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Submitted By

Sandra Waresak

Candler, NC, United States


Northern Cardinal with eye problem. Taken 11/20/13 but first noticed the eye on 11/5/13.

Had a lot of house finches with conjunctivitis (?) this past summer, some slowly declined and eventually died. Noticed 1 or 2 cardinals with same eye issue this summer, but they seemed to heal.

Also, had 3 cardinals with ‘baldness’ to some degree or another this summer. Those cardinals have either regrown their feathers or are gone.


Eye problems

Northern Cardinal Eye Disease

47 replies on “Northern Cardinal Eye Disease”

amanda says:

2 Male cardinals spotted with the eye disease. The first had balding; I believe it’s possible that the second is the baby of the first. No balding yet on the possible offspring. Haven’t seen “Baldy” in months.

R.P. Lewis says:

I just noticed a male cardinal by my feeder that had white circles around his eyes,the first time I’ve seen this.

I photographed a male cardinal with similar eye problems yesterday (Jan. 18, 2018). Derby, KS

Chris says:

I have photos and video of a cardinal with apparent partial blindness and what looks to be drainage around his eyes. We’ve seen some purple finches in the past (a couple of years now) with similar eyes and partial blindness. Is there anything we can or need to do? Especially to prevent further spread if this is an infection.

Holly Faulkner says:

Hi Chris,
Please be sure to regularly clean your feeders (even if there is no sign of the disease) and be aware not to touch or care for the bird yourself – a local wildlife rehabilitator is a good contact to have if you are concerned for the bird’s wellbeing. Please see our Sick Birds and Diseases page for more information about steps you can take.
Best, Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant

I have a few Cardinals that seem to have a yellow puffiness around their eyes and they don’t seem to be seeing clearly

I have just witnessed a male cardinal with yellow crusty circles around each eye in our fly-through feeder. I am not sure if this is a new bird or one of our regulars but this condition is very evident and I think I would have noticed it before this if it is one of the regulars. He has been back to visit every evening this week. SO SAD!

Cynthia Griffis says:

very similar to what a couple of my cardinals have. They are not seeing clearly as they allow me to come up to the window and they are on the feeder near the window. Otherwise they would fly off.

Cyrus Tkacik says:

2/9/2019 We’ve spotted two cardinals, one male and one female.

Cmpink says:

I’ve seen several house finches with conjunctivitis at my feeders, but I didn’t realize it could spread to the cardinals. Just saw a male cardinal with one eye swollen almost completely shut, similar to the bird in OP’s pics.

I have gone through several rounds of disinfecting my feeders and leaving them down for weeks at a time, but I can’t seem to rid my yard of sick birds.

I don’t know what to do at this point. My cat and I really enjoy watching the birds but I feel so guilty for spreading disease!

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello, Thanks for taking the time to disinfect your feeders! You sound like you’re doing everything you can to help the birds at your feeders; you shouldn’t feel guilty. Keep in mind that while feeders are one spot where disease can be spread, there are several other areas that birds congregate where disease can be transmitted. The best you can do is keep your feeder area clean. If you’re ever particularly worried about a bird, we recommend calling your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. You can learn more on our Sick Birds and Bird Diseases webpage.

Kathryn Strzelecki says:

There is a female cardinal that eats the peanuts I leave for the crows. She has a growth on the side of her head. At first I thought it may have been an ear but it seems to be getting bigger. Its kind of yellow or light orange. I hope its not something that will kill her. Any ideas what it might be? A parasite maybe?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Kathryn, There are several different types of diseases that birds can contract – you can learn more about common diseases on our Sick Birds and Bird Diseases web page, though this is not an exhaustive list. Make sure to clean your feeders regularly to help prevent the spread of disease. More info on cleaning is also on that web page.

Debbie J Knebel says:

Yikes, sick female cardinal at our feeder. I have two chickens and am now concerned. Any advice have pictures that are shot thru screen so they aren’t very good.

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Debbie, If you see a sick bird, we recommend cleaning your feeders. We have guidelines on how to do so on our Sick Birds and Bird Diseases and Safe Feeding Environment web pages. If you start to see more sick birds, it’s a good idea to remove your feeders for at least a week to help the sick birds disperse. Regardless, regularly cleaning your feeders is the best way to help prevent the disease from spreading.

Jonathan Hesser says:

just witnessed a Cardinal in NC with this

Richard Johnson says:

I found a cardinal this morning on the ground, I just reached down and picked it up. It started to panic when I had it close to my chest. It is acting like it can’t see. What should i do?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Richard, We do not recommend handling sick birds- only federally certified wildlife rehabilitators are legally able to handle and treat wild birds, and some can carry diseases transmittable to humans. Please call your wildlife rehabilitator immediately for advice. Whenever you see a sick bird, the best thing to do is take down your feeders and clean them. Only contact rehabilitators if you’re particularly concerned about an individual. You can find more information on this page.

Scott Hinton says:

Within the span of 10 minutes I’ve had two female cardinals show at my feeders with eye issues. The first had her right eye closed and looked swollen, and she was without a tail, but still able to fly. The second has a left eye that is almost closed with just a small portion showing, but no swelling I can see. No crusty discharge noticeable on either. Both feeding well.

Polly Anna says:

Saw an adult male cardinal with this problem in his left eye at a feeder 2x this week. Location: southside of Richmond, VA.

Catherine says:

Today I had a sick cardinal, either young male or female, pecking seed on the ground under my feeder. It didn’t seem to see me and let me come near; only flew off low to the ground when my dog approached. My dog could have caught it if I hadn’t intervened. I’m very sad to learn that the eye problem can spread to cardinals. I will clean and my feeders and the area under them.

Catherine says:

In addition to the sick cardinal yesterday this morning, there was a finch with eye disease. Cardinals and finches have been feeding together.

David Ross says:

We have had two male northern cardinals with conjunctivitis in one eye each, during the last few days. Summerfield, NC.

Shawn Long says:

We live in north Alabama and have a young cardinal which can’t open her eyes. Is there anything that we can do for her to help save her?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Shawn, 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.

Jack B says:

I am in eastern PA and I had a male cardinal today with both eyes unable to open. Very sad. Sadder still if my Uncleaned feeders played some role in this. I will be taking the advice in this thread to clean and sterilize feeders every 2 weeks or so.

Bee says:

I’m noticing multiple cardinals at my feeders with what appears to be conjunctivitis of one eye. (I do clean the feeders.) Is feederwatch keeping track of this infection in cardinals, separate from the data on house finches? Is there some way to properly document this other than this comment to a post from years ago? Haven’t noticed it in the house or purple finches, or the goldfinches that frequent my feeders, btw. Thanks

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Bee, Many factors can contribute to eye problems in birds. Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (House finch Eye Disease) has only been found in a few members of the finch family. It’s most likely that your cardinal has a different affliction, such as a different pathogen, mites, or a result of something nutritional or environmental. FeederWatch data entry cannot track every disease, as most must be diagnosed for certain through direct testing. We currently only keep track of Mycoplasmal conjuctivitis as it is relatively new, symptoms are obvious to observers, and it affects only a handful of species. If you wish to share your findings with other FeederWatchers regarding sickness in other bird species you can submit a photo of your sick bird, or comment on others photos, but we unfortunately do not have the capacity to incorporate this information into our database.

Linda Anderson says:

I have just spotted a cardinal at our feeder that appears to have conjunctivitis in one eye, balding, and his beak seems to have broken little spots as well. In NW Baltimore Co, in Maryland. The feeders have been taken down for disfecting. We do have active goldfinches and house finches, and periodically keep an eye out for finch disease. We spotted finches about four weeks ago and removed/disinfected the feeders and kept them down for several days. This is the first sighting of any bird with eye disease since then. Since we are home every day, and the feeders are on the deck, I check several times a day.

Karl Biesemier says:

We have had a male cardinal with conjunctivitis around for a couple weeks. We just saw another male with conjunctivitis. We have never had finches with eye disease. Seems like others report the same but don’t find a specific disease described for Cardinals.

Vicky Thoene says:

We have a male cardinal with conjunctivitis affecting his right eye – also for a couple weeks here in Northern Illinois. He appears to not be able to see out of that eye – always turning to the left to see. The female that accompanies him shows no signs of it. I have never seen this for any other birds in our area. I have sterilized our feeder since noticing him. We have cardinals that stay the entire winter here – they are very active in our yard and adjacent wooded area/meadow/pond. This male cardinal is one of about 6-8 that live here. Do we know that his illness will go away on it own? Or will he eventually die?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Vicky, it’s hard to predict what will happen to that cardinal without a positive ID of the disease, which is usually impossible without testing. It’s best to let nature take its course- the best thing to do when you see a sick bird, regardless of the disease, is 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.

Lavenia Fernandez says:

Please do not let Nature Take Its Course! If you are able to get the sick or injured bird in a box put it in a warm place and call a wildlife rehabilitator or your veterinarian. You can also go to the Parks and wildlife website of your state for numbers of wildlife rehabilitaters. Dont play guessing games on the lives of songbirds that may have a chance. To leave a songbird on the ground that cant see is cruel and only makes him a meal for a predator like an opposum. Wash your hands well after you pick the bird up and you will be fine. Just like you wash your hands after touching a handle that thousands of people have touched.
Wildlife Rehabilitator

Texas Bird Family says:


Donna says:

I just noticed a female cardinal at my feeder who has a very crusty eye. This feeder is also popular with the finches and red-bellied woodpecker. I’m not at home in the daylight very much this time of year, but I will check the eyes of the other birds as often as I can.
Last winter I did have a female house finch with a diseased eye and was able to capture her, but she died before I get her transported to the wildlife rehabilitator.
I will get that feeder cleaned today.
I am located in Keene NH

Jamie Upson says:

Just saw a female cardinal (east Texas) with large bulging eyes, you could see the whites of her eyes distinctly. No feathers around her eyes.

Jen says:

I still see cardinals with eye disease. As it’s been documented for almost 10 years now, why has it not been positively identified at this point? Is there nothing that can be done to prevent or treat this? Cleaning feeders is apparently not enough.

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Jen, thank you for reaching out. Just as in humans, it is common for birds to get illnesses as well. When you see a sick bird come to your feeder, we recommend taking down feeders (and cleaning them as you suggested) for a few weeks to allow the sick birds a chance to disperse. Please check out our page on Sick Birds and Bird Diseases for more info.

Ann B Balzer says:

I had a female cardinal in my yard this morning; feeding off the ground but seemed unsteady and could not fly. She got to the other side of the yard and sat with her eyes closed and cuddled up on the ground. I got her into a small carton and went to call Wildlife Rehab. She was quivering quite a bit and before I called more numbers for help she died. What may have caused this? I thought first she flew into a window and was stunned but it is obvious it was something more. Thoughts? Thank you.

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Ann, Thank you for reaching out, and thank you for calling your local wildlife rehab center concerning this finch – it was the right move, as it is illegal to possess or treat most wild birds unless done so by federally licensed institutions. Also, there is no way to know for certain which disease this bird may have had without a proper lookover by one of these institutions. We recommend keeping feeders down for at least two weeks can allow sick birds a chance to disperse, and also limits the amount of time that these birds are in close contact, which is helpful in stopping the spread of the disease. Cleaning feeders once every one or two weeks is also helpful. Feel free to read more on our recommendations and cleaning tips on our page on Sick Birds and Bird Diseases here.

Sharon says:

It’s been nearly 30 years, and all you have is “take the feeders down” and “let nature take its course”?!?! What are you doing with my donations?!

A quick internet search yields tens of thousands of sick cardinals, a bird that holds symbolic significance and appears increasingly infected. Moreover, you aren’t sure if treatments fully cure the disease. Question: what have you been doing for the last three decades? In 29 years, someone could/should have invented a spray or at-home preventative treatment.

Even though I bleach soak my feeders 2x per week, I’ve had 3 cardinals over 9 months that presented with one eye that was crusted over completely (white) – 1 passed, status is unknown on one, and one is currently presenting but acts healthy otherwise (no finches have been infected.) I’ve noticed that each sick cardinal has identical markings, muted red with heavy gray; the bright red cardinals have not been infected despite their proximity to the sick birds. I’m no ornithologist, but I would investigate genetics and susceptibility. CORNELL IS THE FAUCI OF AVIAN CONJUNCTIVITIS.

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Sharon, thank you for reaching out! We hear your frustration, and we also wish there was a treatment available for sick finches and cardinals. To be clear, the Cornell Lab is not a veterinary organization, and we do not have expertise in creating treatments or medicines for sick birds. At FeederWatch we focus on collecting data and monitoring wild bird populations, which is the first step in understanding and responding to issues that arise. If you have further questions, please feel to reach out to us by email at

Cheryl T. says:

I am just north of Austin, Texas. I have been noticing a Male Cardinal with some sort of eye disease now for 9 months or so. I keep hoping it will clear up, but it hasn’t. It’s gotten worse: he appears to be blind now in that eye and turns to look at me with his good eye. Now the female has it. This pair nests or roosts next to my home. I understand the frustration from Sharon in email above. I worry that this is a problem that is spreading, and that it causes the bird a lot of pain. It sees like it needs to be addressed somehow, but by whom? Birders were notified a year or so about a disease spreading by the Pine Siskin and what should be done. Is there any medicine or nutrient I can add to their food that would help?

Cheryl T. says:

I wanted to comment that after posting my concern on April 26, 2023, that I went and read the article on: ‘House Finch Eye Disease’, on (you have a link to the article above). It was extremely helpful. I see now that a lot of research has been done and Cornell points out good reasons for not trying to play, ‘Bird Vet’. Still I wish there was more that could be done. The comments on this post alone date back to 2016, and the problem apparently persists. Thank-you..

Brooke says:

Over the past month I have noticed a female cardinal with both eyes shut, she doesn’t look like she will make it much longer as she moves slow. I also have noticed two males with the issue, one on the left side and the other on the right. Absolutely heartbreaking, I wish there was a way to help.

Brooke says:

I forgot to mention I am located in Alabama.

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Brooke, thank you for reaching out. You may be able to try calling your local wildlife rehabilitator to see if they would help. Otherwise, if this Northern Cardinal is visiting feeders, we recommend cleaning feeders and taking them down for at least two weeks to allow the sick bird a chance to disperse. Regularly cleaning feeders can help prevent the spread of disease. Please feel free to check out our page on Sick Birds and Bird Diseases here.

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