Please note that mites do not transfer to people from birds. If you are itchy and think it might be mites from your birds it may be lice (not from your birds) or just an allergic reaction to the feathers or feather dust or dust from the droppings from the birds.
For details of specific types of mites see this page.
The mites usually attack the birds at night, then retire to cracks and crevises during the day. Mites keep the birds restless at night, running about the skin and feathers and sucking blood. Some hens are known to abandon their nests and babies because of the mites.
You can sometimes check for mites by placing a white cloth over the cage at night and in the morning you may see tiny spots on the underside of the cloth.
Note:These are very small and unless you have excellent eyesight, you may need a magnifying glass to see them.
For mite problems on the face, cere, legs and/or beak see scaly face.
For horny growths on the cere see hypertrophy of the cere.
Warm and humid weather speed up the reproduction of mites. This is one of the reasons why some breeders only breed during cooler months such as September to May in Northern and U.S. regions. The quill mite is among the largest of the mites making it easily visible to the human eye. The birds bite off their feathers or pull them out. Tumors and/or cysts can then form. Quill mites travel from bird to bird making it contagious. It attacks young and old. It was first found in chickens and pigeons. Experienced breeders can tell if he has mites or other diseases by the way in which the bird moves. If he moves his head in a jerking or thrusting way he may be scratching for mites instead of just preening.
Cure or Prevention
A cure for a severe mite problem is IVERTMECTIN available at most vets or some pet supply stores. Dettol disnfectant can be used for mild cases of mites on the legs and cere and for disinfecting cage utensils. Some oils such as mineral oil or baby oil can also be used as the oil willl kill the mites and soften the skin. In time the dry crusty area will come off.
The only way to prevent mites from re-occurring if they do, is to disinfect the entire cage, food utensils, toys, etc. If more than one bird is present you must treat them all even if only one seems affected. Some pet shops carry items you can hang in the cage that is supposed to get rid of mites but we have never tried these and doubt their effectiveness. Dettol is a good disinfectant to clean the cage and dishes. Perches and toys should be boiled or soaked in bleach and rinsed clean with fresh water and let dry before placing back in cage.
A number of parasites can infest nest boxes. Mites, moths and fly larvae. Fly larvae are most common in summer, when they develop easily in the wet droppings in nest boxes, where the flies lay their eggs. The larvae do not seem to bother the birds directly, but it doesn't require much imagination to realise that they don't do the birds any good. An infested box soon gets to be a messy place. So, in summer, take special care to see that the wet droppings are removed as speedily as possible. Scrape them off the floor and disinfect. Spread a fresh, thin layer of sawdust before replacing the eggs or young in the nest. The so-called "red louse (mite)" or "bird louse" is harder to eliminate. It is really a type of mite that some believe to be related to the supposed causative agent of French molt. It isn't really red either---more nearly grey. But once it has sucked its fill of blood, its body swells and the ingested blood shines red through the thin skin. During the day, the louse remains in the cracks of nest boxes. At night, it stages raids on the young and even the older birds sleeping on their perches. These raids are most damaging, largely from loss of blood.
Affected birds lose their zest for life and look so depressed that you can tell at a glance their is trouble. This parasite, also can be fought by cleaning and disinfecting nest boxes and using antiseptics and insecticides. Nest boxes should be cleaned in boiling water, disinfected, and whitewashed with natural chalk. Prevention is better than cure. Taking preventive measures keeps the louse or mite from gaining a foothold. The feather or quill mite is similar to the red mite although it can lay its eggs on the bird making it easier to control.
Treatments of the birds alone is useless. The mites can live away from the hosts for weeks or months. Boiling of the nest boxes in water is recommended for Breeders and then washing with a disinfectant. Some mites are barley visible but can become more visible to the eye by placing a white cloth over the cage or nest box at night. In the morning the mites will be attached to the underside of the cloth making them more visible to the human eye. This may be a good choice if you are unsure if you have mites or not.
We clean our nest boxes in hot water and pinesol disinfectant about once every 2 months. We let them soak in this in a laundry size tub for a few hours and then scrub them with a brush while rinsing them off. A good rinsing is essential if you are using a cleaning fluid. The cleaning frequency just depends on whether the parents have eggs or babies. We have extra nest boxes, so as we remove one to be cleaned we place a clean one in its place so their is not a long period for the parents to be without their nest box.
Be very careful to only use what other breeders have proven is safe and works for them, or by using cleaners and disinfectants recommended by pet shops or vetrinarians for the health and safety of your birds. Most bird owners today say to use IVERTMECTIN for severe mite problems. It can be found at most vets, some pet supply stores and farm supply depots or stores. If this is not available you can look for Malathion, Gamma Benzene Hexachloride or Derris Root. Just ask for an acaracide that is safe for birds to treat mites.
Three sprays we have tried that worked for us are below. They can be used on the cages and the birds.
Hagen (brand name) bath spray for birds. Kills mites and lice etc. Most pet shops carry this.
Colombine (brand name) spray for birds. Kills mites and lice etc. We bought it from Moores seed supply.
Diversey (brand name) spray for birds. Kills mites and lice etc. Bought from Flikkema aviaries in Fenwick, Ontario.
Some other mite information can be found at this site.
Color pictures of mites. They are not all related to birds, but it is amazing how many types there are. Hold your mouse over a picture and it will give the name of the mite and take you to a lager picture and a brief explanation. Some are feather mites.
The feather mite.
Another type of feather mite.
Parasites of Companion Birds.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease.
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H&D Budgerigar Society Inc. 1996