Bird mites are arachnids in the order of Acari and related to ticks, spiders, and other eight-legged creatures. These pests can infest pet birds and cause itching, loss of feathers, bleeding, possible death from anemia or organ damage. They also can pose a risk to humans who handle infected birds or whose skin comes in contact with them.
Bird mites are small insects that burrow into a bird’s flesh during molting season (usually spring and summer) when the feathers have been abraded by flying through branches or pecking at toys and perches. Mite eggs usually attach themselves to feather shafts or bases where they remain dormant until hatched after the bird molts.
Symptoms And Identification
Symptoms of a bird mite infestation include itching and irritation, increased pecking at the feathers, fluffed up appearance, bloody stools, or vomit due to blood loss from feather-picking and hives.
Significant numbers of mites can result in anemia from blood loss or organ damage from bites and hives. Severe infestations of bird mites are often fatal for birds without treatment.
Mites are microscopic but hawk mite eggs are visible to the naked eye as small white balls on the base of shed feathers or attached to cage bars if signs of infection appear. However, by the time these eggs have hatched into larvae, they are no longer visible without magnification.
You must use 1x magnification with a dissecting microscope to detect their presence.
Treatments and Prevention
To get rid of bird mites, you must kill the adults as well as any eggs that may have already been laid. Using specialized sprays or dips will not remove all traces of these pests from your pet birds’ bodies and home environments, so it’s important to treat both at the same time.
Mites are common carriers of disease including typhoid and psittacosis, which is transmissible to humans.
This means that if your bird becomes infected with mites, you can become infected by coming into contact with airborne particles or through contact with feces left on cage bars or on food or water bowls when you change them out for fresh ones.
Treating Bird mites also involves treating birds for any bacterial infections that may have resulted from the mite bites.
How to Get Rid of bird Mites on Pet Birds
- Install a vent fan in your bird’s room and run it continuously to minimize dust particles, which will attract bird mites. Misting your pet’s cage with water during molting season helps prevent bird mites as well. Both of these methods promote healthy skin condition by helping the feathers stay clean and dry while they are coming out and new ones are growing back in; this reduces susceptibility to infection during molts, when more errant particles will find their way into wounds.
However, if you suspect your bird has already been infected by bird mites or other parasites, misting won’t help because the adult parasites are too big to be removed by the water droplets
. Placing your bird’s cage in a bathroom that has an exhaust fan is helpful for this reason, or placing the cage directly under a running shower while you’re in the shower can help remove some parasites.
- Use topical treatments on your pet bird such as mite-proofing sprays and dips, which are available at pet stores and avian veterinarians’ offices. These products contain ingredients that will kill any adult mites located on your bird’s body (not just those you see with a 1x microscope), including their eggs.
However, it may take several days of consistent treatment for the full effect to develop, so follow instructions carefully when using these products and check with your avian veterinarian if your bird does not seem to be responding.
- Use a topical treatment on your pet bird’s cage at least once and preferably twice a week for two weeks. This will help keep the mite infestation from re-occurring during molting season, when it is most common and can become serious or even fatal without prompt intervention. Cage treatments include dusting of perches with pesticides containing pyrethrum, as well as using sprays to treat the bars and toys in your bird’s cage.
Be careful about exposure to these substances — they are toxic! They are only safe when used according to instructions and they must be rinsed off before bringing your birds back into their cages after application, so follow all instructions carefully.
Check with your avian veterinarian to see if any of these treatments is recommended for your particular bird’s condition.
- Remove as many food and water bowls from your pet birds’ cages as possible, including a) those that are permanently fixed onto the cage bars, b) those that you cannot wash thoroughly in between uses (such as plastic or ceramic bowls), and c)
Those made out of materials that can’t be disinfected such as wood or metal; replace with stainless steel or enamel-coated ceramic ones. Bird mites will use anything solid they find to hold onto while they bite into their prey’s skin so removing objects like perches will help reduce a feeding ground for mites and other pests.
- Wash your birds’ cages thoroughly at least once per week with a bleach and water solution of no less than 1:10, using a scrub brush to remove any dirt or mite infesting feces. Please note that bleach also kills bacteria, so following up an application of this cleaner with an antibacterial cleaning agent will help prevent bacterial problems as well (such as upper respiratory infections) in addition to killing mites. Replace all items in the cage immediately after you have finished washing them.
- Do not use powders, potpourri or any other fragrances that contain essential oils around your pet bird’s cage because they can make it sick if ingested by either pet or owner; replace them with unscented disinfectant sprays, such as those made with quaternary ammonium (the active ingredient in Lysol cleaners). Anything you can do to reduce the amount of airborne bacteria and fungal spores circulating around your bird’s cage will help prevent upper respiratory infections from taking hold.
- Disinfect any cat litter boxes that may be located in the same room as your pet bird’s cage on a daily basis; scoop out all fecal matter and wash them with soap and water, dilute bleach solution or an antibacterial cleaner after each use. Many cats carry ringworm fungus (and other parasites) without exhibiting symptoms themselves but are able to transmit it to humans or pets through their feces. By cleaning these boxes, you will not only help keep your pet birds as healthy as possible, but you will also reduce the chance of contracting ringworm or other skin diseases from your pets.
- Clean and disinfect any surfaces that may have come into contact with infected feces using a bleach solution (no less than 1:10) or an antibacterial cleaner such as Lysol to kill bacteria,Virkon S to kill viruses or quaternary ammonium compounds (the active ingredients in Lysol cleaners). Mites can live for hours outside their host bodies so they can easily spread from bird to human or vice-versa if given a clean place to hide within reach of the next meal.
Unlike most contagious diseases which must be transmitted by direct contact via body fluids (e.g. saliva, urine) or through a break in the skin, mites can spread purely via contact with contaminated surfaces if they are not properly cleaned between individual uses so it is vital that any potentially contaminated items (bedding, perches, etc.) be replaced immediately after disinfection.
- Rinse all feeding and water dishes thoroughly at least once per week in an effort to reduce the amount of food debris available for mites to use as nesting sites; clean these items with soap and water on an additional basis each day during the initial stages of treatment while you are trying to kill off most of the adult population once a day should suffice but continue as often as necessary until you see no new evidence of infestation for several weeks in a row.
- Keep the humidity levels in your home as low as you can comfortably tolerate; dry air kills mites and their eggs so increasing the ambient temperature is not the only way to get rid of them. If you live in a humid climate or are unable to reduce your interior relative humidity, consider running a dehumidifier in problem areas whenever possible — but make sure that it is placed where no birds will come into contact with its water supply!
Additionally, if you have a central HVAC system (or ceiling fans) in your home which recirculates air throughout multiple rooms, consider opening windows for at least 20 minutes per day to increase airflow and allow any accumulated moisture to naturally escape from the building rather than re-circulate it.
- Do not allow anyone with an active case of scabies or other contagious skin infestation to spend time in the same room as your pet bird(s) without taking precautions to prevent transmission; if this is unavoidable, make sure that appropriate measures are taken to disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution (no less than 1:10), antibacterial cleaner or quaternary ammonium compounds (the active ingredients in Lysol cleaners).
If someone comes down with scabies after visiting your home and you have pet birds, you will obviously want to quarantine them from interacting with people until all symptoms of their infestation have disappeared — but be aware that mite eggs can still be viable for up to 18 months so you may want to consider treating any potentially infested possessions with a solution of bleach or disinfectant until you are certain that the infestation has been completely eradicated.
- Wash your hands before and after handling any potentially infected materials (e.g. pet bedding) to prevent the spread of mites or their eggs from one location to another via direct physical contact; use disposable gloves when working in environments where this is not possible, changing them whenever you switch tasks and disposing of them immediately afterward.
Reducing exposure to the amount of skin that comes into contact with potentially contaminated items will limit the chances of accidentally transferring these parasites to other areas (your face, eyes, etc.)where they can easily establish new colonies by burrowing beneath irritated skin.
- Be patient! It can take several weeks to get rid of mites once they have begun to multiply; if you are consistent and persistent,you should eventually see a gradual reduction in symptoms and signs until the infestation is finally halted.
- If all else fails, seek medical attention from your bird’s vet or an avian specialist; these professionals may be able to provide more potent medications (e.g. imidacloprid) which will kill off most of the population more quickly. But don’t wait too long before beginning treatment; birds with a severe case of scabies can rapidly lose their ability to regulate oral hydration,feed themselves or groom effectively which could lead to fatal bacterial infections if not addressed immediately.
Conclusion paragraph: Bird mites are a common problem for pet birds, but it doesn’t have to be. If you suspect that your bird has a case of any skin condition, please contact an avian veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment options. You can also start with the treatments below before contacting a professional. Our team is happy to answer further questions about caring for your feathered friend!