Feather mites on parrots

How To Get Rid Of Bird Mites On Parrots? (Treatment & Prevention)

If your parrot seems to be preening a lot more lately or if you notice a few damaged feathers, it could be a case of bird mites.

Mites are tiny parasites, usually not more than a millimeter in size that bite into the parrot’s skin causing itchiness and discomfort. They can cause a range of other skin conditions, feather loss, and even lead to anemia.

Mites typically live on parrot’s feathers and skin, though certain types of mites can infest other parts of their bodies, such as their lungs. 

In order to treat mites infestation in parrots, it is crucial to first identify the type of bird mite that your parrot has picked up.  

What Are Bird Mites?

Bird mites are a type of ectoparasite. They are classified as arachnids having eight legs and no wings. They are extremely small and may appear as red dots if you are able to spot them on your bird’s skin.

The 3 Common Types Of Bird Mites On Parrots

Feather Mites 

Red mites (Dermanyssus Gallinae) are microscopic creatures that belong to the class of arachnids. They infest parrot’s feathers and skin but may not remain attached to them. These mites often hide in the cracks and crevices in cages, toys, and other narrow spaces they can find. 

Feather mites are nocturnal creatures and generally come out at night to bite birds. If left untreated, they can continue to suck blood from the parrot eventually leading to its demise. 

Scaly Face Mites 

Knemidokoptes or scaly face mites affect the areas of a bird’s body that are not covered by feathers. These mites burrow into the skin of the bird and survive on their blood. It is particularly common in budgies but can be seen in other parrots as well.

If left untreated, these parasites stay burrowed in the parrot’s skin and spread to different areas such as the legs, face, and beak. Parrots with scaly mites infestation will have scaly and thickened skin. Scaly mites can grow under the beak and cause disfigured beaks. 

The treatment for scaly mites involves oral medication as well as antiparasitic sprays and creams. However, you should never try to medicate your parrot with over-the-counter drugs. 

Scaly mites infestation cannot be treated at home and requires a proper diagnosis from a professional avian vet. If you suspect your parrot might be suffering from this condition, take it to the vet. They will prescribe the appropriate medication and dosages as per your bird’s needs.  

Air Sac Mites

Air sac mites, scientifically referred to as Sternostoma tracheacolum are internal parasites. They are found in the trachea, lungs, or voice box and air sacs of the bird, hence the name. Being inside the parrot’s respiratory system, these are hard to detect without an examination. A vet would usually take a sample from the bird’s mouth and examine it under a microscope.  

Timely treatment is extremely important for a bird that has air sac mites. If unchecked, the mites can multiply rapidly and clog the bird’s air passages. This can cause the bird to suffocate and eventually die. Various oran medicines are available for this condition however, they should be prescribed by a vet after a complete diagnosis.

How Do Parrots Get Mites? 

Since parrots are kept as pets and mostly stay indoors, you may wonder where could your bird have picked up mites from.

Feather mites are usually more common in wild birds and poultry birds due to their unsanitary living environments. As such, for pet birds like parrots, mites infestation can be the result of poor hygiene.  

Another common way parrots can get mites is through direct contact with an infected bird. Bird mites can be easily passed from one bird to another if they’re kept in the same cage. 

Mites can also be transmitted through contaminated objects such as cages, toys, etc. If these objects come in contact with an infested bird, it can potentially infest your parrot.

This is because bird mites can continue to live in the environment, such as in cages, toys, and food bowls. Feather mites often like to hide in cracks in narrow spaces and come out in the night to bite parrots.

Common causes of bird mites on parrots:

  • Poor hygiene in bird’s environment  
  • Direct or indirect contact with an infested bird

How To Check For Mites On Parrots

Mites are microscopic creatures and cannot be seen crawling around like lice or fleas. The best way to check for feather mites on birds is by leaving a white sheet under their cage at night.

After sucking your parrot’s blood all night, bird mites usually find a nook to hide. So if your parrot is infested with feather mites you will see red dots on the white paper. 

If your parrot is infested with bird mites, it may show the following symptoms:

  • Over preening from itching 
  • Feather plucking
  • Inability to sleep at night (Bird mites are most active at night)
  • Damaged feathers  
  • Bald patches

Can Bird Mites Live On Humans?

While bird mites may cause rashes and irritation to humans, it is only temporary. Bird mites cannot live and reproduce on human hosts.

They can bite on exposed skin which can cause itching. If you’re in regular physical contact with a mites-infested bird, chances are some of those mites can move onto your skin. 

A report published by the Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases details the case of a family infested with red mites. The affected family members were experiencing itching all over their bodies, with the itching being especially intense on their hands, forearms, back of the neck, and chest, particularly in the evening hours. During the physical examination, the doctors observed common signs of a typical condition called pruritus dermatitis. 

Golden and blue macaw

How To Treat Mites On Parrots

Treatment for feather mites includes a combination of anti-parasitics sprays and oral medications. Ivermectin is an oral medicine effective in treating mites and other kinds of parasites in birds. It is a solution that can be added to the parrot’s water and can be safely consumed by them. 

Other treatments involve topical sprays and powders such as Nuvan and permethrin. These sprays are applied directly onto the parrot’s feathers for a few weeks.

While using any kind of insecticide on your parrot, make sure to cover the bird’s eyes and nostrils. While the solution is safe for topical application, it can cause irritation if it accidentally gets into the parrot’s eyes. 

But remember, these medicines should only be given to the bird after consultation with an avian vet. Dosages and the type of medication may differ depending on the individual so it is not wise to use over-the-counter medications.

How To Prevent Bird Mites Infestation In Parrots?

After your parrot has been cleared of mites, it does not mean that it cannot be reinfected by them. Mites can still be lurking in their surroundings and it is critical to eradicate them completely to prevent any infestations in the future.

Disinfect Their Surroundings 

Before beginning to clean and disinfect your parrot’s cage and other items, wear proper protective gear as the mites can crawl up on your body as well. Wear gloves and masks while cleaning the cage. 

Remove old cage liners, newspapers, and any other items that can be thrown away. Mites can hide in small crevices and your parrots could be perfect for that. Toys and wooden boxes should be cleaned in hot water to kill the mites.  

Apple Cider Vinegar

When it comes to cleaning your parrot’s surroundings, non-chemical measures to control the infestation should be preferred. Apple cider vinegar is a natural disinfectant that can deter parasites in the environment. 

To create the cleaning solution,  mix two parts of water with one part of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle, then spray the mixture all over the cage, making sure to cover all areas.

Remember that mites often stay hidden between small spaces where you can’t see them. So, use a cloth or brush to scrub the nooks of the cage. Once cleaned, allow the cage to dry in direct sunlight. The heat from the sun will kill off the remaining mites and other bacteria.

Separate Cages For New Birds

A new bird, whether infected or not, should be quarantined before being put in a cage with other birds.

If you bring home a new pet parrot, especially one that has been rehomed, you should first examine it for potential mites infestation.

An examination with the vet can be better suited since many of the types of mites cannot be spotted with the naked eye. 

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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