Scientifically known as cnemidocoptes, scaly face and leg mites are external parasites that invade the face or feet of birds, damaging the skin and feathers. Scaly face mites are more common in budgerigar and less common in cockatiels. On the other hand, scaly leg mites are more common in songbirds, especially canary and crossbill birds.
Chickens, pigeons, parrots, and wild birds are also prone to scaly face and scaly leg mites. This type of parasite is not visible to the naked eye, and its presence is confirmed by taking a sample of the scaly skin and examining it under a microscope. However, there are notable clinical signs and symptoms that indicate its presence. We discuss them in the nest section.
Note: the term ‘tassel foot’ should not be confused with scaly legs, the former is caused by papillomavirus of the legs found in European goldfinches while the latter is caused by cnemidocoptes.
Clinical signs and symptoms
- Loss of feathers around the beak and eyes and thickening of the outer layer of the skin.
- Formation of white-gray encrustations around the cere, the beak, the commissures of upper and lower beak.
- Deformation of the beak in chronic cases, and spread of mites to the bird’s cloaca if treatment is delayed.
- Signs in pigeons include fractured and roten feathers, scaly skin and legs, and baldness, especially in the neck area.
- Neoplasms of the beak
- Papillomavirus of the legs
- Hyperkeratosis to due malnutrition
- Brown hypertrophy of the cere
Scaly face and scaly leg mites Treatment
Ivermectin is the best treatment option available for scaly face and scaly leg mites. The dose is repeated for most birds after 14 days, but you should consult your veterinarian or follow bottle instructions before use.
Alternatively, scaly legs can also be treated by applying petroleum jellies, such as Vaseline on the feet or by using an equal mixture of kerosene and cooking oil. Then the formula is applied directly to the foot once a day for two weeks. After a few days, the feet will become soft and wet, and you can carefully and gently scrape off the excess skin and get rid of the mites inside them.
Isolate infected birds because the condition is contagious and can transmit from one bird to another. One of the primary prevention methods is quarantining new birds for 30 days and treating new arrivals with ivermectin before introducing them to your aviary and after completing a 30-day quarantine.
- University of California: Agriculture & Natural Resources Communication Services 2005, Common Lice and Mites of Poultry: Identification and Treatment, accessed Feb 2017, Retrieved from anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8162.pdf
- Brian H. Coles (ed). Essentials of Avian Medicine and Surgery. Third edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007). page 332
- V. S. Chauhan, Poultry Diseases, Diagnosis And Treatment (second edition), (New age international: 1990), page 149
- Mark Mitchell, Thomas N. Tully Jr., Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. (Saunders Elsevier: 2008), page 287
- Thomas N. Tully, G. M. Dorrestein, Alan K. Jones. Handbook of Avian Medicine. Second edition (Elsevier / Saunders, 2009). page, 334