Birding/avian pox

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Question
QUESTION: Dr,
I have noticed within the last 2 months that several of the House Finches at my bird feeder seem to have Avian Pox. Is this disease fatal if they contract it? What is the mortality rate? Are they in pain? I have also noticed that the ones with the Pox are usually alone. Do the other birds know they are infected and leave them alone? I believe it is Avian Pox because I researched it online as to the growths on the birds I have seen.
Respectfully,
James

ANSWER: Although it is possible that the House Finches have avian pox, I think it is much more likely that they have conjunctivitis, also called finch eye disease. Conjunctivitis is very common in House Finches and it is difficult to tell  from avian pox without blood tests. The mortality rate is very high; few finches recover. I doubt that the other birds know this one is infected, but the infected ones act differently - more sluggish, slower, and other birds may be avoiding this odd behavior.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Sir,
Thanks you for your reply. But all of them I have seen have it on their beaks or more often on their legs. Does Conjunctivitis affect these areas as well? Also ever since the finches have decided to come back to my feeder all the White Winged Doves had stayed away. They don't even perch on the power lines like they did wanting to feed. Maybe they know something we don't?
Respectfully,
James

Answer
You didn't mention the lesions on the feet before, but if that's what you observe, then avian pox is probably correct. But I doubt if the doves or other birds recognize avian pox and stay away because of that. The composition of birds at bird feeders varies a lot. I have bunches of sparrows one day and the next mostly towhees, etc.

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Roger Lederer

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Any and all about WILD birds - the science of ornithology. Information about birdwatching, ecology, conservation, migration, behavior, banding, rehabilitation, feeding, songs, binoculars, identification, and careers in ornithology. No questions about pet or caged birds, please.

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Have a PhD and over forty years as a professional ornithologist - research, teaching, author, speaker, webmaster of Ornithology.com . Have written thirty scientific papers, three bird field guides, a textbook in ecology four other bird books, the latest being "Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs". Have traveled to 100 countries watching birds and have spoken to hundreds of groups about birds.

Education/Credentials
PhD in Zoology/Ornithology; Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences; former Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Chico

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