April 19, 2006

Calif. Biologists Find Finches Ailing

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) - A bacterialike disease that can cause blindness in birds has been detected for the first time in wild finches in California, the state Department of Fish and Game said Tuesday.

State biologists urged residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of mycoplasmosis, a disease that affects finches but not humans, after an outbreak was discovered in the Walnut Creek area, about 25 miles east of San Francisco.

Birds affected by mycoplasmosis, which is not related to the avian influenza or West Nile Virus, develop an eye infection that can lead to blindness and respiratory problems.

The disease, which has been detected in wild birds in the eastern U.S. over the past decade, is spread when birds rub their heads on branches and feeders.

To control the disease over the next six weeks, DFG biologists asked residents to clean bird feeders with a 10 percent solution of household bleach in water each week. They also suggested cleaning up old food around feeders, spreading seeds over a large area in the sun rather than use feeders, and replace wooden feeders with plastic or metal feeders.