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.

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.

Photo of author

Team Beauty of Birds's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

You can meet our team here.
Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.