Blood-sucking Red Mites


Definition: Dermanyssus gallinae and Ornithonyssus sylviarum

Other Names: Dermanyssus is also known as the red mite,3,5,28 roost mite,17 or grey mite;3 Ornithonyssus is also known as the northern fowl mite5,27,28

Disease Process: These are blood-sucking "feather mites." They appear white or grey when unfed and brown or red in color when they have taken a recent meal.3,17 Red mites hide in nests, crevices,17 and other dark areas during the day and attack birds only at night.3,5,17,28 Fowl mites, on the other hand, spend their entire lifecycle on the host,5,28 feeding day and night,3 and can cause high mortality, especially in nestlings.28 Mite populations can dramatically increase in size in warm weather.28 They are not host specific.3,5

Risk Factors: Access to aviary by free-range birds;5 young and debilitated birds are at particular risk.17

Contagious?: Yes, among birds (not host specific).


Signalment: Mites are not host specific.3,5

  • general depression,28 listlnessness,3 weakness2,3
  • anemia2,3,5,17,28
  • respiratory distress28
  • itchiness2,3,5,17,28
  • restlessness,17 irritability3
  • poor feather appearance2,3
  • excessive preening2,3
  • poor growth in young birds5,17
  • may cause local irritation on the feet of canaries27
  • may cause sudden death3 and increased mortality5



Testing: Recognize mites on bird (dampen feathers)28 or in nests/under perches/in dark areas--they appear as rapidly moving dark brown spots2,5 which are visible to the naked eye (but most easily seen with magnification); the mites may appear red if engorged with blood. Dark excrement of mites can be found under nests.28 Try placing a white towel/sheet over the cage at night and observing it in the morning for presence of mites.3,27


  • Remove old nesting material3, nests, and perches. Dip and clean cages thoroughly during the day.17 Only new nests and perches should be used once the cage has been cleaned.28
  • Dust birds and their environment including nesting material with a pyrethrin2,3,5,17,27 or carbaryl powder2,3,5 (using a salt shaker) or a dilution of carbaryl (5g of 85% carbaryl powder per L of water).28
  • Fipronil is also effective.28
  • Ivermectin may be effective.17,27

Long-term: Strict cleanliness of the cage and environment is the best method of control.3 Segregate birds and their environment from wild birds.2,5 Hanging a dichlorvos strip near (but out of reach of) the birds may help.27



Do not allow free-range birds to nest or roost on the aviary as they may be a source of infestation.5 Preventive measures should be initiated before the breeding season--only use new nests and thoroughly clean breeding cages.28 If there is a known history of red mites, prophylactic use of insecticide prior to breeding season can be considered.28


These mites may be a possible vector for Trypanosomes.5 Red mites can survive for up to 5 months without feeding by overwintering in the nest.3

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