What is a Feather Mite?
The feather mite is a parasite that lives externally on the birds feathers hence the name. A feather mite that affects your cockatiel may not be the same as the one that affects your budgie as there are many different kinds of feather mite. The feather mites are best seen using a magnifying glass as they are very small. You can spot them with the naked eye as dark or shaded parts on the wing feathers or tail feathers and generally you will find them in batches rather than singular.
Symptoms of feather mites
When a bird becomes infested with feather mites, it will be restless during the day. Another reason why owners should understand and monitor the behaviour of their flock.
If you notice that your pet bird is preening itself quite aggressively then change the paper on the floor of the cage and retrieve any fallen feathers that they shed for inspection. Look closely along the shaft for dots of shaded colour.
Generally the feather mite will be in outdoor aviaries and less common indoors. It is contagious to most birds and can be prolific if not treated. As a rule, the feather mite is not going to kill your pet cockatiel, but it will upset it’s comfortable lifestyle. Young birds can be worse affected and will need medication.
How to treat feather mites
The quickest way to deal with feather mites is to use a Pyrethrin spray and thoroughly clean their cage. Make sure you remove all food and water from the cage before spraying. Make sure you spray all the joints in the cage, like hinges, door latches etc these little buggers like to play hide and seek.
Now spray each of your birds. Avoid getting it in their eyes. Try and get them to open their wings if you can.
Be sure to re apply the spray a week later and follow that spray again a week later, so all up three times seven days apart. The reason for this is that mites will lay eggs and they reproduce every seven to nine days.
Keep checking all of the feathers that you find on the cage floor. You may not see them at first glance but with a magnifying glass you sure will. Check out this video of some feather mites I found today.
What else can you do?
Allow your cockatiels to shower or bathe at least once a week. This will encourage them to preen and remove some of the infested feathers. Remember to shower or bathe early in the day to allow your cockatiels time to dry out before night time.
Keep the cage very clean and check the commercial foods that you are feeding your pet cockatiels for any crawly creatures…
A cautionary note here is that make sure you keep up very good hygiene as mites can live on you and be a cause for some skin disorders.
For even more information on feathers, you can read another post titled Cockatiel Feather Information.