Bird mites need a live host to survive, so they feed on the parrot’s blood. Mites lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as plucking out feathers, so treatment is needed to kill mites.
Feather mites, scaly leg mites, scaly face mites, and air sac mites can infest parrots. When parrots have mites, the itchiness and lethargy are due to blood loss.
Insecticides (Sevin dust and diatomaceous earth) are an ideal dust bath treatment. Also, pyrethrins and permethrins are effective insecticidal sprays.
Also, regularly clean and sterilize your parrot’s cage and everything inside.
What Mites Infest Parrots?
Mites affect all parrot species, but they’re not easy to see. So, understanding the bird mite species helps owners determine which type has infested their parrots.
Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are nocturnal bloodsuckers. At 1 mm, they’re difficult to see with the naked eye. However, they cause considerable discomfort and make parrots feel itchy and restless.
Red mites 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 known as avian skin mites. As described by Science Direct, feather mites 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 commonly affect parrots living in outdoor aviaries. Like red mites, they feed on the affected parrot’s blood at night, making them appear more restless when it’s dark.
Scaly Leg Mites
Scaly leg mites most commonly affect small parrot species, such as budgies. Younger parrots are also more susceptible.
Scaly leg mites in parrots result in feather loss, skin infections, and a deformed beak. Parrots may also experience intense itching.
They spend their life cycle on the parrot, but they can burrow into wooden toys and perches to hide. A mite infestation occurs around the beak, mouth, nostrils, eyes, legs, and toes.
Air Sac Mites
Air sac mites (Sternostoma tracheacolum) enter 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, squeak, and have trouble breathing.
Are Mites Harmful To Parrots?
If left untreated, mites can cause death and infect other birds. Check for these signs:
Bloodsucking mites, like red mites, cause anemia. Avian anemia is described by Compendium as a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. Low levels of red blood cells can lead to:
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Anemia mustn’t be left to resolve itself as it can be fatal, especially if the mites aren’t dealt with swiftly.
When scaly mites burrow into bare areas around the parrot’s beak and face, scaly patches occur.
Beak abnormalities occur when a mite infestation is neglected. Mites burrow into the growing part of the beak and cause it to become deformed. So, affected parrots have difficulty eating and drinking.
Vitamin A deficiencies make parrots more vulnerable to beak deficiencies, so improving your parrot’s diet can make them less susceptible to beak problems.
Parrots with beak deformities must be quarantined. The beak may need to be trimmed by a vet to allow it to grow back normally, but the parrot will likely be left with long-lasting damage.
Aside from an itching sensation, parrot mite bites don’t do much damage.
However, if mites penetrate the parrot’s skin, 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 become lethargic, withdrawn, and refuse to eat. When bacterial infections set in, clean the area with an antiseptic solution. Also, a vet must administer antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
Does My Parrot Have Mites?
The most obvious sign of a mite infestation is seeing them move on the parrot’s skin. Mites are more active at night around the head and vent. Other noticeable symptoms of mites in parrots include:
Parrots may scratch more often and preen at their feathers.
It looks like they’re grooming, but they’re itching themselves for relief. Parrots will rub themselves against their cage, perches, and nesting boxes to remove the burrowing mites.
Unfortunately, mites can’t be removed through the preening process, so the parrot may become obsessed with its grooming, developing self-mutilation tendencies.
Parrots with mites sometimes have crusty patches around their eyes and beaks. The white deposits become thicker and crustier as the mites continue to burrow.
They’ll also develop plaque in the corners of their eyes. Once the mite infestation worsens, you’ll see deep holes in the skin.
Parrots with a mite infestation will 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 have trouble breathing, which is usually accompanied by coughing, wheezing, and open-mouthed breathing. They might sneeze continuously and gasp for air.
Similarly, check for any changes in vocalization or newly-developed clicking sounds, as 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 excessive preening and foot scratching to get relief. So, 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 remove them.
How To Identify Mites On A Parrot
Mites rarely come out when it’s light; when they do, they’re so small that you need to know they’re there beforehand. That said, you must regularly check for mites. To do so, follow these steps:
- Check your parrot’s skin at night with a flashlight. If you see small dots moving, they’re likely mites.
- Place a white sheet over the cage at night and check for red spots (blood) in the morning.
- Put sticky tape on the bottom of the cage and in nesting boxes to trap mites.
While the above steps won’t treat mites, they can determine whether your parrot is infected.
Is It Parrot Mites or Lice?
Lice are similar to mites but are larger and stick their eggs to the base of the feathers. Also, lice reside all over the body, not specific body parts.
Like mites, they feed off the blood and consume skin and feathers. Lice don’t cause as much damage as mites, but they’re itchy, causing parrots to harm themselves for relief.
Lice don’t burrow as some mite species or carry dangerous diseases.
How Does A Parrot Get Mites?
When mites infect a parrot, they can infest furniture and other animals, making them difficult to eradicate. To remove a mite infestation, you need to know where they originate.
Here are the most likely reasons why parrots get mites:
Contact with An Infected Bird
Most mites come from infected animals that transmit mites. This is unlikely with lone parrots that live in indoor cages; outdoor aviaries are most at risk.
Once one parrot becomes infected, it won’t be long before the entire flock has mites. Mites can travel between cages and move to other birds through direct contact.
Mites inside the home burrow into furniture, awaiting a live host. If your home is infested, they’ll choose to live and feed on a parrot, which provides blood and warmth.
A mite infestation is more likely if you get second-hand furniture. As a result, cleaning the furniture before bringing it into your home is the best way to prevent mite transmission.
Although mites don’t live on humans, owners can transfer mites to parrots after handling other birds.
If one has gotten onto a human’s skin, it’ll seek an avian host. If you have several parrots, implement hygiene measures after handling each parrot to avoid cross-contamination.
If you have a cat, mites can enter your home through the dead rodents and birds brought into the home. Similarly, cats that roam outside come into contact with wild birds’ nests and other dead animals, making them potential mite carriers.
Some dogs rub into dead carcasses or sniff through woodland where mites live. As a result, they bring mites into the home, which infest your parrot.
How To Treat Mites On Parrots
The following parrot mite treatments are highly effective:
Sevin dust is a mild pesticide that can be applied directly to parrots.
Some owners prefer not to use pesticides, but Sevin dust is suitable for avian use. When used alongside a dusting bath, 5% Sevin dust kills mites.
Dust your parrot under the wings and tail, ensuring you reach all areas. However, never allow your parrot to inhale too much dust, as it can affect its respiratory system.
Protect your parrot’s respiratory system by putting the parrot’s body in a bag with the dusting solution, with its head sticking out of the top. Shake the powder solution to cover the body before dusting it off.
Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that kills mites by scratching the surface area of their chitinous exoskeleton. As a result, the powder draws out their moisture, eventually dehydrating them.
You can also use it in hard-to-reach areas of the cage to kill any mites that may be hiding.
Pyrethrins are pesticides naturally found in various chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins are toxic to insects, including mites, but are milder than other insecticides.
While pyrethrins are effective, they only work for a short period, so they must be reapplied.
Permethrin is another natural insecticide extracted from the oil glands on the seeds of the Tanacetum cineariaefolium plant. They protect against mites and kill eggs, nymphs, and adults.
Both treatments work by paralyzing the mites until they die.
You can find them in powder and liquid forms. If you prefer, apply the spray to your parrot’s body with a small hand towel, paying particular attention to underneath the wings and around the vent.
Oral medications, such as dewormers, are an effective treatment. In particular, Ivermectin has been proven to work against parrot mites when added to drinking water.