It isn't fun to watch your parakeet pick and scratch himself, and it sure is uncomfortable for your bird. The cause could be a pesky infestation, but it's not from dog or cat fleas.
Cat and Dog Fleas
When you think of fleas, you're probably thinking of the common cat or dog flea, also known as Ctenocephalides felis and Ctenocephalides canis. Although these little pests spread like wildfire among cats, dogs and other mammals, they don't like birds, including parakeets. Even though your parakeet is safe from these type of fleas, it is important to be cautious if you're treating another pet in the same house for fleas. The ingredients in most flea treatments for cats and dogs are toxic to parakeets. Fumes from these treatments can be especially dangerous. Keep your bird far from any chemicals used to kill cat or dog fleas.
The sticktight flea, formally known as Echidnophaga gallinacea, is a flea that behaves more like a tick. It finds a good spot, digs its head into the flesh and stays put while it feeds. This type of flea will attack your parakeet. It also likes to feed on chickens, turkeys, cats, dogs and even horses. Sticktight fleas look like small raised red or black bumps. They don't move or come off when you touch them. On parakeets, they tend to congregate around the eyes.
If your parakeet is constantly scratching and picking at himself as if he has fleas, it's a good idea to have him checked for other parasites, like mites and lice. Although mites aren't as common in parakeets as in many other pet birds, the scaly face mange mite, or knemidokoptes, seems to love budgies. Besides making your bird itchy and uncomfortable, these mites will give your parakeet a scaly beak and feet. Your vet will probably want to examine a skin scraping from your bird to determine what pest is bothering him.
Parakeets are ultrasensitive to chemicals and their fumes, so it's important to be careful when treating for sticktight fleas, mites or lice. Don't use products that aren't labeled specifically for parakeets. Follow the manufacturer's directions exactly. The safest bet is to work with your veterinarian, who can make sure the product and the dosing are right for your bird. Your vet will probably recommend a product that contains pyrethrins or carbaryl, which are effective at killing pests but should be used sparingly on birds. Remove sticktight fleas using tweezers if your parakeet will let you pluck them. Treat your bird's toys, cage and play area to kill any remaining pests.