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Photo Submission

Submitted By

Paulette Hummel

Fenton, MI, USA


While doing my 2 day count I noticed a female cardinal with what appears is a disease of the eye. I am submitting photos of each eye


Eye problems

Cardinal With Eye Disease ??

15 replies on “cardinal with eye disease ??”

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Paulette, This bird’s eyes do not appear swollen and crusted, which is characteristic of Mycoplasma gallisepticum (House Finch Eye Disease). Our guess is that this bird may be having an abnormal molt, or perhaps suffering from a different ailment – losing feathers may also result from feather mites, lice, or an environmental or nutritional factor. Often in these cases, there is evidence of growths or a scabby coating on the skin, though it’s hard to tell if there are any on this bird – the skin looks normal enough at least on the right side of its face. It’s also not unheard of in Northern Cardinals to go completely bald. No one knows for sure what causes baldness in birds, and the condition has not been well studied. Fortunately, in most cases new head feathers grow in within a few weeks.

Sara S Smith says:

I live in New Jersey and have a female cardinal with definite signs of eye disease: she keeps eyes closed much of the time, the area around the eyes is crusty and puffy, and she is way less shy than normal, feeding alone right by my back door even when no other birds are present. I have seen house finches with eye disease but never any other species. I am concerned

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Sara, So far, Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (House Finch eye disease) has only been found in finches, but there are other diseases that present similarly. Anytime you see a sick bird, the best thing to do is take down your feeders and clean them (instructions). If you see several sick birds, then you may want to keep the feeders down for about a week or so to help them disperse. The best way to prevent the spread of disease at your feeders is to clean them regularly, about once weekly or biweekly.

Ella says:

I just saw a juvenile cardinal with a hugely swollen right eye, very red as well. It’s so swollen it looks like a large growth or serious wound. The other eye looks completely normal. The cardinal can fly normally, and it was hunting insects in the leaves. This juvenile was also shaking its head as if the swollen eye was uncomfortable, which I’m sure it was.

Could this (by description) be avian conjunctivitis, or an injury? I couldn’t get a pic because she was moving around so much, hunting insects. And this bird is also fully flighted and as fast as the other birds out there.

Scott Yates says:

I’m in Virginia and have been catching infected finches at my feeders and taking them to a wildlife rehab close by. I’m now seeing 2 cardinals rubbing their eyes on my fence just as the finches do. Have been close enough to observe one of them and the eyes def look the same as the infected finches.

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Scott, If you aren’t already, the best thing to do is to have a regular cleaning schedule for your feeders – cleaning them every 1 to 2 weeks is the best way to help prevent the spread of disease. While Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (House Finch Eye Disease) has not been reported in species outside of finches to date, there are many other diseases that can be passed via feeders, including Salmonella, and others that may affect the eyes of birds. Please read this webpage for research-based feeder cleaning techniques.

Mark Stanback says:

male cardinal with conjunctivitis. Sat on feeder. I was able to walk up to it. Had trouble picking up seeds at feeder. Did not photograph.
15 October 2020, Davidson, NC USA

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Mark, Anytime you see a sick bird, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here. Please also note that it is against federal law to handle to treat wild birds without a federal permit. If you’re particularly worried about an individual, the best thing to do is to call a local wildlife rehabilitator before taking action. If you’re not sure who that is, your state’s wildlife office should have a list of rehabilitators that are federally certified.

Patricia Johnson says:

Isaw a Male Cardinal whose body was Obviously swollen. He saw me and quickly walked to hide in bushes He could nt fly. Is there another disease birds get with a symptom like that

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Patricia, it’s hard to know exactly which diseases are affecting birds without testing, but House Finch Eye Disease has not been found to spread to birds outside of the finch family. That said, anytime you see a sick bird, the best thing to do is to take your feeders down for a few days and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here.

Kieren Ladner says:

Just today, the male of the resident cardinal pair showed up with a bare ring around one eye. We didn’t get pictures. It looked like normal black head skin, as near as I could tell. Of course it made us worry. I will come back with more observations when I can see him again.

Rebeccs says:

I’ve seen three sick cardinals since the Decembenr 23rd three-day cold spell (8 degrees in Atlanta, GA, not including chill factor). One has a damaged wing and has trouble flying. One was puffed up and When trying to fly would take off and just float down. I just saw one today (New Years Day) with a completely crusted eye. The feeders are coming down.

SusanG. says:

Today I photographed a cardinal with bulging eyes. Is this a disease?

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi, Susan. Thanks for reaching out. It is impossible to tell whether a bird is ill unless it is taken to a wildlife rehabilitator or licensed veterinarian. You can find out more on our page on Sick Birds and Bird Diseases.

Texas Bird Family says:

This female cardinal is just molting. No need to take down feeders.

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