How to Deal with Lice in Pet Birds

There are many species of avian lice, some of which are named after the bird they parasitize or the area of the body they prefer. Lice are wingless insects and are the most common external parasites of birds. They are so small they are often invisible to the naked eye.

Lice are placed into two groups: Biting lice and sucking lice. The entire life cycle of the lice is spent on the bird, leaving it only to attack another victim. The eggs are laid in clusters along the shaft of the feathers. These egg clusters are referred to as nits, and hatch within a few days, producing nymphs. Nymphs are young immature lice. The nymphs then go through changes and later become larvae, which go through several more changes before they finally become mature adult lice. Adult lice can live for several months on the host, but they can only live for a few days away from or off their bird host.

Signs of Lice on Pet Birds

Signs of a bird infected with lice include, restlessness, excessive preening, ruffling of feathers and irritation. Sometimes the plumage and feathers don’t even appear to be damaged by the lice, even in the case of very severe infestations. But in some cases, evidence of feather damage by lice is quite evident.

What to Do About Bird Lice

To control bird lice, the bird activity inside or on the housing/cage must be eliminated or prevented and all nest materials removed. Areas where nests are located often require treatment to eliminate any wandering lice. Dusting powders, bathing solutions, and vapors have all been found to be effective treatments. Solutions in the form of sprays containing pyrethrum, gammaxene, and other substances recommended for eradication of fleas etc., are efficient and more persistent than dusting powders and vapors. They need to be used with considerable care, especially on small passerines as some are toxic to some species of birds. It’s always best to check with your local veterinarian to see what the best treatment is.

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