The first time you see a bird ravaged by avian pox, it’s a bit disconcerting. Accustomed to seeing pretty, fluffy-feathered birds at your feeders and birdbaths, one that looks more like a vulture than a songbird easily stands out from the rest.
Over the years I’ve frequently caught a glimpse of blue jays afflicted with avian pox, but until this year, never managed to be quick enough to capture a photo. They do tend to keep a low profile and seem more reticent than healthy birds. The one at left was by itself, which is odd for blue jays, as they usually make the feeder rounds in pairs or small flocks.
Afflicted birds have no feathers on their heads. Some may have nodules around their beaks, eyes and feet. These may interfere with sight, breathing and eating. Not only do these poor birds look miserable, they probably feel that way too.
Avian pox can be transmitted from one bird to another directly or indirectly wherever birds share surfaces, such as birdbaths, feeders and tree branches. Mosquitoes are also known to play a role in the transmission. Once a bird survives a bout of avian pox, it acquires immunity for life and is no longer a carrier.