Scaly face and leg mites, scientifically known as cnemidocoptes, are external parasites that invade the face or feet of birds, causing damage to the skin and feathers. While scaly face mites are more common in budgerigars and less common in cockatiels, scaly leg mites are more prevalent in songbirds such as canaries and crossbills.
Other birds prone to scaly face and leg mites include chickens, pigeons, parrots, and wild birds. Although these parasites are not visible to the naked eye, their presence can be 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 their presence.
Scaly Face and Leg Mites Causes
These mites are microscopic in size and can be easily transmitted from one bird to another. Infected birds often come into contact with other birds, either in aviaries or in the wild, and the mites can easily spread from one bird to another. Additionally, overcrowded living conditions, poor hygiene, and malnutrition can contribute to the spread of these mites. Birds that are stressed or have weakened immune systems may also be more susceptible to these parasites. Overall, prevention through proper hygiene and isolation of new birds is the best way to prevent the spread of scaly face and leg mites in your aviary.
Clinical Signs and Symptoms
Clinical signs and symptoms of the scaly face and leg mites in birds include:
- 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, and the commissures of the 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 rotten feathers, scaly skin and legs, and baldness, especially in the neck area.
While scaly-face and leg mites are common external parasites that infect birds, there are other diseases that may have similar symptoms and signs, leading to a misdiagnosis. These include
- Neoplasms of the beak
- Papillomavirus of the legs
- Hyperkeratosis to due malnutrition
- Brown hypertrophy of the cere
It is important to note that the term “tassel foot” should not be confused with scaly legs; tassel foot is caused by papillomavirus found in European goldfinches, while scaly legs are caused by cnemidocoptes.
Scaly Face and Leg Mites Treatment
The most effective treatment for scaly face and leg mites in birds is the use of Ivermectin. The dose is usually repeated after 14 days, but it is important to consult a veterinarian or follow bottle instructions before use. Another alternative treatment for scaly legs is applying petroleum jelly or a mixture of kerosene and cooking oil directly to the feet for two weeks. Infected birds should be isolated because scaly-face and leg mites are highly contagious and can spread easily from one bird to another. Quarantine new birds for 30 days and treat them with Ivermectin before introducing them to your aviary to prevent the spread of the mites.
- 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