Quill Mites

BASICS

Definition: Syringophilus spp., Dermoglyphus spp.,2,3,28 Picobia and Harpyhynchus5

Other Names:

Disease Process: Quill mites are not very species specific5 and can cause damage to growing feathers.3,5 They live and reproduce inside the feather's quill and probably feed on secretions of quill materials (some mites also pierce through the quill and feed from tissue fluid from within the feather follicle).3 Infested quills may change in appearance from clear to opaque due to accumulation of mites and their excreta.3 Flight and tail feathers may develop horizontal lines ("fault lines") and bleeding into the shaft.28 Feather loss is usually the result of the bird digging at the feathers in an attempt to relieve the irritation.3 With a heavy mite burden, feathers may epilate easily and secondary bacterial infections can occur.3 Harpyhynchus spp. have been associated with dermatitis, cysts, and skin tumors on hawfinches.5

Risk Factors: Poor hygiene.28

Contagious?:



CLINICAL DISEASE

Signalment:

Symptoms:
  • nervousness/restlessness28
  • feather damage28
  • feather loss2,3
  • excessive preening3




DIAGNOSIS

Differentials:

Testing: Observe the transparent/open base of the shaft of a growing feather (recommend observing a primary feather or covert) to detect quill mites microscopically in pulp material.5 Slitting the shaft length wise and putting it in alcohol may recover the mites.5 Feather quill contents can also be squeezed onto a slide with mineral oil and examined microscopically for the presence of mites.2,3



TREATMENT

Immediate: There is no totally effective treatment.2,3 Ivermectin3,5 (may be repeated monthly) or insecticidal dusts/sprays may help somewhat.2,3 Separate infested birds from healthy ones.2,3

Long-term: Hanging a dichlorvos pest strip near (but out of reach of) affected birds may be helpful.5



TYPICAL OUTCOME



PREVENTION



CONSIDERATIONS

Suggested Reading:

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