Birds and Mites

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 Starling at Costco in Carlsbad

Starlings (above), Swallows, and Pigeons (below) are often fun to watch; they are very comfortable around people and they see no problem in building nests on our structures. Swallows build mud nests in sheltered overhangs like those under bridges and beneath our rooflines. Unlike bird with bookSwallows, Starlings and Pigeons are not native to San Diego. They were introduced from Europe and have flourished in the new world where they live in flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands. They are messy birds, whose droppings can ruin the finish on a car, deface our houses and buildings, and render park benches unusable. They also build nests in our eaves and overlapping rooflines.

Pigeons have become totally dependent on humans for food and nesting sites. They are commonly found in overlapping rooflines of residences and on top of many government and commercial buildings here in North County and cause millions of dollars of damage every year with their droppings and other contamination problems.

Pigeons construct nests out of sticks, grass, pieces of cloth, and other debris that they can scrounge out of our yards and they prefer to return to the same nesting sites year after year. These birds have been known pidgeonsto carry many diseases that can be transmitted to man, but they can also become serious pests when they move out at the end of the nesting season, because they leave their nest behind … full of bird mites.

It is always a good idea to keep birds from nesting on our houses and other structures. If you discourage birds, and direct them away from homes in the springtime, while they are building nests, they have an opportunity to build in natural structures, like trees and cliff faces. Non native species of birds, such as Starlings and Pigeons can cause a lot of damage to our local ecology and they should be discouraged, not fed! It is not helpful to your neighbors when you encourage these destructive species.

There are several types of bird exclusion devices that can be purchased at your hardware store. Usually the easiest to install are nets and spike strips. If you live here in San Diego’s North County, contact us for help or advice. But you should be proactive; exclusion is effective and humane only if it is done at the first of the season, before the nests are built and the eggs are laid. When you remove nests you should have a plan to control the mites!

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Bird Mites under tape & highly magnified

 

Bird Mites

The South American Bird Mite and other mites that are associated with bird nests are appearing in ever greater numbers in and around North County homes. After the birds leave the nests and the fledglings have flown away, the mites begin a desperate search for another source of blood and warmth. This often takes them into our homes with very uncomfortable results. The mites are very tiny and are seldom seen with the naked eye, but they are capable of causing bites that swell and itch in a very irritating manner. If you, or a family member are getting bites that swell up, turn red, and have a blister, or pustule right in the middle, it is possible that you have mites. It often happens that we are asked to do flea, bedbug, or mosquito control when the problem is really mites!

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An inflamed bite on a human ankle (notice the blister) An engorged bird mite

Some types of mites will discharge a fluid that actually breaks down the skin and the mite feeds on the dissolved skin. Naturally that causes a lot of swelling and the skin irritation can last for more than two weeks after the bite!

How can you tell if you have fleas, mites, or mosquitoes?

  • Normally you will see fleas jumping on you, you can feel them as they bite, and fleas are usually associated with animals (pets).
  • Mosquitoes only feed on exposed skin and normally only feed in the late afternoon and evening, or at night while you are sleeping.
  • Mites bite anywhere and any time; they are associated with abandoned bird nests, and they are seldom seen with the naked eye.
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This picture of an adult mite is greatly enlarged!   This is an immature bird mite (nymph)

Mite treatments must first be directed to the source of infestation … bird nests. The nests must be removed and the nesting area treated before you can expect to have control. If you live in North County, Contact us for advice or for mite treatments.

Control measures must be directed at all the places that the mites are found: nesting areas, adjoining walls, attic, interior walls, ceilings, upholstery, carpets, counters and floors. And now, the bad news … even after an effective treatment you have to wait nearly two weeks for the mite bites to stop itching and irritating you! You should talk to your doctor about skin treatments if the bites are very severe. Mite bites can often be treated with a topical steroid, like cortisone, to reduce redness, itching, and swelling while the skin heals.

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Cliff Swallows that travel here every year from South America are believed to be the first birds to introduce the South American Bird Mite to our region. Since then it has been picked up by several of the other species.