If your birds are excessively restless or constantly preening they may be dealing with a feather mite infestation. These mites usually afflict wild and outdoor birds but can be introduced to your pet bird in a number of ways. Left untreated, bird mites can be responsible for some serious health conditions. Bird mites can also negatively impact humans and other animals. If you identify mites on your pet bird you need to take the proper action to get rid of these pests as quickly as possible.
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What Are Feather Mites?
Mites are eight-legged arthropods that are related to spiders and ticks. They are very small, with adults usually less than .5 millimeter in length, making them difficult to detect on a bird’s feathers. According to exoticpetvet.net, there are several different species of mites that can each affect a bird in different ways. They are:
- Scaly face mange mite – This mite is most often seen on budgies or parakeets, though it can be found on other parrot species. These mites burrow in the skin giving it a powdery appearance. It is usually seen on the bird’s cere, legs, around its vent, and on the skin around its beak. The lesions are not itchy but can be clearly seen on the bird’s body. They cannot live off of their host and do not pose a risk for humans or other animals. Below is a video showing the effects of scaly face mites.
- Red mites – These mites can afflict any species of bird. They bite the bird and suck their blood. Humans and other household pets can also fall victim to these tiny pests. Your bird will seem restless and itchy at night, as that is when these mites feed. Examination during the day may not reveal the presence of these mites. Covering the cage with a white sheet at night is the best way to identify them, as you will see tiny brown or red spots on the sheet in the morning. These are the mites as they crawl off of their host in the daytime.
- Air-sac mites – Canaries and finches are most often impacted by air-sac mites. They are not easily seen as they live in the respiratory tracts of the host bird. Shining a bright, focused light across the bird’s windpipe will show the mites as they appear as if they were grains of pepper moving inside the trachea. The bird’s lungs and airspace will also become infested by these mites. They can be passed from bird to bird, but are not known to cause problems for other types of animals.
What Health Problems Can Bird Mites Cause?
The problems that bird mites cause will vary depending upon on the type of mite involved and the current health status of your bird.
Scaly face mites will only cause a problem for the host bird, though they can be transmitted to other birds. They will not impact humans or other pets. They are not fatal, but rather cause deformities of the affected areas such as the beak, mouth, nostril, and legs. According to petmd.com, the bird will appear to have a mange-like disease as it loses feathers in the areas where the mites are active. White crusts develop which can cause deformities. Early treatment can limit these deformities but they may remain even after the mite problem is eliminated. The mites can be fatal to your bird if left untreated.
The presence of air-sac mites will eventually cause your bird to experience breathing problems as evidenced by open-mouth breathing. They are easily transmitted to other birds when a bird sneezes or through feeding and wiping their beak on perches. Parents can transmit them to younger birds that they are feeding. Untreated, these mites can cause severe respiratory distress and death in a bird.
Red mites can cause anemia by removing necessary blood from their host bird. This is especially critical and dangerous in younger and weakened birds. There is also some potential for disease transmission as they move from host to host. A serious infestation of red mites can kill a bird, and they can become a nuisance throughout your home, biting you and other resident pets.
Are There Treatments for Bird Mites?
You should bring your bird to an avian vet if you think they are suffering from any type of mites. With scaly face mites, the vet will perform a skin scraping and microscopic examination to identify the problem and then your bird can be successfully treated with medications. Some topical solutions may work for very minor and initial infections.
Air-sac mites can be very tricky to treat. Your vet needs to be consulted and can treat your bird with medications. The problem is that if the medication causes too many mites in the lungs to die at once it can seriously impact or even kill the bird.
Red mites leave their host during the day and retreat to hiding places in the cage or your home. According to birds-online.de, once you have detected their presence, you need to remove your bird from its cage. There is no specific treatment for the bird itself. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the bird’s cage, accessories, and the surrounding areas is required. This process may include your whole home as these mites may have traveled around and can cause problems for humans and other inhabitants.
How Can I Prevent Bird Mites?
Bird mites are prevalent in warm and humid conditions. The pests thrive in humidity levels of between 70% and 90%. They can gain entry into your home through environmental issues such as bird nests in your roof or chimney, or be brought in with a new avian arrival. Below is a video of the leftover mites from a pair of nesting birds.
The best preventative action is to maintain a clean environment for your birds. Vacuuming with a HEPA-filtered machine can help minimize the risk. Keeping your indoor birds away from wild or outdoor birds is another way to help keep your pet birds free from these nasty little creatures.