The most common mites affecting parrots are Dermanyssus gallinae (bird mites or red mites), Knemidokoptes pilae (scaly-face mites), and Sternostoma tracheacolum (air sac mites).
Parrot mites can be removed with natural remedies like baking soda or tea tree oil, which make the bird’s feathers unhabitable for parasites.
Unfortunately, these safe and easy-to-use organic treatments will only remove and deter mites for a while, rarely permanently getting rid of or killing them outright.
To kill bird mites and their eggs, an antiparasitic spray that contains permethrin, an avian-safe insecticide, or an over-the-counter treatment that includes the antiparasitic drug Ivermectin.
Also, keep the parrot’s living conditions sanitary by regularly cleaning the cage and lining.
What Causes Mites in Pet Parrots?
Keeping any pet will leave your home at risk of a mite infestation, and parrots are no exception. Owners must understand the warning signs of parasites, but how do parrots get mites?
Mites can find their way into a parrot cage in the following ways:
- Direct contact with another infested bird.
- Owners or other pets unwittingly bring mites attached to clothing or skin into the home.
- Nesting wild birds in a chimney or crevice.
- Crawling through open vents, such as air conditioning units.
Mites flourish in dirty conditions, so if you fail to clean a parrot’s cage, these parasites will quickly multiply. Before you know it, you’ll have a significant infestation.
What Mites Live on Parrots?
There are 3 types of mites that most commonly attach themselves to parrots:
|Unlike most parasites, bird mites don’t remain permanently attached to the parrot. Bird mites are nocturnal, hiding in dark corners during the day and reattaching to the parrot at night.|
|Scaly-Face Mites (Knemidokoptes pilae)||These mites are attracted to parts of a parrot’s head not covered by feathers, including the eyes, mouth, and beak. They also like the feet and legs.|
|Air sac mites|
|Air sac mites often attach themselves to small parrots, such as budgerigars, parrotlets, and cockatiels. They live in a bird’s trachea, which is a warm, moist location. If not treated, air sac mites can block air passages.|
None of these mite species are harmless.
Does My Parrot Have Mites?
The symptoms of a bird mite infestation include:
- Itchy skin.
- Scabs and sores beneath the feathers.
- Bald patches.
- Restlessness and expressions of vocal distress, especially at night.
- Lethargy and muscular weakness.
- Low-quality egg production.
If a parrot has scaly-faced mites, it’ll demonstrate these symptoms:
- Crustiness around the corner of the beak, often resembling a honeycomb.
- Refusal to eat as the beak becomes increasingly sensitive, leading to malnutrition or anorexia.
- Chalky white crust around the eyes and nares.
- Deformation and misalignment of the beak.
Air sac mites will usually manifest as follows:
- Loss of voice, leading to reduced talking and singing.
- Coughing and sneezing.
- Wheezing and labored breathing with an open mouth.
- Clicking sounds when the parrot breathes.
- Discharge from the nares.
If a parrot has mites, it’ll need prompt treatment.
What Do Mites Look Like on Parrots?
It can be near-impossible to spot mites on a parrot with the naked eye.
If a parrot exhibits symptoms of a mite infestation, assume this is the case and take the necessary action. Don’t rely on your eyes to detect an issue with mites.
Bird mites are the easiest to detect due to the distinct red color of these parasites. You’d need to look closely to notice mites in low numbers, but they usually accumulate in large numbers.
It’s impossible to see air sac mites as they live within a parrot’s body. Air sac mites can only be observed by taking a swab from the trachea and inspecting the sample under a microscope.
Scaly-face mites are equally hard to spot because they burrow into the parrot’s skin. Be mindful of a crusty appearance around the eyes and beak and behavioral changes, especially regarding eating habits.
Are Bird Mites Harmful to Parrots?
Sometimes, leaving a mite infestation untreated for too long can be life-threatening.
The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science details an instance of a red-crowned parakeet infested with scaly-faced mites who died from mites, which led to stress, malnutrition, and anorexia.
Air sac mites enter the bird’s trachea and multiply in numbers, blocking the airways and making breathing difficult. A parrot will eventually perish if not successfully treated.
The main concern with bird mites is their numbers. Bird mites continually feed on a parrot’s blood until it’s left at risk of anemia. As per the Journal of American Science, anemia weakens the immune system.
Can You Get Mites from Birds?
Bird mites are adaptable and can attach themselves to any animal. If a parrot shares a home with a cat, dog, or small rodent pet, mites can sustain themselves on the blood of these animals.
In some cases, bird mites attach themselves to human skin, potentially leading to an itchy rash, but they won’t remain on human skin for long because human blood doesn’t sustain mites.
Air sac mites can also attach to humans, but they won’t impact the human respiratory tract as severely as parrots, but skin irritation still follows.
Like bird mites, air sac mites will soon die without an avian host, but if you handle a parrot while air sac mites live on your skin, you can transfer them and restart the infestation process.
Scaly-faced mites are unique to birds and won’t attach to humans or animals in your home.
How To Treat Mites in Parrots
Removing mites from a parrot’s body is only the first step in a larger process.
You’ll also need to purge the home of mites by sterilizing the cage, washing fabric surfaces, cleaning any vents that provide external access, and vacuuming regularly.
What Kills Bird Mites Naturally?
Some owners may prefer a natural approach to treating mites before utilizing medication or chemicals. There are 4 main organic remedies for treating bird mites:
All parrots need vitamin A for eye health and overall immunity. An added benefit of vitamin A is that it builds a parrot’s resilience against parasites, especially scaly-faced mites.
Run a parrot a bath in a kitchen or bathroom sink and apply baking soda to the water. You should continue adding baking soda until the water starts to fizz.
Bathe the parrot in this solution for 20 minutes, repeating daily until all symptoms are gone. You may also wish to add vinegar because this is a potent mite killer.
Baking soda can also be sprinkled around the home to clear bird mites that have fled a cage. Baking powder removes moisture from fabric, making the environment unsuitable for mites.
Tea Tree Oil
According to Cochrane Database System Reviews, tea tree oil is a popular remedy for humans that experience dermatitis due to skin mite infestation.
Diluted tea tree oil may perform the same role on the skin and feathers of parrots.
Mix 1 drop of tea tree oil with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to create a lotion, and apply this to the parrot. Leave the solution for around 20 minutes, then rinse it off.
Continue to repeat this until the parrot is no longer infested.
Garlic is a natural mite deterrent, as they loathe the taste. Chop multiple fresh garlic cloves, mix with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and allow the concoction to sit for around 2 days.
Add a tablespoon of vinegar, and apply the homemade lotion to a parrot’s body.
Leave it on for around 20 minutes, then wash it off. Any mites attached to the parrot will flee when they come into contact with the garlic, although they may reattach later.
This solution carries more risk, as garlic contains allicin, a compound that can cause anemia in parrots. To this end, only use this remedy under constant supervision.
Can I Use Mite Spray for Parrots?
Most avian pet stores sell sprays designed to kill and deter mites.
Only purchase a spray designed for birds because the respiratory tract can be irreparably harmed by a spray intended for use on mammals.
The most effective ingredient in a mite spray is permethrin, a natural insecticide considered safe for use around birds. Conservation Physiology describes permethrin as sub-lethal.
What Drugs Kill Mites on Parrots?
The most popular antiparasitic drug used in animal treatment is Ivermectin, which can be applied topically or orally. Proceedings of the Japan Academy refer to Ivermectin as a “wonder drug” due to its effectiveness in killing mites.
You won’t need a prescription for Ivermectin because many over-the-counter products are available. You can buy Ivermectin powder and add it to the bird’s water or as a ‘spot on’ treatment applied through a pipette.
How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Bird Mites?
The lifespan of mites is usually 90 days, although most of them will die within 3 days if denied sustenance. Ivermectin is the fastest and most reliable way to eliminate parasites from parrots within 1 week.
A parrot must be quarantined and regularly treated until you’re certain that all mites have been removed internally and externally. You’ll still need to purge the home of stubborn parasites.
Do Bird Mites Go Away on Their Own?
Never take a wait-and-see approach with parasitic infestation related to parrots.
While it’s true that bird mites will eventually eat their fill, fall away, and die, they can cause severe harm to a parrot’s health before this happens.
Mites multiply rapidly, so actively work to eliminate this threat at the first sign of symptoms.