Budgies (parakeets) are more susceptible to mites than other parrot species. If a budgie gets mites, it’ll develop itchy scabs, beak crusting, beak deformities, bacterial infections, and anemia.
Budgies can get mites from infested birds, dead animals brought in by cats/pets, and humans.
Mites can’t live on humans indefinitely, and hiding places like upholstered and wooden furniture can’t sustain their need for blood to complete their lifecycle, so they’ll seek an avian host.
Mites are tiny, so they’re difficult for the human eye to detect. So, deep cleaning your home and sanitizing your hands after touching several budgies will minimize the risk of transmission.
How Do Budgies Catch Mites?
Because mites are so small and hard to see, budgies are often left to cope with severe infestations for weeks or months without treatment.
Budgies can get mites from the following:
- Infested birds
- Human carriers
- Dead animals brought in by cats/pets
- Furniture that mites live in temporarily
Can Humans Get Mites from Budgies?
Mites don’t live on humans, but we can pass mites onto budgies.
If you keep multiple birds, handling one after the other increases the chances of infesting other birds. Most humans won’t know they have mites on them.
Implement strict hygiene methods to protect birds, such as wearing different gloves for each bird you handle and sanitizing your hands.
Different Bird Mite Types
Budgies are affected by the following types of mites:
Scaly Face Mites
Scaly face mites, also known as budgie mites or Knemidokoptes, are the most common variety. Unless treated, scaly face mites will burrow into the skin, feeding on a budgie’s blood for their full lifecycle.
They’re microscopic and almost impossible to see with the naked eye. However, you will notice the crustiness around the beak, mouth, eyes, and vent. The beak may even become misshapen.
Knemidokoptes are spread by bird-to-bird contact. Parent budgies can spread mites to their offspring, many of whom fail to develop symptoms for months.
If you notice any plaque on the perimeter of the beak, get your budgie checked over by a vet. A vet can identify scaly face mites by scraping away some of the skin and examining it under the microscope.
Air Sac Mites
Budgies get air sac mites (Sternostoma tracheacolum) following contact with infested birds and shared items. Air sac mites live in a budgie’s air sacs, trachea, and lungs.
These internal parasites are transmitted through regurgitating food into the mouths of adult budgies and chicks. Shared contaminated drinking water is a common reason for transmission. Also, coughing and sneezing lead to cross-contamination.
When air sac mites enter the respiratory system, budgies become less vocal. You’ll notice that they develop breathing problems, so you’ll hear coughing, clicking, squeaking, coughing, and whistling noises.
There are several treatments for air sac mites, but Ivermectin is preferred.
Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are related to ticks and spiders. They’re bloodsuckers that come out at night and hide in the cage’s crevices during the day.
Red mites usually congregate around the budgie’s head and vent, where they can get a better hold. Once they get into the cage, they increase in number quickly, infecting multiple budgies.
If you see tiny red or reddy-brown dots, your budgie likely has a red mite infestation.
Also known as avian skin mites, feather mites typically affect budgies living in outdoor aviaries. They’re rarely found on budgies kept in indoor cages, but they’ll infest all budgies if they get inside.
According to Science Direct, feather mites live on the skin’s surface and in feather follicles. They cause itchy, scabby, scaly dermatitis and superficial skin lesions and feed on the thighs, breast, underside of the wings, and vent.
Eventually, you’ll find scabby sores underneath feathers and/or feather loss.
How Do I Know if My Budgie Has Mites?
Searching for mites on a budgie’s skin isn’t easy as mites are hard to detect with the naked eye.
Instead, you’ll need to look for other signs, such as
When air sac mites get into a budgie’s respiratory tract, they cause breathing difficulties.
You’ll notice open-mouthed breathing, coughing, and wheezing. As the infestation progresses, the budgie will gasp for air and sneeze. You may notice that it bobs its neck repeatedly to oxygenate its body.
Affected budgies may experience changes to their vocalizations. For example, clicking sounds indicate that mites have multiplied in the respiratory system.
Budgies with mites become restless and distressed. As mites are most active at night, it’s likely to result in sleeplessness or interrupted sleep cycles.
An infested budgie will be itchy, frequently preening and grooming its feathers for temporary relief. Don’t mistake this for normal preening, even if it looks the same.
When infested, budgies rub themselves against their cage, perches, and bars to dislodge the mites. As this doesn’t remove them, budgies will become obsessed with this activity.
In severe cases, budgies will self-mutilate, pulling out feathers and chewing into their skin and muscles.
Scaly face mites cause crusty patches around the eyes, beak, and face.
This is where the mites have burrowed, causing thick, white deposits that become sore. Also, budgies develop plaques in the corners of their eyes.
Some mites burrow into the legs and feet, causing the skin to become scaly and irritated.
Bald patches and feather loss are clear signs that a budgie has mites.
Because budgies itch themselves to get relief, they invertedly pluck out their feathers, especially in areas where the mites have burrowed.
You may find more feathers than normal at the bottom of the cage, even outside of the molting season.
Can Mites Harm Budgies?
Mites may seem harmless, but they can cause health problems. Once a mite infestation worsens, budgies will become very sick and eventually die.
Mites will cause the following health conditions:
Mites are parasitic insects that suck blood, eventually causing anemia. Compendium discusses the budgie’s reduced ability to carry oxygenated blood, resulting in various physical symptoms.
Low red blood cells levels lead to:
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Anemia in budgies will have fatal consequences if left untreated.
While rare, mite bites that penetrate the skin can cause bacterial infection.
Here are the symptoms of bacterial infection:
- Inflamed, red, and swollen skin
- Pus-filled lesions
- Poor feather quality
- Pain and discomfort
If an infection sets in, clean the wounded area(s) with an antiseptic solution. Also, a vet may need to prescribe antibiotics as part of an overall treatment plan.
Scaly mites cause the bare patches around a budgie’s beak and face.
When not treated sufficiently early, mites burrow into the growing part of the beak, causing beak deformation. This causes eating, drinking, preening, and general difficulties.
Aside from treatment, a vet may need to trim a budgie’s beak so that it grows properly.
How Do You Get Rid of Mites on Budgies?
You can use the following methods to remove mites:
Chrysanthemum flowers contain pyrethrins, which are natural pesticides that are toxic to mites and other parasitic insects. It works by paralyzing the mites until they die.
Permethrin is another effective natural insecticide. It’s extracted from the oil glands of seeds that grow on the Tanacetum cineariaefolium plant. It kills bird mites, eggs, and nymphs.
You can spray the liquid version on a budgie’s body using a small hand towel, paying particular attention to the vent and underneath the wings.
A veterinarian may prescribe Ivermectin (noromectin) to treat internal and external mites. This formula is effective against air sac mites, scaly leg mites, red mites, leg mites, and other parasites.
It can be applied topically to the skin by dripping Ivermectin onto the jugular vein in the neck or scapular (shoulder blade). The Ivermectin formula will soon absorb into the skin.
Alternatively, put Ivermectin in your budgie’s drinking water so that it doesn’t know it’s there. It’s usually recommended that 1 ml or Ivermectin is paired with 1 liter of water, but get precise guidelines from a vet.
The topical application of Ivermectin is more effective. Failure to follow the recommended guidelines can have negative consequences, such as toxicity, depression, nervous system problems, and even death.
Ivermectin remains in the body’s tissues for between 6 and 12 months.
How To Prevent Parrot Mites
Preventing mites is always easier than removing them. Follow these steps:
Mites tuck themselves away into small spaces in a budgie’s cage.
Sanitizing and deep cleaning your budgie’s living space can remove and kill any hidden away mites. However, you’ll need to be thorough to get rid of them all.
When cleaning, sprinkle a thin layer of food-grade diatomaceous earth at the bottom of the cage to kill any mites. Brush it out after an hour or two with a budgie-safe sanitizing solution.
Clean all perches, toys, bells, mirrors, food/water bowls, nesting boxes, etc.
To remove any mites hiding in the carpet or corners of your home, vacuum every room, paying particular attention to the cracks and gaps.
Mites sometimes hide in upholstered and wooden furniture. So, take the furniture outdoors and use an insecticide on couches, chairs, and wooden furniture near the cage.
Don’t use any airborne chemicals near your budgie as they have sensitive respiratory systems. Give the insecticide time to work and the odor time to dissipate. Then, clean them down with a damp cloth.
Birdmites.org has some useful tips and advice on removing mites from the home.
Blood-sucking parasites are a threat to your budgie’s health. As soon as you notice your budgie has mites, quarantine the infected bird(s) and get vet-recommended treatment.