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Avian Health Concerns: Recognizing and Eliminating External Parasites, Ants and Moths; Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information concerning lice and mites.


Although usually associated with mammals, fleas do afflict birds, and, in fact, they are quite common on poultry farms.  Thankfully, however, fleas are rarely encountered in private bird collections.

A close inspection of an afflicted bird will reveal fleas as tiny, dark, shiny dots.  Unfortunately, they are not choosy as their hosts, and so readily move onto people and other pets.  Ivermectin (dispensed by a veterinarian) is the most effective treatment.

Wash well with warm water and anti-bacterial soap after handling a bird upon which you have discovered fleas, and launder your clothes in hot water… a professional exterminator and your doctor can provide advice concerning fleas which may have become established on your person or in your home.


Although they are not parasitic, a number of moth species are attracted to stored bird foods, or may arrive as caterpillars or eggs within the food.  Once well established, they can be difficult to eradicate, and may also set up home in cereals, cookies, dry dog food, bread crumbs and similar foods.

The Springstar Flour Moth Trap is designed to eliminate the most commonly encountered species, collectively referred to as “flour moths” (Indian meal moths, Mediterranean flour moths, almond moths and raison moths), without the use of pesticides.  Female moth pheromones (chemical secretions used to attract males) lure male moths into the trap, where they are held for easy disposal.


Ants are often drawn to bird cages by the presence of fruit and droppings.  While most are merely pests, in the southern half of the USA the introduced fire ant may attack and kill caged pets, especially chicks and debilitated birds.  Please see my article, Bird Safe Ant Control  for further information.

Further Reading

A University of New Hampshire article on the life cycle and control of avian external parasites is posted at http://extension.unh.edu/Agric/Docs/exparasites.pdf


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About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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