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Finch eye disease questions (1 Viewer)


United States
I have a few questions about the finch eye disease and how to prevent it from spreading.

I live in upstate NY and have been feeding birds for several years. I have never seen any indication of this disease until very recently – one Purple Finch that had it that I saw once and not again.

I took down all of my feeders and cleaned them, and did put them back up and kept track of the finches to see if any also had the disease. Yesterday we saw a Goldfinch with it, so we took the feeders down and haven't put them back up.

My question - we take the feeders in at night due to other wildlife around, so I put them out each day. I have been wiping them down with vinegar and water when I put them out and also another time during the day if there are a lot of birds at them. Will this possibly help to kill any wayward conjunctivitis virus and keep the feeders sanitary? It obviously didn't prevent this Goldfinch from getting the disease, but in general, does vinegar help to sanitize the feeders?

I also wondered if I can reuse the seed that I emptied when I first saw the infected finch. If I wait several weeks – is it safe to put that seed back into the feeders gradually once it is safe to put the feeders back up?
Welcome to Birdforum. I hope you enjoy your visits.

There appear to be various “recipes” for cleaning feeders with vinegar and water. I would throw away the seed that you emptied out.

So, is vinegar a good alternative to bleach? I'd rather use vinegar if it does work to keep the feeders disinfected.

But can't the birds catch the eye disease from each other even when they are not here at the feeders? I understand that the feeders can be a easy transmission place, but if the birds are off in the neighboring fields can they still infect each other?

And another question - how long do I really need to keep the feeders down? If I watch the birds that are still around the yard and don't see any infected birds for a few days, can I start to put feeders back out one by one? I would clean them all thoroughly birds with the disease. and take them back down if I did see any. I know that 2 weeks is the recommended time, but if there don't seem to be any infected birds around, maybe it would be safe to start putting the feeders back slowly??

Thanks for the reply!
Personally I use the diluted disinfectant that caterers use to clean work surfaces etc then rinse with boiling water where practical. I know the water temperature doesn't have to be that high to kill any germs etc but it can't do any harm.
Thanks for the reply! I guess I'm going to need to try a few different disinfectants and see what works best. I've also read that if you can take the feeder apart, it can be run through a cycle in the dishwasher, too.
Thanks8 for the reply! I guess I'm going to need to try a few different disinfectants and see what works best. I've also read that if you can take the feeder apart, it can be run through a cycle in the dishwasher, too.
I would be extremely wary of putting anything bird related in the dishwasher. I would imagine that the reported temperatures of the cycles could be a fair bit cooler than advertised. As you say though if possible feeders need an extra deep clean on a regular basis and not all feeders are suitably designed to allow this. Its great that you are making such an effort as a lot of people don't bother exacerbating the problem.
I agree about the dishwasher - seemed a little strange to me! I think I'm going to settle on a thorough washing and then soaking in vinegar for 10-15 minutes. And changing the feeders out after they've been up for several hours so that they are relatively clean.

One thing that I read that is concerning : Eye lesions develop within 12 weeks of exposure.

So that seems to me to mean that infected birds could have been visiting the feeders for a few weeks before the eye issues developed. Seems like a long time to really get ahead of any possible outbreak.

Hopefully my efforts will have some effect and I can get back to my "normal" feeding routine!
I've had limited feeders up for several days and have been keeping a very close eye on the birds - all seem fine. (y)

However I s potted a female purple finch today that seemed to have one eye that was closed - but after watching it closely, it did open that eye and it seemed OK. I'm attaching 2 images - one with the eye closed, one with it open. I am wondering if this is a sign of conjunctivitis - doesn't look crusty or swollen to me - just closed sometimes and open other times.

Could this be the finch eye disease? Or maybe just some odd behavior when I see this one bird? Maybe I'm just being too paranoid about it??

Eye closed:

Eye open:
P1180774 (2).JPG


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