The virus is contagious and is most commonly spread at bird feeders. Conjunctivitis can linger on the seeds and other finches eating from the same bird feeder can get the infection. It’s most common in the winter because it’s easier for finches to eat at bird feeder instead of the wild on cold days.
“If you see a finch or another bird with an eye conjunctivitis problem you want to actually take your feeders down, bleach them, rinse them really well, and keep them down for about a week,” Wildlife Rehabilitator Jan Shadick said.
Infected finches can also be taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers for treatment.
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation has taken in two finches. The birds were found with crusty eyes and reduced vision, making them an easy target for predators.
Symptoms and treatments for conjunctivitis are similar in humans and finches. The infected area should be washed and can be treated with ointments or antibiotics.
It’s a relatively common infection for finches, but Shadick was surprised to see a couple of sparrows contract the illness.
“One came in with a very swollen kind of crusty eye and the other one we have on antibiotics,” Shadick said.
The sparrows most likely had weak immune systems, and Shadick doesn’t anticipate the illness to spread within the sparrow population.
It’s unlikely, but it’s possible for a person to get conjunctivitis from a finch.
“If you do take your feeders down, we’re assuming that you would take normal precautions, like hand washing before and after so that that sort of transmissions doesn’t happen,” Shadick explains.
It’s also important to avoid touching your face when handling a bird feeder.