Air sac mites:

I believe our friends from Australia might know something about this problem because it is endemic in wild populations of some finches.

I have no experience with air sac mite and only have one canary (so we’re not talking extensive experience on the subject here!).

Currently, the herbal worming mixture I give my animals is a mixture of Black Walnut, Andrographis. and Qing Hao. Andrographis is also effective against blood parasites (so I feel it has a fairly systemic action) as well as being protective of the liver (reputedly more so than St Mary’s thistle). Qing Hao is also effective against a number of other nasties such as E. coli, staph, klebsiela etc.

I use this mixture because it covers both intestinal and blood parasites as well as some other nasties. As yet I haven’t used it on my birds though but intend to give it to my poultry in the near future just to be sure they aren’t carrying parasite burdens. Carole Bryant


Certain types of mites live in wood, and come out only at night. They crawl up onto the bird’s legs, and even go into the feather shafts. Here’s a couple excerpts from old articles I found:

American Cage Bird Magazine, January 1991, page 21, by David Alderton “Red mite is probably the most widespread parasite in birdkeeping circles. This is because it can attack a wide variety of birds, and is not confined to a particular group. Once red mites have gained access to an aviary or birdroom, they may escape detection at first, but grow rapidly in numbers. It is possible to see them with the naked eye, but more convincing signs will be telltale tiny dark spots, around joints in a breeding cage for example. Covering the cage at night with a white cloth may reveal the mites on the following morning as tiny red spots. Use a magnifying glass if you are in doubt. It is almost certain that these mites can be spread from aviary to aviary by birds themselves. You can eliminate this risk by treating all new acquisitions and possibly birds returning from shows as well, with a suitable, safe aerosol spray.

Special pyrethum-based powders are also available for dusting nestbboxes or cages, as well as birds. Longer term treatments, which can be either brushed or sprayed within the bird room to banish mites for a full breeding season, are especially useful.”

Another article, Bird Talk, August, 1991, page 113, by Karen Wasserstrom, tells the story of one woman’s problem with feather plucking birds whose vets, after doing a myriad of tests and using a number of medications, never did figure out that their problem was that they had red mites. She, after an allergic reaction and asthma attack, (while noticing her bird pulling out feathers with an emergence), and which occurred repeatedly night after night, and a bug specialist figured it out and treated appropriately.

Some quotes from her article: “I began getting tiny, itchy bites on my eyelids and chin, and then they appeared on the backs of my legs and on the undersides of my arms.” “Because of their softer skin, women received bites far more frequently than men. Red mites come out at night and hop on birds, using them for mobility. The mites also obtain nutrients from drinking the birds’ blood. In addition, these mites need blood to reproduce. After obtaining the blood, a mite falls off its host into a safe, dark place, such as upholstery, carpet, grass or wood to lay its eggs. Each mite lays approximately 2600 eggs that hatch in about 48 hours.

These mites are hardy little devils. They can survive up to five months without blood!” I realize the article is quite old but she also states: “We decided on a spray containing a high concentration of a natural pyrethrin, Bishops Thirty-five plus All Purpose Concentrate Crawling Inspect Spray” was our choice. This spray is specifically used on poultry for mites, lice and other bugs, and contains no petroleums or oils that can prove toxic to birds. Diluted with water, it works safely around birds.” “After contacting a specialist at the local university veterinary dept., I discovered the chemical most toxic to red mites is carbaryl. Gardeners use carbaryl packaged under the name Sevin powder on tomato plants to rid them of mites. The vet suggested using this in our living space and possibly dusting the birds, being sure to bathe and remove all the powder from the birds after a few minutes. I put my birds on a white sheet and dusted them with the sevin powder from a plastic bottle with a pointed top (the type used to apply hair solutions). within seconds, numerous red mites dropped off the birds! I made sure to squirt the powder under the feathers, where the mites hide.”… “After repeated spraying, dusting, bathing, and bombing sessions, I consider myself a specialist on red mites. Even today I will get an occasional bite or two on the eyelids after hugging Fred, and I immediately reach for the spray or powder. Now I spray or powder the birds, wait 5 to10 minutes, and then bathe them to remove all t he spray or powder and any dead mites. I’m sure I will continue to encounter newly hatched generations now and then, but I will not give up.”

I believe these days most bird breeders use Biological, or Camacide, or the powder 5% Sevin Powder, or the nontoxic spray from VetaFarm. My vet also recommends using Ivermectin for birds who may be kept in area where mites are found, though I know a few breeders who do it twice every year as part of their maintenance program. Many have tried Ivermectin for ridding the bird of mites if it is the cause of mutilation or feather plucking, with very successful results. ( AS an aside, It is also reported that some adults pluck the down feathers from babies in the nestbox due to the presence of mites. They hide in the dark crevices in the nestbox, come out at night, bite, and become red when they are full of blood. Treating the nestboxes with 5% Sevin powder for a couple days, then cleaning, drying before replacing for the next clutch, takes care of this problem.) Some people I know have found that their leg mutilators (and/or pluckers had internal parasites (ie. worms). Once that was taken care of, the problem was resolved.” Hope this helps.


I’m in Florida and have learned twice a year mites will come out of nowhere! I’ve also learned by locally communicating with all the other breeders we all have the same problem of mite attack within days of each other. Some of these people have birds indoors and some have outdoor birds. I’ve also noted that it only last for a few days, and the mites disappear.

I call them *hit and run* parasites. Your main worry after any type of mite attack is anemia from blood loss. Mites feed off of the bird…which is blood. A secondary problem from these attacks can also be internal (worms) parasites. When I have had birds that have had mite attacks the first thing I do is lightly dust them down with Seven (5%). The second thing, which I feel is a priority and necessity is to get Vitamin B Complex into the bird. The third thing, which may not be necessary, but I want to cover the bases is within a weeks time give the bird an oral wormer. Most likely by now your mites have already moved on. It’s good to address the immune system. From my own experiences of mite attacks, anemia is the “unseen” after effects, and possibly a secondary parasite problem.


toe-tapping cockatiels

I recently found out that if a bird has tapeworms it will trigger this syndrome. Usually within a few days of treatment (allopathic only) the toe tapping disappears.

I’m working on a study of parasites and how they effect birds. (in progress now) For years I have been telling my vet I have a worm/parasite problem…and bottomline he has been blowing me off and saying cockatiels don’t get worm infestations. WRONG. The medical books *Do Not* list cockatiels as prone to tapeworms.

Yet this has been an on again off again problem I have had that has created slow crop or crop stasis in handfeed babies to birds that were having occasional vitamin A deficiencies.

Parasites cause intestinal mucosal lesions which can interfere with the birds ability to convert carotene pigments into functional vit. A) (Also vitamin K is found in the intestinal flora, which parasites hinder absorption, thus bleeders and anemia) Parasites also cause secondary bacterial infections…which if a bird *is Not* suspected of a parasite problem….then the bacterial problem may be corrected with antibiotics…BUT the parasitic problem is still there.

Thus chronic problems such as respiratory…to neurological problems…etc. When a secondary bacterial infection is present the body has an additional need for vitamin A and also ascorbic acid. Parasite infestations also have a need for additional vitamin A and also vitamin K.

Toe-tapping, can last anywhere from 3 days to up to a week and the bird is miserable, then it will taper off and disappear. For years I could not figure out the cause until recently when I did the various groups of babies for worming…and finally identified the problem as tapeworms.

The garlic and other meds had only intensified the problem on the first group of 100+ babies I was handfeeding. When the tapeworm *overload* in the GI tract became bad the toe-tapping started, some had symptoms that mimicked lock-jaw, some got real bad respiratory problems with wet and snotty sinuses, some developed ascites, and droppings that *Looked* like liver problems and/or a heavy bacterial infection, some had blockages that created slow crop…and numerous other problems…plus babies that were literally going thin and attacking to be fed and always crying!!!….what a nightmare!

I kept notes of various physical symptoms of the first group…which I switched over to Droncit on the treatment of the 100+ babies…and miraculously within 1-4 days ALL of these symptoms of other problems disappeared!

I am now doing another group of 87 babies, and in 2 weeks another group of 50+ babies and monitoring what to watch for that can become problematic to a small percentage of babies…and how to *quickly* resolve the problem. I just gave my notes to another breeder that is worming 50+ babies and she will also be keeping notes for comparison from my observations/notes.

Thanks for the offer of the Paratox…I can try it on a group to see how it does and let you know.


What is the cause of tapeworm in birds? I dogs it is caused by fleas, but i’m told fleas don’t bother with birds. Although, I suppose if you think about it that doesn’t make sense, since they will usually go to any warm blooded animal. With the first couple of birds I got years ago, I read everything I could and there was something in one of the books I read on worms, so I insisted my vet run a stool sample check for any worms. He looked at me like I was crazy, but did it. Said I was wasting my money. The tests came back negative.  Stephanie

Mites (specifically red mites) are the leading cause of tapeworm problems with birds. As to fleas a birds *higher body temperature* is a natural deterrent.

Many babies in the nest can be infected from newly hatched to up to a week, with no knowledge to the observer that there was a mite problem. Infection comes with just the bite of the mite as the parasite is feeding off of blood.

The babies will get a pale look…almost ghostly. Small amounts of crusted blood may also be noted on the ankles/legs, under the wings and on the head/face area. If there is too much blood loss the baby becomes weak, severely anemic and dies in a matter of hours. If noticed quick enough new hatchlings can be given vitamin B complex which will restore skin tone color and strength in a mater of hours.

The next vulnerable stage for mite attacks is when the baby is getting in it’s first pin feathers. The mites will feed off the tips of the feathers, and suck the blood up…almost like drinking from a straw. Many times upon observation this is *mistaken* as the parents plucking/biting the young babies pinfeathers.

Some parents that do have mite attacks on their babies will frantically try to pull the feathers to remove the mites…this will be noted first in the crest/head area. As the baby gets older (feathered) a mite attack would be focused either along the legs close to the main arteries, the head/crest area, and under the wings near, again near the veins closest to the surface.

On adult birds these locations are also the same areas that adults will pluck when they have Giardia…thus one parasite problem can be mistaken for another.

As long as the babies are being parent fed their immune system is up…and rarely does death occur to the baby. In fact 90% of the babies that have parasite problems appear fat, normal and healthy when pulled. Most problems do not show up until the baby is a month or older…which could be numerous symptoms that *appear* to be either bacterial or yeast problems. I’m working on a list of symptoms that could be good indicators of tapeworm problems.

Mites will hit day or night…which is dependant of the age of the bird….they are also seasonal, and weather/climatic conditions play a role as to them breeding and feeding. They rarely stay on a bird…meaning they will eat their fill of blood and leave. Right now I am trying to learn the lifespan of the red mite (Anyone know?) Also…location has no deterrent as to a mite attack!…meaning it doesn’t matter if your birds are housed inside or outside.

The most common source is from other animals/birds…such as wild birds that have the higher body temperatures that the mites are attracted to. Since human and mammal body temperature is lower than birds the mites do not effect us.

As to attraction…I can’t answer. I’m in a very *saturated area* that have numerous hobbyist and breeders or birds. I have noted that when 1 person has a red mite attack…which can last from only a day to almost a week…with communication of other bird people quite a few people are affected up to a 100 or mile radius!!….thus the mites become problematic for many birds during certain times of the year. I’ve noted that after a period of several weeks of no rain…then a few days of rain can generate the appearance of mites. What’s puzzling is that they disappear as quickly/abruptly as they appear….yet the damage is done, and may or may not show up for weeks to months later, when some type of stress triggers a sudden lowered immune system…such as babies having reduced feedings to weaning, adults during a molt, diet changes, etc.

I don’t think they have any species preference. Last year a friend phoned in a panic because her Macaw babies looked pale. Upon examining the mites were not on the babies, but the telltale signs such as pale ghostly/white skin color, to minute crusted blood on the ankles, and body area, and weakness. B-complex corrected this within a day. These babies later developed a very bad *secondary* E.coli infection. Recently 1 out of 3 Hanging Parrot babies was severely attacked by mites. We’re waiting for them to be 6 wks. old before we can worm them all. I recently discovered mites on some lovebirds I’m handfeeding…yet they were NOT detected in the nest. Sooo….I don’t think the mites are species selective….being that the higher body/blood temps. seem to be what they are drawn to. Many of the smaller species birds maintain a body temp of 106-108 degrees, and the larger species can go up to, I believe (?) 112 degree’s.

The only time a mite is on a bird is when it is feeding (blood) they it gets off. As to it getting around…you can quite possibly (assumption) carry them in yourself, or your pets as *hitchhikers*, and have them infect your birds. They can come off of wild birds and find their way to our feathered pets.

As to adults they tend to act more itchier. Mites can thrive on a bird that is molting…as a food source because new emerging pinfeathers are a rich source of blood. On any species that has a crest the most common source of blood would be the base of the crest feathers…in which case you may sometimes see a few very small bald patches above the cere and possibly along side the face/crest area where the bird has tried to scratch to remove the mite. And as mentioned in the prior post any body areas that have major blood veins close to the surface.

With handfeeding babies that have a parasite problem the dropping are going to have a strong musty yucky odor. If the babies are big enough and in a cage the droppings are going to be more watery and within 24 hours the smell is very foul. The dropping may also have a mucousy look, and *string* from the cage grill. Most worms are passed dead…and are very hard to actually see because they become almost transparent, and collapse flat and blend in with the color of the poop. Since the parasites effect Vit.A and K absorption the beak *may* on some birds get a chalky look, and there may be signs of upper respiratory problems. If there is anemia the beak and feet with get paler. The feet and beak of the bird will also feel warmer when there is a heavy infestation.

The danger of worming is that if the problem is bad there could be a blockage that could cause death. This happened 3 years ago on a friends 6 wk. old that was treated for tapes…the blockage was so severe that the intestines exploded through the abdomen of the bird. Blockage will also cause sudden crop stasis, or dehydration whereas, the body fluids will drain into the crop area into a thick slimy mucousy fluid…which looks similar to a psuedomonas infection. If the crop isn’t constantly emptied, and fluids Sub-Q’d into the bird for a day or two, to keep the digestive tract moving and nutrients in the bird…it dies.


Here is some information I found which may or not be interesting or useful: GarLiq a garlic based product Garlic has been used for millenia as a natural worming agent in cattle as well as in humans for its natural antibiotic qualities. ………a pour-on garlic formulation which I have developed and patented. This formulation also includes quantities of ti-tree oil and eucalyptus oil, both of which are renowned for control and eradication of bacteria and insects. ……………One of our dogs had a severe allergy to mites. She lost her hair except where she couldn’t reach to scratch. The allergy was contained with steroids for a couple of years before using GarLiq. Since application of GarLiq, she has regained her hair and looks healthy. Presumably pigs and goats will show a similar response to cattle and horses. Treating poultry with GarLiq has overcome mite infestation. The birds were treated as they went broody subsequently both hens and chicks were mite free.

Although most bedding for pets is treated to prevent mites, bedding is still one of the major sources of these little pests [8.2]. I have heard from a couple of people who have reported that their vets told them that corn cob bedding can be especially prone to mite infestations. I do have to temper that thought with the idea that if a particular brand or batch in the area that these people lived was bad, it could have been the source for numerous problems over quite a period of time. Still, if you have mite problems, it is probably worthwhile to switch to at least a different brand of bedding, if not a different type — at least for a while.

Natural “de-worming” : a. Worms do not like raw carrots. Eating raw carrots will drive the worms out.  b. Boil Neem leaves (10-15) in a cup of water (reduced to half a cup by boiling), add some salt and drink in the morning for 7-10 days.