Mites & Lice are the most commonly found external parasites that affect Canaries. They can occur when breeding in bird rooms and also in an Aviary where wild birds can affect the Aviary stock. Any new birds could be carrying, or your birds could become infected when you are showing. There are a number of different mites and lice however they can all be treated the same way and by far the worst in Australia is the Red Mite.

Red mites are easily the worst of the mites & lice, and are somewhat misnamed as in the most part they are Grey, until they are gorged with blood. They are very small, less than a pinhead and are often overlooked except when in plague proportions when they are all congregated together. They are common in Australia and have a life cycle that makes them difficult to eliminate when established. Red Mite only spend part of their time on the host, emerging at night to suck the blood of your birds. During the day they hide in cracks and corners and under trays and at the ends of perches; in fact anywhere that they will be undisturbed.
If the Red mite is not controlled they can do a lot of damage. In the breeding season they will attack the new chicks which will often die from blood loss. The mites can also weaken a Hen so badly that she will leave the nest or stops feeding the chicks. An indication of Red Mite is the heavy loss of young canaries in the first few days of being hatched and especially if the dead babies are pale in colour from the effects of blood loss.
“Red Mite multiply rapidly in hot weather. The female Red Mite lays approximately 200 eggs that hatch in 24 hours and in another 24 hours these young mites are mature enough to commence breeding themselves.” (Quote - Jeff Leaney/ Stan Nicholes)

An effective way to check for Red mite is to take a torch into the bird room at night. The Red Mite if present can be seen running over the birds, perches and walls, hurrying back to their hiding places, due to the light.
Other signs are birds continuously preening and searching through feathers.
Another sign is restlessness at night, continuously changing position.

The best way to avoid the problem is to take precautions before the breeding season commences. This avoids using chemicals and disturbing your birds in the middle of the breeding season, which can be counter productive.
Start by blocking and puttying all cracks and nail holes etc.
There is a multitude of sprays and powders on the market and available from your pet supplier, so I will not name any specifically other than to repeat that you should use them before the breeding season commences.
I always treat my birds with 0.10ml of Ivermectin direct to the crop with a crop needle in the preparation for breeding. This also kills various worms. As an alternative, 1 drop of Ivermectin can also be placed on the skin at the back of the neck where it is absorbed through the birds’ skin. Ivermectin is best obtained from a Vet who will tell you the quantities based upon the strength being supplied.
I also use a mite powder, which I sprinkle on the base of each nest and I also sprinkle a little into the nest when I replace the eggs.
Some breeders use Petroleum Jelly, which they put around the underside of the nest pan. The mites cannot cross the Petroleum Jelly therefore it creates a barrier. The only problem with Petroleum Jelly is it does not kill all the mites and if it contacts the birds it makes a mess.
I personally do not recommend the use of pest strips around birds; some literature suggest that they may be carcinogenic (cancer creating) and I have heard of birds dying when strips are left too close to them or in a small bird room with little or no ventilation.
Many breeders paint the cages including show cages with Kerosene or Turpentine, which also deters the mite.

Lice are not nearly as bad as red mite can be visible as thin dark streaks, often on or under the wings. They spend their whole life cycle on their host, and spread by contact. If not treated the result is damaged feathers. They are treated the same as for Red Mite.



David Alderton – The ultimate Encyclopaedia of caged and Aviary Birds (2001),
Sigrun Rittrich-Dorenkamp (1999),
Mr Jeff Leaney / Stan Nicholes (undated)

Author: P Ailwood - Published 29/03/04