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How Can I Tell If My Bird Has Mites?

How Can I Tell If My Bird Has Mites?

Like many other species of animals, birds can get external parasites. If you discover that your bird has mites, it needs to be treated quickly. Not only can it make your bird sick, but many mites can spread to humans.

Bird mites feed on your bird’s blood and they can live in the cage or nests as well. Mites will die after 3 weeks without a blood source, but it’s best to prevent an infestation or reoccurrence.

Look at your bird carefully when checking for mites. There is more than one type of mite, so you should look at all possibilities.

Symptoms of Scaly Leg Mites

A chicken with scaly leg mites walking on green grass.Check your bird’s legs and feet. You might see scaly skin that can look dry with a white crust on it. If the mite has burrowed into the skin, it can become swollen or have a rash as well. If your bird is infected with scaly leg mites, it will begin to lose its feathers and may develop a crooked beak or legs from the infection. Scaly leg mites will cause a skin infection for your bird, so expect your bird to experience intense itching.

VetRx Caged Bird Remedy can be used to aid in the treatment of scaly-face and scaly-leg mites in several types of birds, including canaries, parakeets, love birds, parrots, cockatiels, finches, and macaws. There are also many other at-home treatments available for scaly mite infestation. The at-home treatments span from solutions such as petroleum jelly and paraffin oil to stronger solutions like disinfectants. Usually, these types of treatments are designed to suffocate or kill the mite on contact.

Symptoms of Scaly Face Mites

A budgie bird with scaly face mites.Also known as Burrowing Face Mites or Budgie mites, these mites get their name from their tendency to affect the Budgerigars, or Budgie (Parakeet), species of birds. Scaly face mites are invisible to the eye, so a sign your bird may be showing signs of having Budgie mites is a thickening crust around the cere and the bill. These burrowing mites dig into the bird’s skin creating tunnels, causing pain for your bird.

It’s important to treat Budgie mites as soon as possible. The longer scaly face mites go untreated, the deeper the mites will burrow. The mites can spread to the legs, feet, and vent leading to potential lameness and/or loss of claws and deformity of the beak, which can cause starvation.

Symptoms of Air Sac or Canary Lung Mites

If your bird is coughing or sneezing frequently, it may have a bad infestation of air sac mites. Birds may breathe with difficulty as if gasping if the mites are infesting the bird’s air sacs or sinuses. The bird might start to make a clicking sound or change how he sounds. Air sac mites affect the entire respiratory tract of a bird and can be present from the nose to the tiny air sacs in the lungs. Canaries and Gouldian finches are birds that commonly suffer from air sac mites.

Symptoms of Feather Mites

A blue parrot with feather mites biting at thier stomach. If you see your bird act as if they are trying to scratch their body against the cage or begin to preen a lot more than they used to, you should take note. They could start to lose weight and become dull in appearance. Often birds will start picking feathers as they try to get the mites off, so you may notice more feathers than usual in the cage or even spots of bare skin on the bird.

Feather mites, or red mites, are most likely to be found on birds with a low immune system. Birds with feather mites will be restless, often more so at night. They may appear to be weak — this is from anemia caused by the mites feeding. You could also see ruffled or dull feathers.

Mites are nocturnal. You can check for mites at night with a flashlight to see if there are any crawling on your bird’s skin. You might also see small areas of red or black in the bird’s cage. Mites will crawl around after a while to look for more blood. If you suspect feather mites, try putting a white sheet over the cage at night. Often with mites, you will see red specks on the sheet in the morning.

Bird Mites and Domestic Pets

If you’re a pet owner, keeping your animal(s) safe and healthy is one of your top priorities. Whether you have a bird, dog, cat, etc. bird mites can infest and irritate your pet and you. The good news is that bird mites are unable to burrow under the skin of humans, dogs, or cats, so they can’t complete their life cycle until they find a host bird. Unfortunately, on their journey to find the best host to survive, they “test bite.” When a bird mite test bites, they inject saliva into their potential new host. This can lead to severe irritation with rashes and intense itching.

How To Treat Mites:

After you have identified that your bird has mites, you will need to treat both the bird and the environment.

  1. Wash the bird’s cage with soap — dish soap is fine. Then, dry the cage and spray it with a permethrin or pyrethrin or product such as Martin’s Pen & Poultry Insecticide Spray or Scalex Mite & Lice Spray.
  2. Wash your bird with a mild glycerin soap or a parrot bathing product. You can spray your bird with Scalex, or spray your hands and gently rub the spray onto your bird’s feathers and skin. Many birds enjoy this, making it a good bonding experience for you and your bird!
  3. Homemade Bird Mite Spray: While there are products sold to treat mites, there are also some natural non-toxic alternatives that may do the trick or bring some short-term relief. Most homemade remedies are not going to completely eradicate mites, but they can help with symptoms.
    1. Vinegar: Vinegar can help reduce itchy skin and skin irritation for your bird. It works great in a spray bottle mixed with salt water as a mite repellent. You can also try mixing white vinegar with a few drops of peppermint essential oil as a strong bird mite spray.
    2. Dawn Dishwashing Soap: The surfactants in Dawn are effective at breaking down the mite’s exoskeleton. Mites cannot build up an immunity to this type of treatment, as with pesticides. Dilute the soap with water and use it in a spray bottle to easily spray on surfaces.

With severe infestations, your avian vet can give the bird an internal medicine — usually, this is Ivermectin-based. It is very important that a veterinarian administer this type of treatment as the dosage must be specific to your bird. The medicine is usually given in drinking water. This will treat blood-sucking mites but not quill mites. Your vet might also prescribe this as an external treatment and will give you the proper dosage and treatment schedule to follow.

To prevent infestations, keep bird areas clean, and remember to bathe your bird regularly. Some birds like to be misted with water and some like to bathe in a shallow dish of water. Be sure to only leave a chest-high amount of water in the bathing dish for your bird’s safety. You can also follow up with a prevention spray such as Manna Pro Poultry Protector which is an all-natural solution to help deter and prevent mite problems.

Be sure to check your bird for mites and mites symptoms regularly, and respond quickly to prevent a potential infestation.


Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge, or supplant the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Any use of a product that is not clearly defined on the label directions should only be done under the supervision of a qualified veterinary professional.

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