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How To Get Rid of Mites on Parrots

Last Updated on January 27, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

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 makes the 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.

To kill bird mites and their eggs, an antiparasitic spray that contains permethrin, an avian-safe insecticide, or an over-the-counter treatment that utilizes the antiparasitic drug Ivermectin.

Also, keep the parrot’s living conditions sanitary by regularly cleaning the cage and lining.

Causes of Mites

Keeping a pet leaves the 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’s 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 like air conditioning units.

Mites flourish in unclean conditions. Mites will soon multiply if you fail to clean a parrot’s cage.

Mites That Live on Parrots

There are 3 types of mites that most commonly attach themselves to parrots:

Bird mites
(Dermanyssus gallinae)
Unlike most parasites, bird mites don’t remain permanently attached to the parrot. They’re nocturnal, hiding in dark corners during the day and reattaching themselves at night.
Scaly-Face Mites (Knemidokoptes pilae)They’re attracted to parts of a parrot’s head that aren’t covered by feathers, such as the eyes, mouth, and beak. They also like the feet and legs.
Air sac mites
(Sternostoma tracheacolum)
Air sac mites often attach themselves to small parrots, like 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 the air passage.

None of the above mite species are harmless.

Signs A Parrot Has 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 display the following symptoms:

  • Crustiness around the corner of the beak, often resembling a honeycomb.
  • Refusal to eat as the beak becomes sensitive, leading to malnutrition or anorexia.
  • Chalky white crust around the eyes and nares.
  • Beak deformation and misalignment.

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.
  • Drooling.

If a parrot has mites, it’ll need prompt and effective treatment.

feather mites in parrots

What Mites Look Like on Parrots

Seeing mites on a parrot with the naked eye can be near-impossible.

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 their distinct red color. You’d need to look closely to observe mites early on, but they usually accumulate in large numbers.

It’s impossible to see air sac mites as they live within a parrot’s body. They 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 see because they burrow into the skin. Be mindful of a crusty appearance around the eyes and beak and behavioral changes, especially regarding eating habits.

Bird Mites Are 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 concern with bird mites is their numbers. Bird mites continually feed on a parrot’s blood until it’s left at risk of anemia. The Journal of American Science stated that anemia weakens the immune system.

You Can 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. 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.

Natural Bird Mite Killers

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:

Vitamin A

All parrots need vitamin A for eye health and overall immunity. Vitamin A also builds a parrot’s resilience against parasites, especially scaly-faced mites.

Baking Soda

Run a parrot a bath in a kitchen or bathroom sink and add baking soda to the water. 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, which 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 who 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

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.

how does a parrot get mites?

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.

Permethrin is the most effective ingredient in a mite spray. It is a natural insecticide considered safe for use around birds. Conservation Physiology describes it as sub-lethal.

Drugs That 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.

Add Ivermectin to the water or use it as a ‘spot on’ treatment applied through a pipette.

How Long It Takes To Get Rid of Bird Mites

Mites usually live 90 days, although most 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 confident all mites have been removed internally and externally. You’ll still need to purge the home of stubborn parasites.

Don’t Wait for Bird Mites To 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.