What Are Bird Mites?

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Bird mites are tiny parasites that feed on domestic and wild birds, including pigeons, chickens, sparrows, and robins. Though they're only 1/32 inch long, they are visible to the naked eye.

Bird mites typically complete their life cycle on birds or in their nests. However, they sometimes also come into human contact through pet birds. Though they may bite humans, they can not reproduce or survive on human blood alone. Bird mites require a bird blood meal. Without it, they will die within a couple of weeks.

This article explains what causes bird mites, how to identify them, and how to get rid of them.

A big flock of birds

Frank Rothe / Getty Images

How to Identify Bird Mites

Bird mites have two main body parts and eight legs. These mites are in the arachnid family, along with ticks and spiders. They are typically brown or gray and may appear darker after a meal. Because they are so tiny, they may appear as walking pepper flakes.

These parasites lay eggs in nests or directly on birds in their feathers. There are many types of bird mites, but the most common are northern fowl mites, chicken mites, and American bird mites.

All types of bird mites are ectoparasites. This means they feed on the skin's surface and do not burrow into it to feed. Mites do not fly and only move by crawling. Bird mites live wherever they can access birds, but they are more prolific in warmer climates and during warmer months.

Causes of Bird Mites

Bird mites most commonly stick to birds and their nests because they require a bird blood meal for survival. However, in some instances, bird mites may come into homes and bite humans, for example:

  • Through pet birds
  • When a bird's nest is abandoned, and they seek new hosts
  • When nests are in or on buildings or homes

Bird mite populations may grow when birds congregate together for long periods, like when they nest. Bird mites can bite humans but cannot live on human skin. Though a nuisance, they do not pose a health hazard.

Symptoms of Bird Mites

Late spring and early summer are the peak times when bird mites tend to enter human homes. But they can come into contact with humans at any time.

Symptoms of bird mites include:

Some people may not react at all to bird mite bites. Unfortunately, not much distinguishes these bites from other insect bites or skin rashes. The only sure way to know if you have bird mites is to correctly identify the mite, usually by collecting it with adhesive tape and sending it to a university extension program.

How to Get Rid of Bird Mites

If you see a mite, you can place clear sticky tape over it to collect it. You can also use tape as a trap by placing them in areas you suspect they may be traveling through, like near windows and other cracks and crevices. In addition, prevention, vacuuming, and insecticides are other ways of controlling bird mites.


Because bird mites most often come into contact with humans through pets and bird nests close to the home, some simple steps may help prevent bird mites. Keep birds from building nests on your home by blocking entrances to cavities along your roofline or porch.

Also, keep mites from entering your home by caulking cracks and crevices along window sills and near areas where birds have active nests.


Vacuuming is a great way to collect and dispose of bird mites. In addition to vacuuming carpets and hard floors, use the attachments to get along baseboards, windowsills, beds, and corners. Afterward, discard the bag or contents to ensure they do not crawl back out and into your living area.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms (a type of phytoplankton). DE is a common form of pest control, and it is effective for bird mites, as well. When critters with exoskeletons cross through it, it cuts through their protective layer, causing them to dry out and die.

Though it is considered a safer alternative to chemical insecticides, it can still irritate people—especially those with asthma or lung issues. Take precautions when using it, like wearing a mask and gloves.

To use DE, sprinkle it where you have seen or expect bird mite traffic, such as along windowsills and near other openings through which mites may travel into your home.

Other Insecticides

Chemical insecticides are available at hardware stores. These products work generally the same way DE does; however, they require caution because they are poisonous. If you consider going this route, it may be best to talk to a pest control professional for guidance.

What Kills Bird Mites Instantly?

A chemical insecticide, like permethrin, ß-cyfluthrin, or deltamethrin, will kill bird mites on contact. However, you will often not see bird mites, so hunting and spot-killing them isn't the best approach. Instead, the best course is eliminating the source—empty nests, dead birds, and closing gaps in your home through which bird mites might enter.


Bird mites are parasites in the arachnid family. They feed off bird blood but sometimes come into contact with and bite humans. Fortunately, bird mites cannot live on humans or survive on human blood and do not pose a health threat. The most common way bird mites enter homes is through pet birds or nests that are on or very near the house.

You can prevent bird mites by keeping birds from building nests on your home or porch and address mites in the home through vacuuming and natural or chemical pest control products. Most often, without access to their food source (birds), these mites will die within a couple of weeks.

A Word From Verywell

Because bird mites are unable to sustain themselves on humans alone, these pests rarely pose a long-term problem for humans. If you suspect bird mites but your symptoms persist for longer than a few weeks, it may be time to consider other culprits. Other insects, mites, or allergens may be to blame.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Minnesota Extension. Bird mites.

  2. University of Wisconsin Madison Department of Entomology Insect Diagnostic Lab. A mysterious tingling sensation: bird mites.

  3. Colorado Sate University. Bird mites as a pest within homes in Colorado.

  4. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Bird mites.

  5. Farmers' Almanac. What is diatomaceous earth and how does it kill bugs?

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.