Zebra Finches, Air-Sac Mites
& Other Ailments

By Connie S. Soto

November 11, 2012 ©


Zebra Finches are an exotic 4 inch little bird originally from Australia.


Baby birds hatch in about 14 days and typically live ten years on average.


Finches have a high metabolism which means they need food frequently to support their energy needs.


High metabolism also means that illness can make a bird deteriorate quickly.


Preventive methods are the best defense for preventing illness.


A clean environment, a balanced diet including proper vitamins, calcium, with fresh veggies and fruits are beneficial.


As soon as you notice something is amiss it is important to place the finch in a hospital cage providing warmth, with easy access to fresh food and water.


Knowing what normal stool droppings look like helps in early detection that indicates that your finch is not feeling well. In the wild it is necessary for them to hide weakness to keep from becoming easy prey, therefore it is easy to miss that they are not feeling good.


Signs of illness are a listless finch, poofed up feathers, sitting at the bottom of a cage, noisy breathing, losing weight and not being its energetic self. Do they have droopy eyes, wet or dirty vent area, not interacting and sleeping more than usual?


What is that clicking sound that you hear your bird making?


If your finch is making that clicking sound and sneezes or is tail bobbing chances are your finch has Air-sac mites.


A birdís respiratory system is affected from Air-sac mites who enter the bird through the trachea. The female lays its eggs in the birdís lungs but hangs out in the birdís air-sacs, trachea and nasal area where the male usually stays in the lungs.


The Air-sac miteís life cycle is completed in just under a week. The adults Air-sac mites can be controlled but the nymph stage can stay dormant for long periods of time. This is why an outbreak can occur suddenly and usually during stressful times, or warm weather. Regular maintenance is the usual recourse for treatment.


Death can occur if a large amount of adult Air-sac mites are killed because it can clog the respiratory track which means the bird will suffocate. The more difficult the breathing means the more infiltrated the infestation is. After treatment it usually takes two to seven days if a bird is bad enough to suffocate.


The stronger the bird the more power it has to fight against an infestation of Air-sac mites as its immune system keeps the infestation in check. A weaker bird always seems to be more affected.


Scatt has the ability to kill Air-sac mites effectively and safely. If you use a pyrethrum based product it is not widely advertised that pyrethrum is fatal to cats. I have cats so I do not take that chance when Scatt is available and safe for both birds and cats.


Scattís active ingredient is moxidectine, birds and mammals do not react to this drug which interferes with the Air-sac miteís nervous system.


Pyrethrum is extracted from dried chrysanthemum flowers, very effective to use against Air-sac mites but even a tiny overspray can be toxic to cats.


Scaly face is a mite that burrows into the finches skin where it lays its eggs. When the eggs hatch it gives off the appearance of a scaly look hence the name. An infestation breaks out in the face or legs and feet. Scatt is my preference that is used to control scaly face.


There are Red mites, lice and chiggers that pester little finches. Most are hard to see with the naked eye or only out at night, I keep these maladies under control using orange oils which are not toxic to mammals or birds and can be used around food.


Parasitic worms are quite dangerous to your birds and can be seen in the birdís droppings. The most common is tape worms and should be treated about three times a year. If you own birds you will have worms at some time or another, prevention is the key. I would prefer to use a milder product than worm away but I am not aware of something that works that is less toxic. Please use caution and adhere to the directions of this product.


I am not a veterinarian and share only my experiences over the years. There is no substitute for taking your animal to the vet for proper care and guidance.