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Bird Mites Infesting NYC Pigeons

August 4, 2020
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Smaller than bed bugs?

Unfortunately, this is VERY possible….

As many of you know, New York City has become the home to an astronomical number of Pigeons. Yes, I am talking about the pigeons that rest and nest on your windowsills, balconies, fire escapes, and park benches everyday!

Have you ever taken a step back to wonder why these birds seem to thrive in your neighborhood? I mean you do live in New York City, why would such a huge population of birds thrive in an overcrowded, polluted, concrete jungle?

Well.. the primary reason behind this infestation (that many people are comfortable with and encourage) is likely the absence of the Pigeon’s natural predators. I mean how often do you see a peregrine falcon swooping down to the curb of a New York City street? Large cities provide Pigeons with an abundance of food and shelter that is not only maintaining their lifespan but also making it easier for them to mate more often.

For many years pest control companies have been responding to complaints about pigeons with the recommendation of avian poisons. Some of the avian poisons, however, are nonselective in nature, meaning that non-target species may unfortunately have to take their last breath after ingesting or feeding on a bird that has ingested these poisons.

For this very reason, in August of 2000, the NYC Governor signed a bill banning the use of select avian poisons. In coordination with the ban on pigeon control through the use of various avian poisons, pigeons are breeding at an exorbitant rate; resulting in an ever-growing pigeon population wreaking havoc on uninformed city-dwellers.

Ok, So by now you’re probably wondering what all of this pigeon talk has to do with bugs right? Well, here goes.

You see, when it comes to the pigeon problem in NYC, most people are worried about the repulsive droppings they leave behind on your homes, cars, and sidewalks.. Oh yeah! Don’t forget your clothes and hair, on a bad day. Some people may even worry about more serious things such as health hazards and the spread of disease.

BUT the one thing most people have not considered is the pests of our pests. That’s right! BIRD MITES… Similar to bed bugs, bird mites are a parasite, meaning that they feed on the blood of living organisms. Although the host that bird mites prefer is birds, they are also attracted to mammals such as humans… yes… you! These itty bitty creatures will often bite humans when their natural food source (birds) is absent. Similar to their darling host, bird mites reproduce at a rapid pace, multiplying into thousands without warning.

Lucky for you, I am here to inform the uninformed.

There are many different types of bird mites, canary lung mites, feather mites, grey mites, and a major menace called the red mite. Red mites are generally as small as 1mm in length and are white or clear in color.

However, when they feed they will usually turn a dark red or brown. Bird mites are often nocturnal and feed on their hosts at night. These nearly microscopic creatures, averaging between 7 and 1 mm in length, are frequently overlooked or mistaken for bed bugs (Reference: 2). Unless they are moving, it is exceptionally difficult to see bird mites.

Symptoms of bird mites include pin-size bites, itching, small red bumps, and a crawling sensation on the skin (Reference: 1). One way to check your live-in bird cage is to place a sheet over the concerning area, if there are small specks or stains when you remove the sheet then you may have something to worry about.

Bird mites have five stages in their life cycle: egg, larvae, protonymph, deutonymph and adult. The larvae can be identified by having three pair of legs, while the nymphs and adults have four pair (Reference: 2).

Now that you have an idea what to look for, let’s back track a little bit. Remember the astronomical pigeon population that we spoke about just a little while ago? Well we all know that the millions of pigeons that are dwelling on your windowsills and underneath your air conditioners may be a pester you; but what you really need to consider is that those same pigeons may have little pests of their own. Allowing pigeons to nest near windows and air conditioners increases the likelihood of bringing bird mites into your home, turning their pest problem into your pest problem!

Some advice I would offer in helping keep your home and family bird mite free would be to close all openings and holes that are large enough for birds to enter attics and install hardware cloth on porches and exterior surroundings to prevent roosting. Outdoor birds, such as pigeons, should be discouraged from nesting in or near buildings. Lastly, I highly recommend that residents disrupt nest-building efforts near home entrances and windows.

So I am sure many of you are thinking, “well I can’t have birdmites” or “that’s fine I’ll just stay away from the pigeons from now on”. If it were that simple, I guess this article in its essence would be meaningless. Bird mite infestations are difficult to eradicate and often require the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced pest control company.

What I am saying is, you should give Positive Pest Management a call. Positive Pest Management is a full services pest control company with over 10 years experience serving New York City. Visit at www.positivepest.net or call 1(800) 294-3130 for any information regarding your pest control needs.

-Christina: Positive Pest Management