External Parasites That Can Affect Waterfowl
Mites are related to spiders and have eight legs. There are four different kinds of mites which are important to poultry keepers—northern fowl mite, red poultry mite, depluming mite and scaly leg mite. If waterfowl are not kept in close association with poultry, then only northern mite affects them. This mite looks very much like the red mite which spends a lot of its time in the woodwork of the poultry house. Both of these mites are blood suckers, and the northern mites lives on the bird all the time. They seem to need the warmth of the host because when the bird dies, then the mites die too. This does not apply to the red mites which live in the structure of the poultry house
Mites are the same shape as ticks, which are also a type of mite. They are easiest to see on white birds, and seem to infest only the head and neck region of ducks and geese. They are most frequently seen when birds get warm at bird shows, or whilst travelling to a show. Then, the mites come out to the surface. The bird owners are frequently unaware of the parasites’ presence until this happens. On colored birds, it is very difficult to see the mites at all.
Lice are six-legged insects. The ones which affect the waterfowl are quite long-bodied, and are greyish. They do not have wings, cannot jump, and evade removal by living in the feathers and hiding. They are most frequently seen on the white wing feathers of Call ducks—particularly on the axillars under the wing. The lice do not suck blood, but chew skin scales and fine feather. They have flattened bodies and clawed legs which make them very difficult to remove—by finger mail or beak. They are approximately 2 mm in length.
If the waterfowl are in good condition, they will control the parasites. But if a waterfowl is sitting, or if the birds are infested and scratching, they will probably need help. Powders containing insecticide are the traditional treatment for external parasites. Pyrethrum is very effective against mites and lice. Johnson’s pigeon spray contains biodegradable pyrethrum and works well. It is obtainable from agricultural suppliers and trade stands at bird shows. It is also available from pet stores as Johnson’s ‘Anti-mite and Insect Spray for Cage Birds. Avoid getting powder or spray in the eyes of the bird on treatment. Two treatments are needed, spaced at 8-10 days. This is because pyrethrum does not kill the eggs of the mites and lice. So when these hatch, a second treatment is needed. Observe withdrawal times; read the product label.