Bird lice/fleas on Parrots

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Raven
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Bird lice/fleas on Parrots

I have a regular flock of Crimson Rosella's and King Parrots which pop in for a feed of seed when I am home.  Some of the King Parrot's have become very tame and will eat out of my hand.  The Crimson Rosella's are easily excited and nervy but have two that will feed out of my hand.

With both species I have noticed that they are all totally infested and lousy with louse, always scratching.

The other day I had a very old female King Parrot sitting on my knee feeding and noticed a fly like insect nearly the size of a blow fly come out from under her feathers and then go back under again further down the wing.  

I have seen this type of fly insect on Feral Pigeons, so it must be a common bird louse. I pity the parrots always scratching as it must drive them crazy.  Otherwise, it doesn't seem to affect their health or plummage in any way.

Does any one know what this fly like louse is called, the juvenile parrots have also got it, most likely passed on by the parents in the nest.

Woko
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Could the insect be passed on at artificial feeding stations where large numbers of birds congregate? 

Raven
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This louse flies, it has wings, a tad smaller than a blowfly and very flat in appearance.  It would actually flit from bird to bird and transmitted via the nest to hatchlings.

Have seen it before in common pigeons down in the city, they too are infested.  Seems to stay with the bird and not transfered to humans.  The Bronzewing pigeon that feeds and hangs around here seldom scratches, unlike the parrots.

Might Google "bird Louse" and see what comes up...

Woko
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Let us know the result.

Night Parrot
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According to the West Toowoomba Vet surgery website:

Lice are quite common on wild birds and in some aviaries, but are rarely seen in pet birds. They feed on skin scales and feather debris - lice are not blood suckers. They live on the bird their whole life, and lay their eggs along the shaft of a feather - these eggs are easily seen with the naked eye, and are known as 'nits'. The lice themselves are also usually easy to see - holding your bird's wing up to a bright light and examining the under side of it may reveal nits and lice. Heavy infestations can make a bird itchy, and give the feathers a 'moth-eaten' look. However, feather lice are vastly over-rated as a cause of feather-picking in birds. Virtually every feather-picking bird that I have seen has been treated for lice by its owners on the recommendations of a bird breeder, pet shop, or inexperienced veterinarian. Not only is this treatment usually unnecessary, but the time wasted while waiting to see if the bird gets better can be critical in controlling a behavioural problem.

Treatment for lice requires spraying with a pyrethrin spray (eg Avian Insect Liquidator�, Vetafarm) or wash. Be careful using older sprays containing maldison or malathion (eg Malawash�). These are organophosphates and can be very poisonous - both to the birds and to you. Although registered for use in birds, every avian vet I know has seen birds poisoned and die after been washed or sprayed, even when done according to the manufacturer's directions. With the advent of the safer pyrethrin sprays, veterinarians no longer recommend these products. The advice given by some pet shops to treat pet birds every 3 months for lice is inappropriate - once a pet bird has been treated properly when purchased, and so long as it is not exposed to other birds, there is no reason to treat it again.

Raven
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Good old Google has identified the fly like louse:  Hippoboscid, commonly known as the "Louse Fly" or "Flat Fly" and is common to most wild birds, especially in the warm climates. Common in North America and Australia.

No speices is immune from the Flat Fly and can be found in parrots, doves/pigeons and sea birds.

The Flat Fly, as the name suggests, flies from host to host, new hosts, such as young in the nest, are directly infected by the parents.  The Flat Fly readily appears from under the birds plummage (which I have seen whilst feeding King Parrots by hand) and will walk along the top of the plummage before burrowing under and disappearing at another spot on the birds body.

Bloody sucking parasitic fly, can end to death in major infestations of the host bird.  Causes irritation and hence the birds constant scratching and roughling of feathers. In severe infestations "bald spots" appear around the head and chest.

Treatment via bird louse dusting powders and hand sprays.  For captive infected birds, the entire aviary or cote must be distenfected and cleaned and perching roost rods/poles removed and destroyed if timber.  Floors, ceilings and walls of the aviary and cote must be pressure cleaned with distenfectant additive for best results to prevent re infestation.  All existing nesting boxes and materials within must be destroyed and replaced to prevent reinfestation.

Some good pictures may be seen by Googling "Australian parrot (or pigeon) bird louse/flat fly pics"

Pics of other louse also appear.

Woko
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I wonder what role the lice play in the life of birds. E.g., do they birds eat the lice & gain essential nutrients as a result? It's so often the case that creatures such as birds evolve with what seem to we humans to be nasty little blood suckers.

Night Parrot
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I suspect that humans add to the liklihood of lice infestation by removing habitat and restricting their choice of nesting sites, thereby perhaps forcing them to return to existing infected sites each year. Also by drawing the birds closer together through feeding. I wonder what part birdbaths play. Whether they are beneficial in giving birds the medium to clean themselves or detrimental due to the lack or irregularity of cleaning the birdbaths (or perhaps disinfecting them before refilling). Just saying. 

Raven
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Lice & louse are common with all living creatures, hence the sheep dip on farms for example.  Dogs and cats although domesticated can and do get louse infestations.  As too our children who more often than not, bring it home from school.

I have seen sheep, goats and cattle near bald on their backs from rubbing under a tree branch to relieve the symptoms of louse/lice itch.

Keeps the big chemical companies in brisk business and profits high.  

Birds often sun bask with their wings out stretched and feathers ruffled, this is because louse and lice do not like direct exposure to the sun.  Just as it's well known that placing our bed linen in the sun kills bed dust mites and louse.

Kangaroo's are also lousy with fleas, they are always scratching themselves.  

Maybe a way of nature, as mentioned, louse/lice are throughout the animal and human kingdom.  I would not use any chemical or distenfcant washing of bird baths.  Scrub out with coarse scrubbing brush and let dry in the sun, more than adequate.  I do this on a weekly basis.  I rinse the bath with boiling water from the kettle before allowing to dry in the sun.

Nature's cycle?

Woko
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I like your thinking & questions, Night Parrot & Raven. Food for thought. 

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