When mites infest parrots, they’re itchy and uncomfortable. They also infest other animals and furniture in the home, making them hard to eradicate.
Red mites, feather mites, scaly leg mites, scaly face mites, and air sac mites all infest parrots. Some burrow into the parrot’s skin. To treat them, parrot-safe insecticides, such as Sevin dust and diatomaceous earth, can be used as a dust bath. Pyrethrins and permethrins are also effective insecticide sprays. Vets may also administer an oral medication to be used in your parrot’s water to kill bloodsuckers. Clean the parrot’s cage and your home thoroughly.
Bird mites need a live host to survive, so many will suck a parrot’s blood to feed. They encourage self-destructive behaviors and need to be treated.
What Mites Infest Parrots?
Mites affect all species of parrots. They’re not always easy to see, so understanding the different bird mite species can help owners know which one has infested their parrot. These mites are most likely to affect parrots:
Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are nocturnal bloodsuckers. At 1mm, they’re difficult to see with the naked eye. However, they cause great discomfort and make parrots feel itchy and restless.
Red mites tend to congregate at the parrot’s vent and head. They don’t live on the parrot all the time but hide in the cage’s cracks, nest boxes, furniture, carpets, and woodwork. This is also where they’ll lay their eggs.
Feather mites are also more appropriately known as avian skin mites. As described by Science Direct, they live on the skin’s surface or in feather follicles. Their feeding can lead to itching, scaly or scabby dermatitis, and superficial skin lesions.
Feather mites affect parrots living in outdoor aviaries. While feather mites in parrots are rare when kept in indoor cages, the mites are highly contagious and rapidly infect the entire flock.
Like red mites, they feed on the affected parrot’s blood at night, making the bird appear more restless when it’s dark.
Scaly Leg Mites
Scaly leg mites most commonly affect budgies, canaries, and other small parrot species. Younger parrots are more susceptible. The same mite also causes scaly face.
Scaly leg mites in parrots result in feather loss, skin infections, and a deformed beak. Parrots may also suffer from intense itching.
Scaly leg and face mites spend their entire life cycle on the parrot, but they can also bury into wooden toys and perches to hide. The mites’ infestation occurs around the beak, mouth, nostrils, eyes, legs, and toes.
Air Sac Mites
Air sac mites (Sternostoma tracheacolum) get into the parrots’ respiratory tract, residing in the trachea, voice box, lungs, and air sacs. The mites most commonly affect budgies and cockatiels.
When mites enter the respiratory system, parrots become less vocal, sneeze, cough, and squeak. They also have trouble breathing.
Are Mites Harmful To Parrots?
If left untreated, mites can infect other birds. They also lead to death in the worst cases. Watch out for the following health problems:
Bloodsucking mites, like red mites, cause anemia. Avian anemia is described by Compendium as a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. Parasitic infection is a leading cause and is serious if undiscovered. Low levels of red blood cells can lead to:
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Anemia mustn’t be left to get better, as it can be fatal, especially if the mites aren’t dealt with quickly. Blood levels rapidly decrease as a result.
When scaly mites burrow into bare areas around the parrot’s beak and face, scaly patches occur.
Beak abnormalities develop when the parrot’s mite infestation is neglected. Mites burrow into the growing part of the beak and cause it to become deformed. As a result, affected parrots have difficulty eating and drinking.
Vitamin A deficiencies make parrots more vulnerable to beak deficiencies, so improving your parrot’s diet can help make them less susceptible to beak problems.
Birds with beak deformities must also be quarantined. The beak may need to be trimmed by a vet to allow it to grow back closer to normal, but it’s likely the parrot will be left with long-lasting damage.
A parrot mite bite is relatively harmless. Aside from an uncomfortable itching sensation, the bite doesn’t do much damage.
However, if mites are able to penetrate the parrot’s skin, bacterial infections can occur from where bacteria are allowed to enter. Symptoms of a bacterial skin infection include:
- Inflamed skin
- Lesions with pus
- Poor feather quality
The parrot may also become lethargic, withdrawn, and refuse to eat. When bacterial infections set in, you must clean the area with an antiseptic solution. A vet must administer a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
Does My Parrot Have Mites?
The most obvious sign of a mite infestation is seeing them moving on your parrot’s skin. They’ll be more active at night around the head and vent. However, mites are nocturnal, so it’s hard to see if your parrot is infected with them.
Otherwise, you’ll need to look for other signs to determine whether mites are present. The most noticeable symptoms of mites in parrots include:
Parrots with mites become restless and distressed, especially at night when nocturnal mites come out. Similarly, they may scratch more often and preen at their feathers. It looks like they’re grooming, but they’re itching themselves to get relief.
Parrots will also rub themselves against their cage, perches, and nesting boxes in an attempt to remove the burrowing mites.
Unfortunately, mites can’t be removed by the preening process, so your bird may become obsessive with their grooming, developing self-mutilating tendencies as a result.
Parrots with mites sometimes have crusty patches around their eyes and beak. As the mites continue to burrow, the white deposits become thicker and crustier. They also develop plaques in the corners of their eyes.
Once the mite infestation becomes worse, you’ll see deep burrows or holes in the skin.
Similarly, parrots with a mite infestation develop scaly, irritated skin, especially around the legs and feet. This is because mites release metabolites that irritate the skin, causing red, sore rashes.
Coughing Or Wheezing
Parrots with mites in their respiratory tract will have difficulty breathing. This is usually accompanied by coughing, wheezing, and open-mouthed breathing. Parrots might also sneeze continuously and gasp for air.
Similarly, look out for a change in vocalization or newly-developed clicking sounds. These indicate that mites are burrowed deep in the respiratory tract and are causing discomfort.
Feather loss or bald patches indicate that your parrot has a mite infestation. Parrots pull their feathers out with their excessive preening and foot scratching to get relief from all the mites. As a result, they pluck their feathers where the mites have burrowed.
In the morning, you’re most likely to find patches of feathers at the bottom of the cage where nocturnal mites have feasted on their blood and parrots have tried to get rid of them.
How To Identify Mites On A Parrot
As we’ve already determined, mites are difficult to spot. They rarely come out in the light, and when they do, they’re so small that you need to know they’re there beforehand.
That being said, you must regularly check for mites, especially if your parrot displays any symptoms. To do so, follow these steps:
- Use a flashlight to check your parrot’s skin at night. If you see small dots that look like they’re moving, they’re likely to be mites.
- Place a white sheet over the cage at night and check in the morning for red spots. This will be the blood from where they’ve fed.
- Lay sticky tape on the bottom of your bird’s cage and in nesting boxes to trap mites.
While the above steps won’t treat mites, they can help determine for sure whether your parrot is infected with them or they have another underlying health issue that needs addressing.
Is It Parrot Mites or Lice?
Lice are another pest that affect parrots. They’re similar to mites, but they’re larger and stick their eggs to the base of the parrot’s feathers, which are apparent to the naked eye.
Lice also reside all over a parrot’s body. Like mites, they feed off blood, but they also consume skin and feathers. Lice don’t tend to cause as much damage as mites, but they are itchy, causing parrots to harm themselves to get relief.
However, lice don’t burrow as some mite species do, and they’re not known to carry dangerous diseases.
How Does A Parrot Get Mites?
Mites seemingly appear out of nowhere. When they infect your parrot, they can infest furniture and other animals, making them difficult to get rid of altogether.
To treat the root of the mite infestation, it’s essential to know where they came from. As a result, these are the most likely reasons why parrots get mites:
Contact with An Infected Bird
It’s not normal for parrots to have mites. They most commonly come from infected animals who transmit mites. This is unlikely with lone birds that live in indoor cages, but outdoor aviaries are most at risk.
Once one parrot becomes infected, it won’t be long before the entire flock is riddled with mites. Mites can travel between cages – they’ll also move to the other bird through direct contact.
Mites inside the house burrow into furniture, waiting for a live host to jump onto. If your home is infested, they will choose to live and feed on your parrot, which provides a good source of blood and warmth. This is even more likely if you purchase second-hand furniture.
As a result, cleaning the furniture thoroughly before you bring it into your home is the best way to prevent mite transmission.
Bird owners can transfer mites to their parrots, especially if they’ve been handling other birds. Mites don’t live on humans. If one has gotten onto a human’s skin, there’s the risk of it dropping off in your parrot’s vicinity, where the bird can become infested.
It’s difficult to prevent this as many owners won’t know that they’re carrying a mite on their skin. However, if you do have multiple birds, you must implement hygiene measures after handling each one to prevent mites from infesting your flock.
If you have a pet cat, bird mites can enter your home through the dead rodents and birds it brings home. Similarly, cats that roam outside come into contact with wild birds’ nests and other dead animals, making them a potential mite carrier.
Dogs are another carrier. Some rub into dead carcasses or sniff through woodland where mites live. As a result, they bring mites into the house, which go on to infest your parrot.
How To Treat Mites On Parrots
When you diagnose your parrot with mites, you’ll need to treat the bird straight away to eradicate the problem. Not doing so leaves your parrot vulnerable to serious diseases and death. The following parrot mite treatments are the most effective:
Sevin dust is a mild pesticide that can be used directly on parrots. Some owners prefer not to use pesticides, but it’s been tested as suitable for avian use. When used alongside a dusting bath, 5% Sevin dust is effective at killing mites.
Dust your parrot thoroughly under the wings and tail, making sure you reach all areas covered by the mites. However, make sure you don’t allow your parrot to inhale too much dust, as it can affect its respiratory system.
A good way to do this is to put your parrot in a bin bag with the dusting solution, keeping its head out of the top. Shake the powder solution to cover your parrot’s body, then dust it off.
Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that kills mites by scratching their body’s surface. As a result, the powder draws out their essential oils and liquids, killing them.
As it’s a natural powder, diatomaceous earth won’t harm your parrot. You can also use it in the cage to kill the remaining mites that are hiding.
Pyrethrins are pesticides that are naturally found in various chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins are toxic to insects, including mites, but are milder and more natural than other insecticides.
While pyrethrins are effective, they only work for a short period, so they need to be regularly reapplied.
Permethrin is another natural insecticide that’s extracted from the oil glands on the seeds of the Tanacetum cineariaefolium plant. It provides long-lasting protection against mites and kills eggs and nymphs as well as adults.
Both work by paralyzing the mites until they die. You can find them both in powder and liquid forms. You can use the powder in the same way as Sevin dust.
If you prefer, you can apply the spray to your parrot’s body with a small hand towel, paying particular attention under the wings and around the vent.
Oral medications, such as dewormers, provide an effective treatment against mites. In particular, Ivermectin has been proven to work against parrot mites. Most vets recommend placing it in your parrot’s drinking water so that your parrot can’t reject it.
Other medications are available, but your vet will recommend the best one, depending on the infestation’s severity and your parrot’s health history.
While olive oil won’t kill all mites, it can soothe patches of sore, itchy skin from where they’ve sucked the blood out of the parrot. It may also reduce the infestation, as the oil coats and smothers the mites, suffocating them to death.
Don’t get oil near the eyes or nostrils, and only apply it to dry skin. Olive oil can affect the waterproofing quality of the parrot’s feathers.
How To Prevent Parrot Mites
Once you’ve dealt with the mite problem on your parrot, you’ll need to clean your home to prevent rogue mites from re-infesting your bird. This is also an effective way to avoid future outbreaks. To prevent mites, follow these steps:
Clean Parrot Cage
The first logical step is to deep clean and sanitize your parrot’s cage. Mites hide in the smallest gaps, so you’ll need to be thorough to kill all of them.
You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the cage first to destroy any remaining mites. After an hour or two, brush it out and use a parrot-safe sanitizing solution to disinfect the cage. It’s essential you remove traces of dried parrot blood, too.
Don’t forget to clean inside any nesting boxes you have inside the cage. To be on the safe side, you may want to destroy and replace all wooden perches and accessories to ensure all mites are gone.
Vacuum the entire home, getting into all gaps and cracks where mites may reside. Again, diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on the floor beforehand, which will dehydrate all remaining mites.
Vacuum your house daily for around 14 days to remove eggs and newly hatched nymphs.
As we’ve already mentioned, mites sometimes hide in furniture, whether upholstered or wooden. As a result, you’ll need to clean all furniture that mites are likely to hide in.
Using a parrot-safe insecticide, spray it on couches, chairs, and other furniture pieces where mites may be present, remembering to focus on the cracks and gaps.
It can take several days for mites to die, so repeat the process for seven days to ensure all mites are gone.
Despite their size, mites are highly destructive and significantly reduce your parrot’s quality of life. To avoid severe health problems from occurring, take your parrot to the vet as soon as you suspect mites, and quarantine it from all other animals in the house to reduce the risk of transmission.