“Is it dead?” I asked. “Why is it just sitting there?”
Barbara didn’t answer me, so I gently tugged her leash and we walked closer to it.
“It” was a house finch that was sitting in the middle of the street. It wasn’t dead but it was definitely stressed. The bird had avian conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye for birds. This infection makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for the infected bird to see, fly, eat or survive.
You can identify the conjunctivitis by looking at the bird’s eyes. They will appear crusty, swollen or runny. If you live near a wildlife rehabilitation center, you might be able to take the injured bird to them and they’ll treat the infection with a saline solution. Call first.
Most of the time you have to let nature take its course. The infection will spread to both eyes and the vulnerable bird will starve to death, get eaten by a cat, fly into a building or something else. It’s never easy to see wildlife struggle, even if it’s just a small bird. But there is something you can do.
Conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection that spreads easily and quickly at bird feeders and other places birds gather. It’s not a guarantee, but to help stop the spread of infection, scrub your bird feeders at least once a month. Let them completely air dry before refilling them.
If you fill the feeders before they are dry, the bird seed will get moldy. The seeds will clump together and clog the feeder. Moreover, you’ll feel like a failure. The birds will judge you and so will your neighbors. You’ll be known as the loser who hates nature and it’s really hard to come back from that.
It starts with that nagging feeling of guilt. You notice that your bird feeder looks dusty and mildewy. You’ll remember you haven’t filled it in awhile.
“Gee,” you’ll think. “Even the squirrels are leaving the feeder alone.”
That’s when you’ll notice a bird wearing a leather jacket walk by. That’s Arthur, the neighborhood catbird. He’s a bully. He takes zero crap from anyone and when he passes by, you won’t feel safe.
“What…what’s happening to me?”
You’ll quickly descend into madness and before long, you’ll be dead. And it’s all because you wouldn’t let your bird feeder air dry before you refill it.
I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I’m not judgmental like Arthur. However, if it behooves you to clean and fill your bird feeders every once in awhile, you’ll have my eternal respect. Thanks for reading! -Connie