Beak mites, often mistaken for a type of fungal growth, affect many caged pet birds. The official name for these mites is the scaly face mite, or cenemidocoptes. Infestations of these mites can cause a white, scaly looking growth on the beak and the area around it. Mites may also affect the legs. Paraffin oil is a common home mite treatment, but is not the only option.
Scaly face mites are often mistaken for beak fungus. They burrow into the beak, creating a honeycombed look. The beak may appear crusty, white, or chalky. Eventually, this crustiness can spread to the cere, or fleshy area at the base of the beak, and even to the eyes. If this problem is allowed to go untreated, the growing part of the beak may become infected, causing permanent deformities. Birds afflicted with mites may be unable to eat on their own.
It's important to determine whether the infestation is beak mites or a fungal growth. The two conditions have very different treatments. Treating beak mites as though they were a fungus will only allow them to keep growing, and increases the chance that your bird will develop a deformity. If you're not sure whether the problem is mites or a fungus, have your vet do a beak scraping and check under the microscope. Mites are clearly visible under magnification.
Paraffin oil is a common traditional treatment because it suffocates the mites. If it is not available you may be able to create similar conditions by rubbing petroleum jelly on your bird's beak and other affected areas. Spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the damaged beak and skin once per day. Commercial treatments, usually mixtures of petroleum jelly and benzyl benzoate, are also available. Use these as directed on the package. Never use a home remedy for mites around your bird's eyes.
Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication used for many types of animals, is a far more effective method for treating beak mites. This treatment must be administered by your vet, and may come in a "spot on" form, which is dropped on the back of the neck, or an injectable form. Ivermectin injections are usually only given to birds with very serious infestations. Avomectin and Moxydectin treatments are similar to Ivermectin, and can be purchased at some pet stores.
Do not treat the bird's cage with commercial anti-mite spray or a "cage protector" product. Beak mites live only on the bird itself, and reinfestation is usually caused by ineffective treatment. Anti-mite products are often quite toxic, and could make your bird very sick or even cause death. Keep the cage clean and dry, and replace wooden perches and toys, which the mites sometimes burrow into, but avoid sprays or cage treatments.