Backyard birders who have noticed sick birds at their feeders may have noticed something else - other birds are often aggressive toward birds that are noticeably ill. According to the New York Daily News, a new study has shown that house finches are able to recognize sick birds and studiously avoid sick members of the flock. The study also noted differences in bird immune responses, and those birds that were more susceptible to disease were the most vigorous in avoiding unwell birds.
It is hoped that this study can refine scientists' knowledge of how diseases can spread through a flock of birds, particularly diseases that can also infect humans. Greater understanding of the transmission of these diseases can help prevent mass outbreaks in many areas.
Sick House Finch
Photo © Jim Capaldi