Parasites Infecting Finches

Air-Sac Mites

These tiny mites (Sternostoma tracheacolum) infest the bird’s airways. Infected birds are generally lethargic, but the most obvious symptom is a tic or wheeze in the breath, and the finch version of coughs and sneezes. They will also lose their voices, and in later stages will have a nasal discharge. Gouldians are the most susceptible of the pet finches. The outbreak can be treated with a prescribed insecticide.

Gouldian finch with blue colouring
Gouldian finches are susceptible to air-sac mites

Atoxoplasma

This is caused by coccidia - single-celled organisms infest a bird’s internal organs. Atoxoplasma usually strikes in early life (between two and nine months is the danger zone). The parasites spread swiftly, and death results in 80% of infected birds. The symptoms are lethargy, ruffled feathers, loose droppings, no appetite, and a growing blue spot visible through the abdomen wall – the sign of a swollen liver. It can be treated with antibiotics, but the chances of recovery are slim.

Camphylobacter

These bacteria are spread in aviaries by wild bird droppings, contaminating the finches’ food and water. Some pet finches – Bengalese, for example – harbour the bacteria without catching the disease themselves, but become carriers. Gouldian finches are very prone to falling sick with the bacteria. The symptoms of contamination are lethargy, weight loss, and yellow-tinged, dry droppings containing undigested seed. If fledglings catch it, they are unlikely to survive. Adult birds usually pull through with antibiotics.

Coccidiosis

Another coccidia problem, this one infecting the guts. The finch will have loose droppings and a messy vent. It will also be fluffed up and lethargic. The infection spreads very easily to other birds via droppings, so you need to zap it as soon as possible with a prescribed antibiotic.

Cryptosporidia

This is another microscopic coccidian parasite. The symptoms are panting, wheezing, coughing/sneezing and very loose droppings. Diamond Firetails are one of the most susceptible finches, and birds with the infection usually die. Your vet may or may not recommend a course of treatment involving medicine. Cage birds often pick up the parasites from wild birds, with the organism’s eggs passed on via droppings. Good cage hygiene is the best preventative measure.


Diamond Firetail drinking
Diamond firetails are prone to Cryptosporidia parasites

Mites

Infested birds become lethargic and fluff-up their feathers. A physical examination will soon reveal the culprits – blood-sucking red mites, usually nestling under the wings. The small, crusty wounds they leave are sometimes spotted before the mites themselves. Avian lice can cause similar problems. The birds will need to be treated with a mite/louse-killer such as moxidectin, and cages will need treating too – the parasites are tiny and can conceal themselves in nooks and crannies.

Scaly Face and Scaly Legs

These conditions are caused by mites burrowing into the bird’s feathers or legs and laying eggs. The visible symptoms are scaly encrustations on the infected areas. If left untreated the condition is fatal. The mites can usually be treated with paraffin oil, but you should seek veterinary advice first.

Toxoplasmosis

This is spread by a parasite passed to birds via cat faeces, and can infect finches that have eaten contaminated wild grass seed. Infected birds (or any other animal – toxoplasmosis is not fussy) are colonised by tiny protozoan parasites, and if the bird survives the first attack it will, sadly, go blind a few weeks later. Vets are able to treat the infection if it’s caught in the early stages.

Worms

There are many types of these parasites – tapeworm, threadworm, caecal worm, roundworm, gape worm and gizzard worm being the commonest. They are transmitted via worm eggs in food, water, and live foods. Wild birds are often the carriers in aviaries. It’s never good news when your birds suffer an infestation, but at least the symptoms are unmistakable, as the worms will be visible in the droppings. They may also appear in the poor bird’s mouth. The worms will steal the bird’s nutrients, and the host will quickly weaken and die unless the parasites are zapped. They can be treated with specialist wormer products.

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Comments

Shadynne, 13 October 2018

I have had two Gouldians died within a month. I don’t know what to do. I am treating all 11 left with ivermectin. I have tried Scatt and s76 but nothing has worked so Friday I bought ivermectin at a feed store. I started treatment Monday. I don’t see any scratching like before. I found three the next day sleeping during the day. When this happens I know they are sick. So I started the three on antibiotics. They respond the first day but then they don’t. I just gave the three each a dropper of the dosage of worm away. I have worn away two weeks ago to all of them. Two died a few days later. Now I gave it to the three that are sick. The symptoms I see are the chest is way up front. They want to sleep. I don’t know what to do. These are not breeders. They are my pets and each have a name. The are in two large flight cages inside my house. Please let me know what I can do? Thank you. Shadynne.

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