"Bird mites", "Tropical fowl mites" or "Starling Mites" are the common names used to describe the mite Ornithonyssus bursa from the family of mites Macronyssidae. These mites are often incorrectly called 'bird lice', particularly within the pest control industry. Bird mites are most active during Spring and early Summer.

The Bird mite, Ornithonyssus bursa.

Ornithonyssus bursa is a small but extremely mobile mite, barely visible to the eye, with eight legs (except the larva that has 6), oval in shape and with a sparse covering of short hairs. The mite is widely distributed throughout warmer regions of the world. It is a parasite, feeding on the blood of common birds including pigeons, starlings, sparrows, Indian mynahs, poultry, and some wild birds. Bird mites are semi-transparent in colour, which makes them difficult to detect on skin until blood is ingested and then digested; when they may appear reddish to blackish.


Contact with humans usually occurs after birds gain entry to roof cavities via gaps under roof tiles and corrugated iron or through unprotected eaves, of homes, factories and other dwellings to construct their nests in early spring or summer.

However, some infestations also occur from birds roosting on the outside of dwellings such as window ledges, awnings, or most commonly in the guttering. The mites feed on the unfeathered nestlings, as well as the adult birds, and the large amount of nesting material used by the birds provide the mites with an ideal environment in which to thrive. The mites have a short life cycle, approximately 7 days - and can rapidly generate large populations.

When the young birds leave the nest, or die, many mites (often many tens of thousands) are left behind in the absence of a suitable host, and these will disperse from the nest into and throughout the dwelling searching for new hosts. Most mites will die within 3 weeks without a blood meal from a bird host. They will bite humans they encounter but cannot survive on humans.

As a result of their 'test biting' while searching for a new bird host, the mites inject saliva. This can lead to severe irritation with rashes and intense itching.
A live bird mite

Scratching of the bites may result in secondary infections. Bird mites are not associated with the transmission of any infectious disease. The bites are often difficult to diagnose and can be mistaken for bites from a number of other arthropods.

The greatest impacts from bird mites are usually experienced in rooms close to the point of entry of the mites. The mites have no preference for any particular areas of the body and they do not live underneath the skin, nor can an infestation be maintained on humans.

However, the problem will persist while the bird-related source of the mites remains. Until the infestation is controlled, the occupants of the building can experience considerable discomfort. Also, the sensation of crawling mites on the skin will irritate some people.

Treatment and Control

The irritation associated with bites can be alleviated with an anti-pruritics such as crotamiton (e.g. EURAX®) but there is no specific treatment. Severe reactions may have to be treated as for other allergic conditions with antihistamines. Unless steps are taken to control the mite infestation, symptoms resulting from bird mite bite will continue.

Once the mite has been correctly identified, appropriate steps must be taken to locate and remove the source/s of the infestation and prevent its recurrence. All nesting sites should be located and nesting material removed.

An insecticidal spray can be applied to ensure total eradication of mites, but treatment of rooms without removal of nests in roof cavities will not stop further mites entering and the problem will continue. Broken tiles or timber allowing access to roof cavities should be repaired and all potential entry points to the eaves and roof cavity blocked. Roosting and nesting sites on window ledges should be cleared and made unsuitable for future bird use. A pest control company may have to be employed to undertake these control measures, especially if large areas are involved

Some roofs due to there style of construction will require the installation of professional "gutter-guards" to fully prevent birds gaining access to potential nesting sites via gaps under the roofing material and roof valleys.

Quality gutterguard prevents  birds nesting in gutters

If you have a problem with bird mites or problem birds - don't hesitate to contact our office for a solution on


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This information has been researched from the Dept of Medical Entomology
University of Sydney & Westmead Hospital

© 2006 Childs Pest Services Pty Ltd