The pigeon fly ((Pseudolynchia canariensis ):
This is a winged insect allied to the 'sheep ked' and one of the many species of louse-fly. It sucks the blood of nestling pigeons. Similar species also occur on other species of birds especially swallows, martins and swifts. When not feeding or mating on the host, the fly spends its time in nests or in dark crevices of buildings and nest boxes. It is found mainly in warm and tropical regions of the world and until the advent of effective insecticides at the end of World War II was a well known scourge in pigeon lofts. It is a flattened, stockily-built fly with strong legs and claws, a little smaller than the common housefly.

It is brownish in colour, very agile and hides in the plumage, often flying off when the bird is approached. Eggs hatch inside the female and are laid as larvae almost ready to pupate. The creamy-white fat larvae are deposited in crevices and especially in nests and nest boxes; in fact any protected part of the premises will satisfy breeding females. The pupae or cocoons are also creamy-white but soon turn black. Adults emerge from the cocoons after four weeks and then suck blood from recently hatched squabs. Although only four to six larvae are produced at a time, as many as a score or more flies have been found parasitizing a single nestling. It seems that the parent birds do not eat the flies or their immature stages and the only effort on the part of the bird to reduce the annoyance is to try to remove the flies with a thrust of the beak. Blood-sucking itself does not seem to irritate adult birds unduly, but the presence of the parasites in the plumage can cause restlessness and excessive preening. Blood loss in adults is usually inconsequential, but heavily parasitized squabs and squeakers may sometimes die from anemia or its sequels. Viral, bacterial, or some protozoan infections may be carried between aviaries, or from wild to domesticated birds by louse-flies, as with other blood-sucking parasites.

Treatment and control:
The most effective and safe parasiticides for pigeons is probably "Alugan". Pyrethrum, derris, and other insecticides recommended for fleas and lice seem to be less effective. The parasiticide should be used in the same manner as recommended for the control of fleas and used at three-weekly intervals until the parasites have been eradicated.

Blackfies, buffalo gnats (Simuliids) and midges ( Culicoides spp.):
These insects are not commonly found on birds, being merely temporary blood-suckers. In certain freak weather conditions and in warm climates, however, swarms of some species may invade an area and large numbers attack birds. The brevity of their stay makes treatment and prevention impracticable in most cases. The flies are vectors of blood protozoa and microfilariae, the larval stages of filaria worms.

Gnats and mosquitoes (Anopheles, Aedes and Culex spp.):
Gnats and mosquitoes belonging to these genera transmit malaria to birds as well as certain viral infections such as equine encephalomyelitis and pox. Although exposed areas of skin in birds are relatively scanty, the head structures, eyelids and the vent region may be bitten by these insects and develop swellings. Only the females are blood-suckers, but they are unlikely to cause anemia unless present in large numbers. They can, however, cause discomfort and the high-pitched, threatening whine of the mosquito's wings may unsettle birds. These insects dislike intense heat and sun as much as cold weather, and choose warm places to rest that are also shady and damp. If such places also provide a food supply, so much the better from the mosquito's point of view. Tree-shaded ponds, water holes, drains and all places where stagnant water can collect are potential breeding places.

Treatment and control:
A thin film of oil or oily insecticide over stagnant water prevents development of eggs laid on the surface. Water treated in this way, however, must not be accessible to the birds. In the premises themselves, the use of aerosol insecticides when the insects are most active is effective temporarily, but in badly affected areas it may be necessary to cover aviaries and cages with mosquito netting, especially at night.

Dipterous flies:
These two-winged insects are represented by numerous genera and families. Only a few are truly parasitic but many are temporary parasites and most flourish on carrion and filth. They can thus carry disease on their feet, or inject it with their mouth parts when biting their victims. The common housefly merely vomits saliva onto its chosen morsel, dissolves it, and sucks it up again. The stable fly bites its victim. The blowflies, including bluebottles and greenbottles (Calliphora, Lucilia, Phormia, etc.) feed and breed mainly in decomposing organic matter, among droppings, and on dead birds, rotting food and so on. Sometimes the larval forms or maggots develop on animals, but less frequently on birds, to produce so-called "strikes". They flourish especially in hot climates and under favorable conditions a pair of flies can produce 100 to 200 offspring in two to three weeks.

Treatment and control:
It is important to keep premises clean and ventilated and to use when necessary a safe insecticide spray such as pyrethrum. Please check with your local vet or pet shop to see what is the newest and safest treatment for any of the above.


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.