It is uncommon for birds to
have parasites, but your bird could become ill if he
becomes infested. There is a host of parasites of
which you should be aware. By knowing what to look
for, you can help to eradicate most of these pests
before they have the opportunity to harm your pet.
Symptoms include restlessness, sores or crustations
around the mouth and weakness. Feather picking is
not a sign of external parasites, contrary to
Mallophaga: These include a number of species of
biting and chewing lice. Clinical signs are mild or
absent; however, heavy infestations do indicate
other diseases are present. Attacks many birds,
particularly cockatiels and canaries.
Scaly Face Mites: Rare
on most birds, other than budgerigars. A white,
porous, crustation can be seen around the mouth,
cere, eyelids and beak, and the beak might become
deformed. In passerines, long smooth crusts form on
the plantar surfaces of the toes ("tassel foot").
Feather Mites (Red Mites): Signs of infestation
include restlessness (particularly at night),
intense itching or anemia. Heavy infestation may
lead to death. These mites rarely affect caged
birds, but are occasionally seen in canaries.
Gray-Cheeked Parakeet Mange Mites: Burrowing mites
that may be found on imported Gray-Cheeked
parakeets. A notable symptom is the loss of feathers
on the head and neck.
Northern Fowl Mites: Outbreaks generally occur with
the onset of warmer weather, and they are common in
Fleas: Are not common on birds.
Ticks: Are found in poultry and wild birds, but not
commonly on caged birds, unless they have been
introduced by another pet.
Internal parasites can pose a health risk to you as
well as to your pet, and they are often difficult,
if not impossible, to detect except through blood
tests and screenings performed by your veterinarian.
- Your bird might exhibit a sudden change in
- She might increase her vocalization.
- Her plumage may appear oily.
- There may be an increased volume of droppings,
and they may appear pale or wet.
- There may be an increased appetite.
- Lesions may be present.
Air Sac Mites: May be found on Lady Gouldian
finches, occasionally canaries, rarely on
psittacines. There are no outward signs with a mild
infestation. With heavy infestation, the bird may
develop acute respiratory disease, with
characteristic high-pitched clicking noises evident,
sneezing, tail bobbing or open-mouth breathing.
Tracheal mites may be detected in some cases.
Blood Protozoa, including Haemoproteus,
Leucocytozoon, Plasmodium, and Atoxoplasma: These
may be found in imported cockatoos, birds of prey
and some passerines. They are uncommon in
domestically raised birds. Some symptoms include
hepatamegaly, splenomegaly and depression. This is
usually transmitted by mosquito or biting fly.
Coccidia: Most common in gallinaceous and
columbiform birds; uncommon in domestically raised
birds. Some have been reported in budgerigars and
finches. Symptoms may include breathing
difficulties, lethargy or gastroenteritis.
Cryptospordiosis: Seen in a variety of psittacines
birds and Gouldian finches. It is uncommon in
domestically raised birds.
Roundworms: This is most common in parrots, but
rarely in other household birds. Symptoms are
weakness and emaciation. In heavy infestations,
intestinal obstruction may be present.
Threadworms: Hair-like worms, found in the small
intestines. Infestations result in loss of appetite,
weight loss and profuse, bloody diarrhea. These are
uncommon in domestically raised birds.
Tapeworms (and stomach worms): Often seen in
cockatoos and African Gray parrots; uncommon in
domestically raised birds. The evidence of worms
many occasionally be found in the droppings or
around the bird's vent. Vectors of tapeworms are
insects, arachnids, earthworms and slugs. Symptoms
include diarrhea and the inability to thrive.
Giardia: Most commonly found in young budgerigars
and cockatiels, and occasionally in aviary finches,
but only rarely seen in parrots. In cockatiels,
intense feather pulling along the thighs may occur.
The bird may vocalize or "complain" and oily
feathers may be present. Generally, pale, wet,
voluminous droppings are evident. Symptoms are
lethargy, gastroenteritis, unthriftyness and
difficulty breathing. In budgerigars, watch for an
increased appetite and anorexia, leading to
emaciation and death.
Trichomononas: Occasionally seen in canaries,
finches, budgerigars and in young Amazon parrots.
They are uncommon in domestically raised birds.
Symptoms may include white-yellow lesions adhering
to the crop and esophagus; the bird may have weight
loss and difficulty swallowing, as well as
Filarid Nematodes: Found in imported birds, they are
also uncommon in domestically raised birds. These
affect the feet, air sacs, body cavity and
connective tissue. There are no outward clinical
signs for most birds; however, in South American
species, there may be some swelling of the feet.
Flukes: May be found on the surface of eyes, in
proventriculus, small intestine, liver, gall
bladder, kidney or blood vessels. Caged birds are
rarely infected; these are more common in aviaries.
Remember, if you see or suspect any of these
parasites, immediately see your avian veterinarian
for diagnosis and treatment.