Cage Bird Diseases – 5 Common Ailments Explained

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Pests and diseases are common problems that affect cage birds in the UK. These worrying cage bird diseases and symptoms can range from tiny parasites that live on the bird’s feathers to bacterial and viral infections that can cause serious health problems. Here is an in-depth review of each of the five known pests and diseases that can affect cage birds in the UK:

cage bird diseases
cage bird diseases

Feather Mites:

Feather mites are small arthropods that live on the feathers or skin of birds, where they feed on feather debris, secretions, and sometimes the bird’s blood. Feather mites are one of the incredibly common cage bird diseases, and almost all birds are host to at least one species of feather mite. Feather mites are usually harmless to birds, and most bird species coexist with them without issue.

However, in some cases, feather mites can cause irritation, itchiness, and feather damage, leading to plumage issues or damage. Infestations can be more harmful to young, weakened, or immunocompromised birds. Diagnosis of feather mites in birds can be challenging as they are challenging to see without magnification. A veterinarian can examine the bird, look for abnormal moulting, and check for the presence of mites under a microscope.

Treatment of feather mites is not always necessary but is recommended if the infestation causes significant irritation or feather damage. Treatment options may include the use of topical insecticides or sprays, which can be applied directly to the bird or as a fog in the bird’s enclosure. Preventative measures for feather mites include maintaining a clean environment for birds, such as regularly cleaning bird cages and using a high-filtration vacuum to keep aviary areas clean.

Providing birds with ample space, ventilation, and good nutrition can also help strengthen their immune systems. In conclusion, feather mites are common in birds and typically harmless. Diagnosis can be challenging, and treatment is typically only necessary in cases of significant irritation or damage to feathers. Preventative measures, such as maintaining good hygiene practices, can help reduce the risk of infestation for birds.

cage bird diseases
cage bird diseases

Scaly Leg Mites:

Scaly leg mites (Knemidocoptes sp.) are tiny ectoparasites that often affect birds, particularly small passerine species. These mites burrow under the scales around the legs and feet of the bird, causing inflammation, redness, and the formation of scaly lesions. Scaly leg mites can affect birds of all ages and can be particularly problematic for older birds, as their legs may be weaker and less able to cope with the infestation.

The presence of scaly leg mites can also lead to secondary bacterial infections and significantly reduce the bird’s quality of life. Diagnosing scaly leg mites in birds involves close observation of the affected areas, and the mites may be visible to the naked eye as tiny, red or brown specks. Early treatment is the key to minimizing the impact of these parasites.

Treatment for scaly leg mites varies depending on the severity of the infestation. Mild infestations can be treated by bathing the bird’s legs in warm water and applying petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or iodine solution to suffocate the mites. More severe cases may require the use of topical or oral medications, such as ivermectin, or veterinary treatment.

Preventive measures include maintaining a clean and hygienic environment, providing adequate nutrition and maintaining good overall bird health. In addition, it is recommended to quarantine new birds for a period of time to prevent introducing the mites to your flock.
In conclusion, scaly leg mites can significantly reduce birds’ quality of life, particularly older birds or those with weakened immune systems. Early detection and treatment are crucial, and taking preventative measures can help reduce infestation risk.

In addition, regular veterinary checkups and maintaining good hygiene practices can help protect against this and other ectoparasites.


Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever, mainly affects birds but can also infect humans and other animals that come into close contact with infected birds. The infection can range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia, potentially fatal for birds and humans. Symptoms of psittacosis in birds include lethargy, loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, nasal discharge, and diarrhoea.

In severe cases, birds may have laboured breathing and swollen eyes and die suddenly. However, infected birds may not always show symptoms and can still transmit the disease to humans. Diagnosing psittacosis in birds involves physical examination, blood tests, and PCR testing for bacterial DNA. Treatment involves using antibiotics, such as tetracyclines or macrolides, and supportive care.

Prevention of psittacosis in birds includes maintaining good hygiene, providing a clean and stress-free environment, and regularly testing the bacteria. In addition, handling infected birds with care is essential, as wearing gloves and protective clothing to avoid human exposure. Prevention is clearly the key to reducing the risk of bird-to-human transmission.

cage bird diseases
cage bird diseases

In conclusion, psittacosis is a serious bacterial infection that can affect both birds and humans. As with all infectious diseases, early detection and treatment are critical. In addition, taking preventative measures, such as maintaining a clean and stress-free environment and regular testing, can help to drastically reduce the risk of infection and promote the health and well-being of birds and humans.

Avian Pox:

This nasty affliction is a viral infection that causes wart-like growths on the bird’s beak, feet, and other areas. This disease can cause severe discomfort and affect the bird’s ability to eat and drink. Infected birds may develop respiratory problems and require veterinary treatment to manage the symptoms. Avian pox is highly contagious, and it is crucial to isolate infected birds to prevent an outbreak.


Candidiasis is a fungal infection. It is caused by the Candida species and commonly affects birds, especially those with compromised immune systems. Candida albicans is a common fungus that can be present in the digestive system of birds as part of their normal flora. However, under certain conditions such as stress, malnutrition, or antibiotic treatment, Candida can overgrow and lead to candidiasis.

Symptoms of candidiasis in birds can vary according to the location of the infection and the severity but include lethargy, decreased appetite, regurgitation, loose droppings, and crop stasis. In severe cases, Candida can infect vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs, leading to death. Diagnosis of candidiasis in birds involves physical examination, blood tests, and fungal cultures.

Treatment typically involves antifungal medication, such as nystatin or fluconazole, addressing any underlying infection causes. Prevention of candidiasis in birds includes providing a clean and stress-free environment, proper nutrition, and appropriate antibiotic use.

cage birds to keep as pets
cage bird diseases

Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices, such as washing hands before handling birds and disinfecting their living areas, can help prevent the spread of Candida. In conclusion, candidiasis is a severe fungal infection that can affect birds. It is important for you to be aware of the signs and symptoms to provide appropriate medical treatment. By taking measures to prevent its occurrence, such as maintaining a healthy and stress-free environment, bird owners can help keep their birds healthy and happy.

Cage Bird Diseases Summary

In conclusion, pests and diseases are common problems that affect cage birds. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the signs and symptoms of these conditions and take prompt action to prevent an outbreak. Maintaining good hygiene practices, regular veterinary check-ups, and isolating infected birds are essential steps to keep your birds healthy and happy.

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