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There are several types of parasitic mites that can affect the health of canaries.
Over 95% of all canaries have mites!
  • Feather mites: These mites will eat holes in their feathers and in severe cases cause baldness. If your birds has bald spots you may have these mites. To be sure, spread out the wing of the bird in front of a bright light. If you see tiny holes in the shaft of the feathers you have feather mites. They will turn the shafts of the feathers into swiss cheese! Canaries going through the molt will look kind of shaggy but shouldn't have any obvious bald spots with no feathers.

  • Air Sac Mites: Living in the lungs of the birds, these parasites are difficult to detect. With a heavy infestation the bird will make a clicking noise. Usually these mites won't kill the birds but can make them very lethargic (tired). Air sac mites are passed on from parents to young when they feed them in the nest and from male to female when males feed the hen in the nest.

  • Red Mites: These little blood suckers live under and around the cages in crevices and only come out at night to feed on the birds. They are barely visible. After they have fed they can be seen as small red dots. Cover a cage with a white fabric at night and in the morning you may be able to see red mites.

  • Scaley Mites (Leg and Face): Scaley feet are common in older canaries but if you have young that are only 1-2 years old and have scaley feet you probably have scaley mites.


    There are several mite sprays on the market that you can spray directly on your bird for mites (pyrethrins). These sprays are effective for some types of mites such as feather mites and red mites but do not eliminate air sac mites. Ivermectin (Ivomec) and Moxidectin (Scatt) are recommended for treating a variety of parasitic infections including several kinds of mites (air sac mites, scaley leg mites, red mites and feather mites). These medications are actually designed for treating cattle and are not FDA approved for treating canaries (Moxidectin is used on birds in Australia). However, many vets will recommend these drugs. You must be careful with these as they are absorbed through the skin and can be dangerous if you overdose or if you spill it on yourself! Use only with gloves and be careful not to overdose.

    There are many web sites out there that claim Scatt contains Ivermectin and this false information seems to be copied from web site to web site. The chemical structure of the active ingredient is similar but they are two different chemicals! Scatt contains Moxidectin.

    Here's a comparison of the two chemical structures.
    (Click the name for the MSDS)

    Chemical structure of Ivermectin

    Chemical structure of Moxidectin

    (Structures generated using ACD's ChemSketch 5.0 Freeware)

    Dosage: In small birds such as the canary, the 1% Ivermectin must be diluted with propylene glycol 1:10 (1 mL 1% Ivermectin and 9mL propylene glycol). Moxidectin (Scatt) comes premixed and ready to use. The recommended dosage for both Ivermectin and Moxidectin (Scatt) is to give one drop to the back of the neck, under the neck by the jugular vein or under the wing. The doses should be at least two to three weeks apart. Some people dose every three to six months or once a year before breeding season as a general mite preventative. Most mites won't kill your birds but if you are a breeder you will notice a significant decrease in egg production. If you don't breed, your canary won't be as active and perhaps won't sing as much with a mite infestation. After treating with an antiparasitic, it's a good idea to spray down or soak all cages and the surrounding area with 2-5% bleach water (remove birds before spraying).

    The US Department of Agriculture has done many studies on both of these chemicals and have reported that Moxidectin is much safer and more effective than Ivermectin. Personally, I use Moxidectin (Scatt). I apply it to my birds one drop behind the neck once a year when I catch them and put them in breeder cages. I also trim the nails at the same time and pluck a couple feathers for DNA testing if the gender is unknown. It really isn't much extra work at all to prevent parasitic infections this way.

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