Bird Mites: Mites that are commonly infesting birds

Bird Mites or Mange Infections can be found on any pet bird or avian species. Mites spread from bird to bird as flock members make body contact.

Listing of Mites and Affected Bird Species Wild Birds and Mites

Mites can be found on any pet bird or avian species. Mites spread from bird to bird as flock members make body contact. Contrary to what many people still believe, those metal round Protective Mite Killers you hang on the side of a bird’s cage are toxic. They do in fact contain an insecticide; however, it is very doubtful they would kill any mites. They just might kill your bird. Not recommended!

It is extremely important to eliminate a mite infestation. Note that rodent and bird mites may bite people when their animal hosts are no longer available for some reason.

Signs and Symptoms of Possible Mites on Pet Birds:

  • Some mites are visible to the naked eye (i.e., red mites)
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive preening
  • Ruffling of feathers
  • Skin irritation
  • In some cases, evidence of feather damage is evident
  • Bird Mites / Biting Mites

Treatment Protocols:

  • First of all — there is no point in treating only the environment or only the patient. You have to rid the environment of mites and treat the bird at the same time; otherwise, your pet will keep getting re-infected.
  • Environmental Treatment: Other than the treatment options described under each mite problem described below, the Avian Insect Liquidator is a safe solution for pet and aviary birds. It could also be used around wild bird feeders to rid the area and birds themselves of mites. It can be purchased via this website.
  • Treating the bird itself: One product that bird owners are enthusiastic about is Scatt – it kills air sac mites and scaly mites safely and effectively. 3 week residual effect means one treatment is usually all it takes. The active ingredient is moxidectine.
    • Ref:
    • Some people also reported success with massaging olive oil into the infected areas (be careful about areas around the nostrils – you don’t want olive oil or any fluids to get into the nostrils)

Air Sac Mites aka Canary Lung Mites

Commonly afflict Finches and Canaries, living in their respiratory tracts. The mites can be visualized by shining a small, bright focused light across the windpipe (trachea). The mites will appear as grains of pepper inside the trachea. The mites are also found in the lungs and air sacs.

A small number of mites may cause no obvious signs, but if a bird suffers from a serious infestation, it may breathe through its open mouth, tail-bob or have difficulty breathing.


Chiggers are the immature stage of a mite. Chiggers feed in clusters on the thighs, breast, undersides of the wings and the vent. These chigger clusters result in reddish scabby lesions. The chiggers feed for about 14 days, then drop off after which the lesion heals.

Myialges Nudus:

This mite is most commonly found on members of the brotogeris species (such as captive grey cheek parakeets). However, this mite has also been identified on other species of birds. Flies and lice may be involved in transferring these mites to other birds.

Myialges causes severe itching. Infected birds become very debilitated, lose feathers, suffer weight loss and develop red, scaly, thickened skin. If untreated, death occurs within several months.

Diagnosis is by clinical signs and identification of the mites in scrapings from the skin.

Infected birds are treated with Ivermectin.


Red Mites:

Red mites feed at night, which often makes the bird restless and itchy. Red mites are found crawling around on the skin or feathers at night. The region of the head and vent are most frequently attacked by red mites. After they take blood from the bird, red mites will crawl off into cracks in the cage, perches, nest boxes or even into other areas of the home in the morning.

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    The easiest way to diagnose them is by covering the cage at night with a white sheet. Examination of the sheet in the morning will show tiny brown or red specks about the size of a grain of pepper, if the bird has red mites.

    Red mites can bite and feed on the blood of humans and pets. During the day, mites can get into furniture, carpeting and woodwork, where they lay their eggs.

    Heavy infestations can cause anemia and kill chicks.

    My experience with Red Mites: I have experienced the Red Mite, that killed a few of my babies.

    Diagnosis: These mites are pretty small, but you can see them especially around the crest, where they especially like to feed. You will find lots of little red specks, and you will see them move once you look at them for 10 – 20 seconds or so. You can find them also on the walls of the nest box. I just stare at the inside of the nest box and see if anything moves.

    Here is how my aviary got infected: I used to wash and disinfect the nesting boxes (submerging them in bleach water after washing) and then put them outside in the beautiful Southern California sun to dry for a couple of days, then I would put them back in the aviary. Wild birds visiting my garden brought those little suckers with them and started this problem.

    I never noticed it until one day I picked up such a clean nesting box and accidentally looked underneath and saw thousands of those little red specks. I admit I left that nesting box out for more than 2 days.

    Treatment: By then my tiels were infected (from those boxes that I DIDN’T check). It took me several months to take care of the problem. Tried several things, but nothing worked as well as 5% Sevin Dust [active ingredient: Carbaryl (1-napthyl N-methylcarbamate)] — if I had known that in the beginning, I would have been able to resolve the problem earlier. It was quite easy to treat.

    Now, how did I deal with infected babies. I took out the babies from the nesting box, removed as many of the mites as I could, and then put them in a plastic incubator with white papertowels underneath them. The rest comes off by themselves eventually. On the white papertowel you can see those mites easily as they come off the babies after a meal. I changed the papertowel first every 10 minutes, then every half an hour, then every hour for about 6 hours, and then all the red mites were gone. I kept the babies for handfeeding of course (the parents might not have accepted them back after having been gone for so long).

    For the next several months I added a teaspoon full of Sevin Dust to the nesting box filling (mixing it in). As the affected parents went into the nesting box, the mites would eventually fall off and die due to the Sevin Dust [active ingredient: Carbaryl (1-napthyl N-methylcarbamate)] .

    Scaly Face or Scaly Leg (Mange) Mites

    Listing of Mites and Affected Bird Species

    NameSpecies of birds affected
    Air sac mites (bronchi, lungs, air sac) – Cytodites nudusPoultry, pheasants, finches (common in gouldian finches), pigeons, canaries, etc.
    Chiggers – Family Trombiculidae (Neoschonagastia americana)Poultry (Southern US), turkeys, wild birds, chickens
    Cyst mites (skin, subcutis, muscle, abdominal viscera and lungs) – Laminosioptes cysticolaChicken, turkeys, pigeons, pheasants geese
    Depluming mites – Knemidocoptes gallineaeChickens, pigeons, pheasants
    Depluming mites – K. laevisPigeons
    Depluming mites – Neocnemidocoptes gallinaePheasants and others
    Feather and quill mites – Syringophilus hipectinatusPoultry, wild birds
    Feather and quill mites – S. columbaePigeons
    Feather and quill mites – Dermoglyphus sp., Analges sp., Mengninia sp., Freyana sp.Chickens, turkeys
    Feather and quill mites – Paraglopsis sp.Psittacines, finches
    Hypopial mites – Areolar subcut.Pigeons
    Northern Fowl mites – Ornithonyssus sylviarum*Chicken, turkeys, wild birds
    Red mites (Roost mite, Poultry mite) – Dermanyssus gallinae*Chickens, turkeys, pigeons, canaries, wild birds
    Respiratory tract mites (trachea, lung, air sac) – Sternostoma tracheacolum* (Neonyssus, Rhinonyssus)Passerines (canaries, finches), psittacines, poultry, pigeons
    Skin mites: Sarcoptiform Mange – Myialges nudusBrotogeris / Grey-cheeked parakeets
    Scaly Face Mange MitesBudgies / Budgerigars
    Scaly-leg and scaly-face mites – Knemidocoptes mutans*Poultry
    Scaly-leg and scaly-face mites – K. pilae*; Procnemidokoptes janssensiPsittacines; Lovebirds
    Scaly leg mites – K. jamaicensisCanaries, finches, other passerines
    Skin mites – Epidermoptes bilobatusChickens
    Skin and feathers – Harpyrynchus sp.Passerines
    Tropical Fowl mites – O. bursaPoultry, pigeons, Mynah

    * Most common

    Wild Bird and Mites:

    Wild birds often carry mites and, in visiting our bird feeders, will pass them on to other wild birds, or by sitting on top of aviaries and cages can easily pass the mites on to our pet / breeder birds.

    To prevent / treat mites infestation in your backyard, I recommend the following:

    1. Don’t compound the problem by filling your bird station with infected seed. Check the wild bird seed. If you see little tiny moving specks in them, discard – or freeze in for a week or so (preferably toss though). I don’t keep wild bird seed outside anymore. They get infected so easily.
    2. Wash any bird feeders that you may be using. I hose my bird feeders down every night with a Power Sprayer and let it dry over night.
    3. I would very much recommend using several feeding stations in different areas of your garden. This way you spread out the visiting birds. Close contact between the birds facilitates the spread of disease. You can’t stop birds from visiting your bird feeder for the most part. The only control you have is maybe choosing the feeder and seed that your preferred feathered garden visitor likes. But if it comes to getting food birds will compromise on seeds and find ways to get around the feeder type to get to food. You can’t stop them, but providing several stations will spread the birds out — which will be helpful in preventing disease.
    4. If you believe the area around the bird feeder is infected, change the location of the bird feeders. If you look closely, you may see little moving specs. Lift up stones or large wood items on the floor around the feeder — if you see little tiny specks, these may be red mites. You may also see mites moving up and down on the pole of your feeder. These mites are big enough to be seen moving around. Mites in general, and red mites specifically, are nasty little pests that like to hide in the crevices of wood for example. They hitch a ride at your feeder and once the bird is at the nest, they will settle there and infect both parents and chicks. Some mites will stay on birds and cause little harm; while others – such as the Red Mite — will actually live in the bird’s nest and only spend enough time on the bird to feed from it. Similarly to fleas. Those mites can most easily be seen around the head. As the birds scratch themselves the skin may get infected and they lose feathers. These mites are especially devastating for the chicks as they suck all the blood out of them. The younger chicks stand very little chance. The only way the bird parents can rid itself of this mite is by continuously moving — leaving the infected nests behind and oftentimes abandoning the infected chicks.
    5. Spray the areas that the wild birds are hanging out in with “soapy” water. Dawn Dish Washing Liquid is safest – never ever use the anti-bacterial kind. This will take care of any mites and ants. A water hose with a fertilizer attachment works great. You would put the dish washing liquid in the “fertilizer” compartment. Repeat as necessary. Make sure that you don’t spray any birds or other animals. (Please refer to article on the negative effects of anti-bacterial soaps)
    6. Dust infected bird nests / areas with Sevin Dust (5 percent) [active ingredient: Carbaryl (1-napthyl N-methylcarbamate)] – available from Target and other drug stores.
    7. Information on Biting Mites.

    Find Your Local Avian Veterinarian

    Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.

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      Pet Birds Infected with Bird / Biting Mites


      Pet Bird Suffering from Bird Mites

      Shirley has been battling a bird mite infection for some time now, and now would like to share her experience with people who may be faced with the same problem. Below is her input:

      I have been battling this with a cockatiel for a few months now. He plucked his back and had big sores. The vet put him on Metroconozole for 10 days once a month. It helped initially. The cockatiel always had black specs on the back, sometimes red, sometimes rashes. At times, I could see long hair red lines under the skin.A complete histopathy came back with severe dermatitis (and a $869.00 vet bill).

      I recently also found that my other pet bird, a lovebird, has the same symptoms. The affected areas are the neck and lower back.

      Once I was able to pick one of these “dots” up and using specialty glasses (like vets have) and a microscope I was able to take a closer look. These bugs have horrid six legs and I can see the pearl under the skin which are the eggs.

      Things that appear to help in eradicating this problem:

      Ruth provided the following advice:

      I give then a good soaking [a bath, you can spray as well, so long as you are careful, as you could accidentally get it in their eyes and it stings] in 1/2 and 1/2 water and vinegar. They will smell funny for a few days, but it seems to help a lot. I also always use straight vinegar when washing cages, daily. I have only had mites here twice in the past 20 years and both times it was brought in by an outside bird and seemed to spread like wildfire, no matter how long or well they were quarantined. Since I started bathing them in Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) , no more mites, ever. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) works best but white works as well. Wine vinegar will stain light colored feathers, but if ingested after spraying them it is completely harmless.

      PLEASE NOTE: HEATED vinegar emits toxic fumes similar to carbon dioxide. Bird owners have lost their pets by adding vinegar to their dishwashing cycle, or used it to clean coffee machines.

      Shirley M. in Jacksonville Florida

      • The bird room and aviaries were thoroughly cleaned and are kept meticulously clean. I also am using Damascus earth – the eatable kind – In the foraging areas. My birds live in an inside bird room and also have their own patio totaling 400 feet of bird living area.
      • I add garlic to scrambled eggs and turmeric to the seed mixes that are fed to my birds.
      • I am using the 8 and 1 bug and mite spray, and Nystat msp.
      • To heal the sores, I am using an old- fashioned antibiotic I got from pet store in fish department – penicillin.
      • An avian vet recommended to bathe him in a shampoo used for dogs, namely: SULPH OXY DEX. After shampooing the birds, I have to let the shampoo on for about five minutes before rinsing/ drying the birds It is interesting to note that after applying the Sulph oxy dex shampoo, you can see the bugs literaly jump off the birds.
      • Please note that any treatment options need to be discussed with your vet before implementing them.

      In treating my birds with chemicals, I break for a couple of days to give my birds time to rest before going back to the treatments (other than the daily cleaning and the non-toxic treatments, such as garlic and turmeric.

      I do take the time and effort to provide my birds with the best possible diet, including fresh veggies and fruit. I bake birdie bread for them and also feed seeds, pellets, millet and tons of other food items from the health food store.

      I am winning this war. My birds feel better. The specs are much less, but I have to be diligent every day in my efforts to eradicate them. This method is working, but I am still working on the eggs. So it’s probably a month or two of staying on top of things.

      So far I am noticing that my birds stopped picking themselves, sleep better, feel better, and eat more.

      This experience is horrible – it’s a nightmare. That is why I am taking the time to type this out for anyone who cares to think beyond “no hope” for this mite problem..

      To me there is no such thing as it can’t be cured … I am winning this battle and I will keep you posted on if I win this battle or should I say: when I win it.

      So here are some ideas and thoughts and actions to maybe help others.. I am also so open to other thoughts and theories, and your course of action. Thank you.

      Mite-infected Furry Pets:

      Symptoms of a mite infestation in dogs:

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        1. Licking their feet ….constantly.
        2. Smelling their hair…they start putting their noses deep down into their hair and taking deep breaths.
        3. Sneezing……some times 10 times in a row.
        4. Hair loss
        5. Itching….a feverish, frantic type of itching.
        6. Waking up from sound sleep biting at their skin and spinning around.
        7. Shaking of the head…walking with head tilted.
        8. Scratching even while they sleep.
        9. Rubbing their faces on the corners of tables and walls.

        The Non-Toxic “Olive Oil” Solution:  One vet recommended a cat owner to follow this protocol to help her infested cat:

        Pour some Olive Oil into a spray bottle and spray 2 paper towels (lightly) with it.

        Put one paper towel in each hand and then rub the pet with it from head to toe.

        Do this once a week until the problem has been resolved.

        The cat ower reports that this non-toxic, simple solution worked and that her cat has been mite free for some time.

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          It appears that the Olive oil makes the fur less attractive to parasites.

          Benzoyl peroxide (2.5%) kills any type of bacteria, mite or lice on the skin. Many products are widely available that can be purchased without a prescription, for example one is a common over-the-counter acne medication. Some products (such as cleansers or lotions) may require a prescription.

          Check your product package to see if your form of this medication needs to be shaken. It will oxidize the skin so can be a tumor promoter, so long-term use should not be undertaken without the supervision of a health professional. This all being said, few things are as effective as Benzoyl Peroxide in getting rid of these little pests, when rubbed into the affected area.

          Benzoyl peroxide is also often the active ingredient in dog mite medications.

          Rita’s background and recommendation pertaining to dogs infested with mites / scabies. She herself had two dogs infected years ago and spent over $7,000 on vet treatments without any relief. In the end, the two dogs had to be put down as the vet was unable to help them. She is now considered a “veteran” in fighting the biting mites and without much assistance from the medical community has basically found a way to heal herself using Epsom Salt. She is now helpful in walking people through the process of ridding themselves and their pets from the biting mites. Following she is advising someone with a dog who is infected with biting mites. The news now is that, following the below protocol, the dog has been able to sleep in peace without itching for several weeks now.

          The following protocol was followed:

          • Give the dog a quick shower every evening and very slowly pour a pint of water with 1 1/2 cups of Epsom salt over the dog.
          • Let it run down into the ears and work it down into the roots of the hair.
          • Blow dry the dog
          • Get into the shower and salt yourself down to get rid of any mites.
          • As these mites hide in fabric, it’s necessary to soak the dog’s and owner’s bedding, clothing every night.
          • The environment needs to be thoroughly cleaned daily.
          • Products that have been recommended:
            • Cedarcide and Frontline spray (do not use around birds!)

          Another dog owner recommended for dogs to be placed on Revolution (prescribed by your vet).

          Cats: Get some “Revolution” from a vet or from  Cat owners report this to be effective against mites as well as fleas. Others purchased flea and tick spot for cats at their local Walmarts or other stores. They recommend applying it once and then wait 2 weeks and apply again.

          • Kleen Free – This enzyme-based, chemical free home cleaning product is highly recommended by people who have been fighting bird mites / bed bugs for years and found this to be the solution.

          Relevant Web Resources:

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