Why Does My Bird Pluck Its Feathers?

Posted on by Shangzhe Xie, DVM

Baby birds tend to divide opinion. Some people think they are the cutest creatures on earth, but others find them extremely ugly. Fortunately, they quickly get their feathers and start to resemble their adult form. However, some birds develop a habit of picking their feathers and they start to resemble their juvenile form again.

Unfortunately for both bird owners and veterinarians, feather picking is a very non-specific sign. It could be caused by a large variety of ailments, some more easily fixed than others. For example, the fix that worked for one of my feather-picking avian patients was to simply replace a table that had been recently moved out of the bird’s sight. Yet I’ve had other cases where feather-picking was just the earliest sign of a serious problem, such as melanoma (a form of cancer).

Therefore, although it would be important to start thinking of anything in the environment that could have caused stress to the bird, do not delay veterinary attention if simply decreasing environmental stress does not eliminate the feather-picking behavior. The avian-savvy veterinarian will have a variety of diagnostic tools, ranging from a simple fecal test to x-rays and blood tests to ensure that there is no underlying health problem causing the bird to feather-pick. The veterinarian will also have suggestions for safe avian toys to decrease boredom, and if needed, hormonal injections to reduce hormone-related stress.

Remember, a healthy, happy adult bird should have a full coat of pretty, shiny feathers. If you observe otherwise, consult a veterinarian.

About Shangzhe Xie, DVM

Shangzhe Xie, DVM, graduated in 2008 from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, and completed a Master of Veterinary Studies in Conservation Medicine from Murdoch University in 2010. Dr. Xie worked at Banfield Pet Hospital of Burbank, Ill., from July 2010 to June 2012 and expanded the clientele to include exotic species. He also served on the Banfield Exotic Pets Care Guidelines Committee in 2011. He is currently working relief at veterinary facilities in and around Singapore and Australia while waiting to begin a PhD program. View all posts by Shangzhe Xie, DVM →

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