They are known among bird lovers as the "red menace." Red mites are the vampires of the mite kingdom. They like nothing better than to suck the blood out of your canaries and other fine-feathered friends. They can be stopped, however, with vigilance, diligent care and sprays and liquids that eradicate exisiting mites and prevent further infestations.
It's difficult to detect red mites on birds because the little buggers feed at night, which makes the bird itchy and restless. The mites can be found crawling on the bird's skin and feathers. The mites generally attack in the area of the bird's head. After they finish feasting on your bird, the mites often go into hiding, crawling off into cracks in the cage or perch, nest boxes or other areas of the home in the morning. During the day, the mites could show up in furniture, carpeting or woodwork which isn't good because red mites will feed on the blood of humans and other pets, too.
The simplest way to detect the red mites (or any other infestation of mites) is to cover the cage at night with a white sheet or cloth. In the morning, if you detect tiny brown or red specks about the size of a grain of pepper, then the bird has red mites. Mites multiply rapidly and may develop into a major health issue for the bird. Heavy infestations can be fatal. Other signs of red mite infestation to watch for in your bird are: restlessness, excessive preening and ruffling of feathers. Sometimes, feather damage is obvious.
Good care of your canary and other birds susceptible to the red mite (such as chickens, turkeys and pigeons) means treating them regularly for red mites. First, the bird's environment must be treated with a mite or lice spray. Spray the cage, making sure you treat the hidden areas like cracks and crevices as well. This spray will only kill the mites it contacts. Next, spray the bird at least three or four times during a seven-day period. That will kill the mite larvae as they hatch.
A product called SCATT is recommended by Canary Advisor. The website suggests placing a drop of the formula at the base of the neck of your bird. It acts like a flea repellent on dogs, keeping mites at bay and killing the mites that ingest blood from the bird. SCATT will not harm the bird, the website says. Use it even if you don't see mites, at least once every three months. Other suppliers recommend a product called Avian Insect Liquidator, saying it is safe for use around pet birds and poultry.
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