Barry K. Hartup, Jean M. Bickal, Andre A. Dhondt, David H. Ley, George V. Kollias
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Conjunctivitis, an infectious disease caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), has produced a significant decline in eastern House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) of North America. In this paper, we present findings from two complementary studies designed to clarify annual and seasonal trends of MG infections in House Finches from the northeastern United States. The first was a field study of House Finches common to urban and residential habitat from Mercer County, New Jersey. We documented conjunctivitis in 11% (188/1,651) of the birds examined. Conjunctivitis prevalence in House Finches ranged from 0 to 43% per month, and exhibited marked seasonal fluctuation (elevations during fall and winter months and lower disease prevalence during the breeding season). There was excellent intermethod agreement on disease prevalence when measured by either presence of physical signs (conjunctivitis) or MG infection (kappa = 0.75). During the peak of the breeding season (April through June), conjunctivitis was present in a greater proportion of males lacking a cloacal protuberance than males with a cloacal protuberance (P < 0.01), but was similar between breeding and nonbreeding females. The second study, a volunteer survey, revealed the proportion of northeastern U.S. monitoring sites with at least one diseased House Finch each month ranged from a peak of 59% (August 1995) to a minimum of 12% (July 1999). Subsequent to the epidemic peak of disease in 1995, a series of recurring cycles occurred, with elevations in those proportions noted in late fall and winter and minima during the breeding season. Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis now appears endemic among House Finches of that region and demonstrates dynamics consistent with annual variation in host density.

Barry K. Hartup, Jean M. Bickal, Andre A. Dhondt, David H. Ley, and George V. Kollias "DYNAMICS OF CONJUNCTIVITIS AND MYCOPLASMA GALLISEPTICUM INFECTIONS IN HOUSE FINCHES," The Auk 118(2), 327-333, (1 April 2001). https://doi.org/10.1642/0004-8038(2001)118[0327:DOCAMG]2.0.CO;2
Received: 17 December 1999; Accepted: 1 September 2000; Published: 1 April 2001
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