Tag Archives: house finch

Love in the Time of Conjunctivitis

A slightly edited version of this post was originally published on 10,000 Birds.

Congratulating myself for leaving the house on time, I got into my car and drove off to meet up with a friend for lunch. Not one minute later, I noticed a small feathery mass sitting in the middle of my lane. Giving the bird a wide berth, I veered towards the other side of the road with the assumption that it would encourage her to fly off. As I drove past her, I glanced in my rearview mirror. She hadn’t budged. I felt compelled to go back and see if the bird was just being fickle or if it was something else.

As I approached on foot, I asked the little House Finch if she was OK, completely expecting her to fly off in a flurry but once again she did not. She moved her head around a bit but that was all. Once I got close enough, I reached out and grabbed her which was too easy to do. That was definitely a bad sign; it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to just walk up to and snatch a healthy adult wild bird. Upon initial inspection, I noticed that one eye was quite squinty and the other was red and completely swollen shut. I immediately assumed it was conjunctivitis and that she’d need rehabilitation.

I was going to be late for lunch.

Since I had no way to safely contain her in the car, I made the short drive back home with her clutched in one hand. Fortunately I was able to get an assist from my husband who set up a shoebox for the poor bird’s ride to the local wildlife rehabilitation facility, Fox Valley Wildlife Center, which was conveniently located just five minutes from my dining destination.

Arden Zich with sick house finch

She’s probably thinking, “So this is how it ends…” Not so, little friend!

In less than 24 hours of receiving medication, the eye that had been swollen shut had calmed down and opened enough for her to see again. Laura Kirk, the wildlife center’s director, said that the bird couldn’t inhale her seeds fast enough once she was set up in her own private quarters. The difficulty she had seeing me come at her must have meant that she’d had a hard time finding food as well.

sick female finch 24 hrs after medication conjunctivitis

The next day.

Not long after her arrival, a male House Finch was admitted with the same malady. Together they stayed in the bird infirmary for a few weeks while being treated with medicated eye drops and an antibiotic in their drinking water. I like to think they comforted each other and passed the time from their respective cages by swapping stories about themselves, how they endured being caught by big scary humans, and their plans for the future.

Once their treatments were complete, they were transferred to a soft release outdoor cage for observation and to readjust to the weather. With no netting between them, the pair was free to frolic about as they pleased until they were cleared for release. When that time came, the couple was chauffeured to the general area where the female finch was found.

male female house finch ready for release

The finch couple anxiously await their release.

Opening the carrier door was a bit uneventful and neither bird chose to leave immediately; they wanted to make sure the coast was clear before leaving their protective confines. Once one finch finally took flight, the other immediately sprang forth in the same direction. Together they flew to a nearby tree to take in the sights and sounds of their new surroundings, hopefully to make good on their plans for the future.

released recovered male female house finches

We ride together, we fly together.

Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is a highly-contagious disease that primarily affects House Finches but can affect other birds such as Purple Finch and American Goldfinch. Birds can recover from the disease if they don’t first succumb to predation or starvation from the inability to see, which was undoubtedly imminent for “my” House Finch.

It is highly recommended that those who enjoy feeding birds ensure that feeders are spaced far enough apart to avoid crowding, clean feeders on a regular basis, and provide only enough seed for about one to two days. Feeders should be immediately removed and sanitized (10% bleach solution) and feeding area cleaned if sick birds have been observed in that area.

For more information and tips on how to help decrease spread of disease:

Birdie Went a-Courtin’

Love; Exciting and New

I was typing away at my computer when some unusually boisterous tweeting outside the office window grabbed my attention. There on the deck was a male house finch energetically bowing, curtsying, flashing some tail, and singing up a storm while a lady perched opposite him looked on. Because I had a mouthful of tea, I lightly whacked Joel on the side and pointed out the window so that he’d have a look.

“What?”

(Gulp) “He’s courting her! That’s soooooo sweet. Look at him go! Why don’t you curtsy and sing like that when I enter a room?” I asked.

My male just chuckled. Noted.

House Finch 3 is a Crowd

 Uh, I’m trying to work here pal. 

The passionate suitor then fluttered up in the air a few inches away from her, teasing her into a game of chase.

Will You Accept this Seed?

I’ve also been watching a cardinal couple for several days now. It’s touching to observe just how much this male cares for his lady. Always a gentleman and protector, he lets her have prime seating at the feeder while he hops around to nibble on what remains scattered on the floor.

Cardinal Couple Feeding

Even after she has eaten, he passes along a cracked sunflower seed as a gesture of sire suitability .

Cardinal Couple Courtship Male Feeding Female

Sure, she can crack her own shells but it’s nice to have someone else do it from time to time, no? 

Notable Courtship Displays

Superb Bird-of-Paradise – I was the unimpressed recipient of a very similar dance given by a strange gent at a nightclub many moons ago. Just like the female in this video, I too fluttered away.

Flamingos – They move as a group like a beautifully choreographed ballet. Or a music video from the 80’s where everyone you meet while dancing down the street jumps in to join you, somehow magically knowing all the moves.

Greater Sage-Grouse – Some guys are less about the pomp and ballyhoo and more about making sure that you get a good eyeful of the size of their air sacs.

Green Thorntail Hummingbird – Considering how quickly hummingbirds deplete their energy, the length of this fella’s aerial dance is impressive. I bet he’s wondering how much longer it is going to take her to make up her mind.

African Weaver Bird – In my opinion, this guy wins the courting game hands down! He builds a HOUSE for his prospective lady! The other fellows can go take their flashy hips elsewhere.

Finch Courtship Get a Nest