External Parasites which affect domestic waterfowl
Poultry can suffer from a variety of insects and mites but
fortunately domestic waterfowl, kept in good conditions, are prone
to only two of these parasites (which live on the outside of the
bird). A healthy bird will carry a low parasite load because
efficient washing and preening will remove them. Birds housed with
poultry, and with insufficient water, are most at risk.
If a bird is ill, it may also become infested. In ducks, the head and neck region are most affected by mites; the body seems to remain clear. If a bird is scratching its neck unduly, and especially if its eyes do not look clear and bright, then an inspection for parasites is recommended.
Mites are related to spiders and have eight legs. There are four different kinds of mites which are important to poultry keepers—northern fowl mite, red poultry mite, depluming mite and scaly leg mite. If ducks are not kept in close association with poultry, then only northern mite affects them. This mite looks very like red mite which spends a lot of its time in the woodwork of the poultry house. Both of these mites are blood suckers, and the northern mites lives on the bird all the time. They seem to need the warmth of the host because when the bird dies, then the mites die too. This does not apply to the red mites which live in the structure of the poultry house.
Actual size is about 1mm
Mites are the same shape as ticks, which are also a type of mite. They are easiest to see on white birds, and seem to infest only the head and neck region of ducks and geese. They are most frequently seen when birds get warm at bird shows, or whilst travelling to a show. Then, the mites come out to the surface. The bird owners are frequently unaware of the parasites’ presence until this happens. On coloured birds, it is very difficult to see the mites at all.
Lice are six-legged insects. The ones which affect the waterfowl are quite long-bodied, and are greyish. They do not have wings, cannot jump, and evade removal by living in the feathers and hiding. They are most frequently seen on the white wing feathers—particularly on the axillars under the wing. The lice do not suck blood, but chew skin scales and fine feather. They have flattened bodies and clawed legs which make them very difficult to remove—by finger nail or beak. Size: 2 mm in length.