bother the birds a bit - in fact, they'll just come to your feeders more frequently if they need more nectar to keep up their energy levels.

I vary the amount I put in my 4 feeders all year long, depending on how much the birds are going through in a 2-day period. Last summer, I was going through 6 to 7 cups of nectar a DAY... right now, it's down to around 4 to 5 cups over 2 days. As the new batches of babies start coming out of their nests and becoming independent of their moms over the next few months, the rate of nectar consumption will skyrocket again.

Honestly, I have trouble telling the difference between Allen's and Rufous hummers - the best way to ID them is to see their tail being flared widely, because the Rufous' tail is a little different from the Allen's. If I've seen Rufous in my yard, I didn't know it for sure! I always have a number of Allen's and lots of Anna's. Last summer, I had several Black-chinned juveniles and females (they were fun, such tiny little things) but never caught sight of an adult male. I also had a Calliope male and a female or two.

Rufous are seen in the LA and San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys region in the suburbs and mountains up to 6000 feet... you might be just outside their range right where you are, but you could probably see them in the hills on your side of the San Gabriel mountains. You ARE in the Black-chinned's summer range, as well as the Calliope's range. Look up photos of them, both juveniles and adults, on the internet (just search Google images) so that you will be able to ID them if you see them. I do that all the time when I am making sure I am ID-ing the birds in my photos properly. Unless they are Anna's - those I know!


You should create a new post regarding the nectar measurements. I had no idea there was another "probably better" recipe for them. Makes sense to have the homemade nectar as close to the flower nectar. Thanks!

Oh you would not believe the hummers up here. They are still fighting over the feeders in the middle of February. I need to put up some more feeders by spring "my goal". Here's a picture of "Grumpy" that I took one winter. He's sitting and guarding the feeder hehe. They are tough little buggers. And my nectar didn't freeze either, go figure.
 

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SoCalHummerLady

Active member
You should create a new post regarding the nectar measurements. I had no idea there was another "probably better" recipe for them. Makes sense to have the homemade nectar as close to the flower nectar. Thanks!

Oh you would not believe the hummers up here. They are still fighting over the feeders in the middle of February. I need to put up some more feeders by spring "my goal". Here's a picture of "Grumpy" that I took one winter. He's sitting and guarding the feeder hehe. They are tough little buggers. And my nectar didn't freeze either, go figure.

Oh, pretty feeder, Deidra!

The Anna's are nesting so competition for resources is fierce. The boys are always grumpy, but even the girls are pretty aggressive right now. I watched a female chase a male off the feeder by my window a short time ago. Yes, they are tough little birds!

Give it another month, and the first batches of babies will be out of the nests. They'll continued to be fed by their moms for a couple more weeks after fledging, then the moms will start taking them around and showing them where they can get nectar, both from flowers and feeders. Last year, I first started seeing lots of juvenile hummers at my feeders by May. I already had 3 feeders up then but put a 4th one up out by the front door around that time.

It's going to be fun hummer-watching times for you when you have added feeders in the spring!

Meanwhile, if you want to watch hummer eggs hatch and babies grow, there's a lady who runs live webcams on a feeder and a nest out in the San Gabriel Valley. She has had feeder and nest webcams for years. You can easily find her "Bella Hummingbird" web cams on Facebook and Youtube as well as a web cam site called explore.org - just google "Bella Hummingbird".

I access the hummer cams through explore.org. Explore.org has numerous wildlife web cams (some only active during certain times of the year) with comment forums. You don't need to register on explore.org to watch the cams, only if you want to comment on the forums (but you can read them without commenting yourself). The commenters on the Bella Hummingbird forum are particularly nice and friendly.
 

deidrahall

Birdacious
Thank you for Bella Humming Bird

Oh, pretty feeder, Deidra!

The Anna's are nesting so competition for resources is fierce. The boys are always grumpy, but even the girls are pretty aggressive right now. I watched a female chase a male off the feeder by my window a short time ago. Yes, they are tough little birds!

Give it another month, and the first batches of babies will be out of the nests. They'll continued to be fed by their moms for a couple more weeks after fledging, then the moms will start taking them around and showing them where they can get nectar, both from flowers and feeders. Last year, I first started seeing lots of juvenile hummers at my feeders by May. I already had 3 feeders up then but put a 4th one up out by the front door around that time.

It's going to be fun hummer-watching times for you when you have added feeders in the spring!

Meanwhile, if you want to watch hummer eggs hatch and babies grow, there's a lady who runs live webcams on a feeder and a nest out in the San Gabriel Valley. She has had feeder and nest webcams for years. You can easily find her "Bella Hummingbird" web cams on Facebook and Youtube as well as a web cam site called explore.org - just google "Bella Hummingbird".

I access the hummer cams through explore.org. Explore.org has numerous wildlife web cams (some only active during certain times of the year) with comment forums. You don't need to register on explore.org to watch the cams, only if you want to comment on the forums (but you can read them without commenting yourself). The commenters on the Bella Hummingbird forum are particularly nice and friendly.

Thanks for sharing about "Bella Humming Bird"! And Explore.org. Both really cool sites ;) So far all the hummers I've gotten a chance to check out all seem to be pretty healthy. Been shopping online for my additional feeder for spring. Just have to figure out where I want to hang it.

Have a wonderful week. Looks like the rest of it should be dry ;)
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Thanks for sharing about "Bella Humming Bird"! And Explore.org. Both really cool sites ;) So far all the hummers I've gotten a chance to check out all seem to be pretty healthy. Been shopping online for my additional feeder for spring. Just have to figure out where I want to hang it.

Have a wonderful week. Looks like the rest of it should be dry ;)

Hey, Deidra!

Unfortunately, I realized after posting that Bella Hummingbird's first two babies had just fledged, so they aren't in the nest now (they were the mama bird called Rosie's babies). But, the good news is that both Rosie and another hummingbird, Bella, like to make nests in that ficus tree and Rosie, at least, should nest at least twice more before the baby hummer season is over.

Check back on that web cam site for news of new nest-building, at which time the camera will be repositioned to follow it.

Drizzling here all day, with more showers for us for a couple of days, but then sun! YES!
 

deidrahall

Birdacious
Hey, Deidra!

Unfortunately, I realized after posting that Bella Hummingbird's first two babies had just fledged, so they aren't in the nest now (they were the mama bird called Rosie's babies). But, the good news is that both Rosie and another hummingbird, Bella, like to make nests in that ficus tree and Rosie, at least, should nest at least twice more before the baby hummer season is over.

Check back on that web cam site for news of new nest-building, at which time the camera will be repositioned to follow it.

Drizzling here all day, with more showers for us for a couple of days, but then sun! YES!

That's okay there were no babies to see. Just to see another hummer other then a Anna's was cool. I would give anything to see a Allen's up here in the high desert. Even when I go down the street to Mojave Narrows Regional Park I only see Anna's. I'm holding out :Dhehe. I did get to see a Yellow Rumped Warbler at my suet feeder which was amazing! Only one though. A female.

I just saw rain again for this weekend. Isn't it great! Say goodbye to the drought.
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
That's okay there were no babies to see. Just to see another hummer other then a Anna's was cool. I would give anything to see a Allen's up here in the high desert. Even when I go down the street to Mojave Narrows Regional Park I only see Anna's. I'm holding out :Dhehe. I did get to see a Yellow Rumped Warbler at my suet feeder which was amazing! Only one though. A female.

I just saw rain again for this weekend. Isn't it great! Say goodbye to the drought.

Well, I can't make the Allen's come visit you, but I can show you the male Allen's that is currently hanging out in the rose tree across from the feeder by my window. Allen's can be skittish, and it was drizzling at the time (tiny drops of water can be seen on his head in these pix), so I simply opened the window VERY quietly and shot the photos through the open window.

The Allen's male has been trying to guard the feeder since yesterday, but there's an Anna's female who has also been hanging out in the rose tree for just as long and drinking from the feeder. She has refused to be intimidated by him and simply ignores the Allen's when he has the nerve to chitter at her.

I did have a finch feeder hanging up for a long time and a small flock of resident finches. Then hawks started predating on the finches, so it's just hummer feeders, now.
 

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Hummingbird Market

Active member
Report of laboratory-diagnosed avian poxvirus infection in a hummingbird.

I know this is an unpopular topic but it is truly sad to see sick birds.

Humans who feed hummingbirds can be one of the first steps where pathogen transmission can be decreased by instituting proper preventive measures such as diligent hummingbird feeder cleaning. It is recommended to use a 50/50 vinegar/ water ratio to eliminate molds and bacteria. Detergents and soaps are not suggested at they leave a residue.

Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Loreto A. Godoy, Lisa S. Dalbeck, Lisa A. Tell, Leslie W. Woods, Rita R. Colwell, Barbara Robinson, Susan M. Wethington, Anneke Moresco, Peter R. Woolcock, and Holly B. Ernest (2013)

Characterization of avian poxvirus in Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) in California, USA Journal of Wildlife Diseases: October 2013, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 978-985.

ABSTRACT
Avian poxvirus (genus Avipoxvirus, family Poxviridae) is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus that may be transmitted to birds by arthropod vectors or mucosal membrane contact with infectious particles. We characterized the infection in Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna; n = 5 birds, n = 9 lesions) by conducting diagnostic tests on skin lesions that were visually similar to avian poxvirus lesions in other bird species. Skin lesions were single or multiple, dry and firm, pink to yellow, with scabs on the surface, and located at the base of the bill, wings, or legs. Microscopically, the lesions were characterized by epidermal hyperplasia and necrosis with ballooning degeneration, and intracytoplasmic inclusions (Bollinger bodies) in keratinocytes. The 4b core gene sequence of avian poxvirus was detected by PCR in samples prepared from lesions. Nucleotide sequences were 75–94% similar to the sequences of other published avian poxvirus sequences. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the Anna's Hummingbird poxvirus sequence was distinguished as a unique subclade showing similarities with sequences isolated from Ostrich (Struthio camelus), Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), falcons (Falco spp.), Black-browed Albatross (Diomedea melanophris), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

To our knowledge this is the first published report of definitive laboratory diagnosis of avian poxvirus in a hummingbird. Our results advance the science of disease ecology in hummingbirds, providing management information for banders, wildlife rehabilitators, and avian biologists.

IN THE DISCUSSION
Under natural conditions, most hummingbirds are typically territorial birds living primarily solitary lives (Buskirk, 1976; Hilton and Miller, 2003). They depend on flowering resources that are unlikely to act as a source of avian poxvirus infection. Urbanization and the resulting increase in exotic flowers and bird feeding stations have been correlated with higher density and diversity of hummingbirds in urban and suburban areas (Arizmendi et al., 2007; Clark and Russell, 2012). Increased hummingbird density might enhance the transmission of avian poxviruses, as has been suggested for other bird species (van Riper and Forrester, 2007). The presence of cultivated exotic flowers and hummingbird feeders has been associated with changes in Anna's Hummingbird geographic distribution in North America (Clark and Russell, 2012). Bird feeders could increase the fomite risk of pathogen transmission, as has been shown for other bird species (Hartup et al., 1998; Robb et al., 2008).

Report of laboratory-diagnosed avian poxvirus infection in a hummingbird.
http://www.jwildlifedis.org/doi/abs/10.7589/2012-09-230






Douglas y Cynthia
Tucson
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Report of laboratory-diagnosed avian poxvirus infection in a hummingbird.

I know this is an unpopular topic but it is truly sad to see sick birds.

Humans who feed hummingbirds can be one of the first steps where pathogen transmission can be decreased by instituting proper preventive measures such as diligent hummingbird feeder cleaning. It is recommended to use a 50/50 vinegar/ water ratio to eliminate molds and bacteria. Detergents and soaps are not suggested at they leave a residue.

Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Loreto A. Godoy, Lisa S. Dalbeck, Lisa A. Tell, Leslie W. Woods, Rita R. Colwell, Barbara Robinson, Susan M. Wethington, Anneke Moresco, Peter R. Woolcock, and Holly B. Ernest (2013)

Characterization of avian poxvirus in Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) in California, USA Journal of Wildlife Diseases: October 2013, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 978-985.

ABSTRACT
Avian poxvirus (genus Avipoxvirus, family Poxviridae) is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus that may be transmitted to birds by arthropod vectors or mucosal membrane contact with infectious particles. We characterized the infection in Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna; n = 5 birds, n = 9 lesions) by conducting diagnostic tests on skin lesions that were visually similar to avian poxvirus lesions in other bird species. Skin lesions were single or multiple, dry and firm, pink to yellow, with scabs on the surface, and located at the base of the bill, wings, or legs. Microscopically, the lesions were characterized by epidermal hyperplasia and necrosis with ballooning degeneration, and intracytoplasmic inclusions (Bollinger bodies) in keratinocytes. The 4b core gene sequence of avian poxvirus was detected by PCR in samples prepared from lesions. Nucleotide sequences were 75–94% similar to the sequences of other published avian poxvirus sequences. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the Anna's Hummingbird poxvirus sequence was distinguished as a unique subclade showing similarities with sequences isolated from Ostrich (Struthio camelus), Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), falcons (Falco spp.), Black-browed Albatross (Diomedea melanophris), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

To our knowledge this is the first published report of definitive laboratory diagnosis of avian poxvirus in a hummingbird. Our results advance the science of disease ecology in hummingbirds, providing management information for banders, wildlife rehabilitators, and avian biologists.

IN THE DISCUSSION
Under natural conditions, most hummingbirds are typically territorial birds living primarily solitary lives (Buskirk, 1976; Hilton and Miller, 2003). They depend on flowering resources that are unlikely to act as a source of avian poxvirus infection. Urbanization and the resulting increase in exotic flowers and bird feeding stations have been correlated with higher density and diversity of hummingbirds in urban and suburban areas (Arizmendi et al., 2007; Clark and Russell, 2012). Increased hummingbird density might enhance the transmission of avian poxviruses, as has been suggested for other bird species (van Riper and Forrester, 2007). The presence of cultivated exotic flowers and hummingbird feeders has been associated with changes in Anna's Hummingbird geographic distribution in North America (Clark and Russell, 2012). Bird feeders could increase the fomite risk of pathogen transmission, as has been shown for other bird species (Hartup et al., 1998; Robb et al., 2008).

Report of laboratory-diagnosed avian poxvirus infection in a hummingbird.
http://www.jwildlifedis.org/doi/abs/10.7589/2012-09-230






Douglas y Cynthia
Tucson


Thanks for the additional info, Douglas y Cynthia. I was surprised to learn that it wasn't until 2013 that this disease was identified in hummingbirds and also that they had only observed it in Anna's.

I have only observed cutaneous avian pox in Anna's as well (never the other kind), and that probably only because I'd started taking photos of hummers. The first was the male who was a juvenile when I first met him last year (July, I think, and his name is Wallace) - the one who sent me off to find out what could have caused his bumpy beak. I saw Wallace today and got a good photo of his feet; I am pretty sure one claw has scar tissue from avian pox - very dark, thickened and bumpy. The broken-beaked female (who I posted the photos of) I saw a couple of days ago, but she was hunkered down on a branch and I could not see her feet at all - couldn't tell if the disease has progressed. The third bird, another female, I have not seen in a few weeks. Every bird I photograph, now, I check their feet, if I can see them.

It makes you wonder if the fact that Anna's don't migrate and often stay in the same small area for a long time, is contributing to the spread of the disease - and wonder how it got into the hummer population in the first place.

I did know that dish detergent could leave residue, which I why I was only using Dawn... figuring that since they use it to clean up oil-drenched birds and wildlife, it should be pretty safe. I only use it on the perches and ports, not in the bottles and I do rinse the heck out of everything multiple times AND then wipe the perches and ports down with alcohol before refilling the feeders again. But, I might back off the Dawn for the time being and stick with the alcohol, which leaves no residue as long as you let it dry/evaporate thoroughly.

I will certainly try substituting the vinegar and water for the Dawn. The last thing I want to do is make any more hummer feeders sick by trying NOT to let any more of them get sick with avian pox!

The vinegar/water really does a good job on mold and gunky stuff in feeders (although my feeders get cleaned so often, I never have a mold/icky stuff issue). Not long ago, I brought a couple of feeders home from my mom's apartment after she died. She'd not attended to them in a while and they were very gunked up with old dried mold and bacterial crud. I put all her feeder parts into a tub with a strong vinegar and water solution for maybe an hour, and they came out so clean! I still scrubbed them thoroughly and disinfected them with alcohol, but they looked almost like new when I was done. I am now using one of those feeders, 'cause it's smaller than the usual feeder I have in that spot - the birds are going through juice at a pretty slow rate right now, and I just don't need the big feeder.

I can see how dependence on feeders can spread avian pox, which is why I am so careful to disinfect my feeders often and wipe the perches with alcohol daily. I have a half a dozen sage plants in the small front yard to draw the hummers to them. I just planted a Grevillea shrub that is a hummer fave and will eventually get to 8 to 10 feet tall and plan on adding more hummer-favorite plants so that they don't depend on the feeders much. I'll tell you, all the birds I'm seeing have lots of pollen on their beaks, so they seems to be taking advantage of plants that are blooming because of our better winter rains here! Traffic at my feeders is very low, in comparison with our very dry last year.

Unfortunately, anything I've planted on the small side yard (back area is all patio) has gotten peed to death by the dog! Hence hummer feeders there.

Yeah, it is sad to talk about ill hummingbirds but it's better to post and share the info there is about illnesses like avian pox so those of us interested in hummers can recognize the diseases and help stop them from spreading. I thank you for your contribution to the thread, Douglas y Cynthia.
 
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deidrahall

Birdacious
Well, I can't make the Allen's come visit you, but I can show you the male Allen's that is currently hanging out in the rose tree across from the feeder by my window. Allen's can be skittish, and it was drizzling at the time (tiny drops of water can be seen on his head in these pix), so I simply opened the window VERY quietly and shot the photos through the open window.

The Allen's male has been trying to guard the feeder since yesterday, but there's an Anna's female who has also been hanging out in the rose tree for just as long and drinking from the feeder. She has refused to be intimidated by him and simply ignores the Allen's when he has the nerve to chitter at her.

I did have a finch feeder hanging up for a long time and a small flock of resident finches. Then hawks started predating on the finches, so it's just hummer feeders, now.

Beautiful photos!
 

SoCalHummerLady

Active member
Beautiful photos!

Thanks, Deidra! I've been taking photos of the hummers in my yard since last June. Getting better at it, but it's relatively easy when they're just sitting there! The real challenge is getting good shots of them in motion.

On the avian pox front - I am doing away with my hummingbird feeder perches because I am fairly convinced that the prime way this disease is being spread is through the sharing of perches. An infected bird leaves virus on a feeder perch with it's affected feet, the virus can stay there for a while, and then if another bird who perhaps has any tiny scratches or wounds on its feet perches there, and, well, another infected bird.

Yesterday, I took the perches off two of my feeders where they are not a permanent part of the base and could be removed. I replaced another feeder that had built-in perches with a small one that has no perches. The last feeder also has built-in perches, so I will need to replace with a new perch-less feeder (in the meantime, I'm continuing to wipe that one's perches with alcohol at least twice a day, if not more).

The funny thing is that now the hummers are perching three and four at a time (with some squabbling!) in the three shrubs nearest the feeders. Can't exactly wipe down all the perches they tend to share in the shrubs with alcohol, although I wipes down a couple of those fave perches yesterday! Maybe it's not quite so dangerous for the birds to share rough branches in shrubs as it is for them to share smooth feeder perches... or so I hope.

Miss Broken Beak, the first bird I positively identified as having avian pox, who I showed way up top of the thread, turned up yesterday. I hadn't seen her in maybe 3 weeks. Her return to the yard was why I decided to get rid of the feeder perches.

It's hard to tell in the photos I took of her yesterday, because it was late in the day, but it looks like the pox growths on her "ankles"/upper claws have darkened in color. I'm hoping that they are regressing, drying up and being replaced with scar tissue. Going to keep an eye out for her and try to get better photos.
 

deidrahall

Birdacious
Thanks, Deidra! I've been taking photos of the hummers in my yard since last June. Getting better at it, but it's relatively easy when they're just sitting there! The real challenge is getting good shots of them in motion.

On the avian pox front - I am doing away with my hummingbird feeder perches because I am fairly convinced that the prime way this disease is being spread is through the sharing of perches. An infected bird leaves virus on a feeder perch with it's affected feet, the virus can stay there for a while, and then if another bird who perhaps has any tiny scratches or wounds on its feet perches there, and, well, another infected bird.

Yesterday, I took the perches off two of my feeders where they are not a permanent part of the base and could be removed. I replaced another feeder that had built-in perches with a small one that has no perches. The last feeder also has built-in perches, so I will need to replace with a new perch-less feeder (in the meantime, I'm continuing to wipe that one's perches with alcohol at least twice a day, if not more).

The funny thing is that now the hummers are perching three and four at a time (with some squabbling!) in the three shrubs nearest the feeders. Can't exactly wipe down all the perches they tend to share in the shrubs with alcohol, although I wipes down a couple of those fave perches yesterday! Maybe it's not quite so dangerous for the birds to share rough branches in shrubs as it is for them to share smooth feeder perches... or so I hope.

Miss Broken Beak, the first bird I positively identified as having avian pox, who I showed way up top of the thread, turned up yesterday. I hadn't seen her in maybe 3 weeks. Her return to the yard was why I decided to get rid of the feeder perches.

It's hard to tell in the photos I took of her yesterday, because it was late in the day, but it looks like the pox growths on her "ankles"/upper claws have darkened in color. I'm hoping that they are regressing, drying up and being replaced with scar tissue. Going to keep an eye out for her and try to get better photos.

You know it sounds like your doing everything in your power to prevent the avian pox. Plus with this thread the education your getting out to the public is powerful.

Miss Broken Beak may be on the road to recovery? Please keep us all posted on her progress :) All the Hummers out there in Cali are thanking you girlfriend birder!
 

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