Q: What do you use to treat for lice on pigeons? Can you ever get completely rid of them? What is the difference between lice and mites?

Yes, you can get completely rid of lice. It is really not that big of a problem. Use an alcohol base spray, the same kind that is used to spray dogs and cats for fleas. There are a number of brands on the market. Their active ingredient is permethrin.

Let's face it -- when we are treating for external parasites, we are using some sort of poison. A number of years ago, my good friend Zig Vanderwall made me aware of Adams Dog and Cat Flea Spray. This product, with the permethrin base, is used on our pets and lasts for 2 weeks or longer. Considering that cats and dogs lick themselves, it has to be a fairly safe product, and therefore I started to use it.

Also, Adams Spray is effective against the dreaded pigeon flies which transfer malaria or hemoproteus (as it is called in our bird world). And malaria, of course, totally eliminates many lofts from being competitive. It is of no surprise that Alan Frampton's large pigeon feed supply business in Florida has its shelves well stocked with blue bottles of Adams Dog and Cat Flea Spray. You can also get very similar products at your farm supply stores -- just read the ingredients. It certainly does not have to be the Adams product.

I'm afraid that many of the poultry dusts that are poisonous to the parasites on our birds will also have a toxic effect on our birds, even if only slightly. Don't forget, we are dealing with a high performance animal and any amount of toxin certainly cannot be beneficial to the birds.

I spray the bird under each wing and under the tail. Don't overdo it. Your birds will soon be clean. And since this product is advertised to be effective for 14 to 30 days depending on the manufacturer, you will also eliminate the parasites that hatch after you have killed off the active ones.

As to the difference of lice and mites. Lice are normally referred to as the long skinny little creatures that are in the ribbing of the feathers. They are most easily seen when you hold a light-colored wing or white flight up to the light. The other place you will see them is on the front of your tee shirt after you have held a bird. I believe tha they live off the bloom of the feathers and actually do little, if any, harm to the bird.

Mites -- that is another problem. There is a variety of them. You can read about them in many pigeon books. I really am not knowledgeable in this area other than that I can tell you they will damage (eat) feathers in several ways. Also, some of them will attack your birds by living off the blood. The good news is that an alcohol based spray with permethrin is detrimental to them.