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is my conure molting or plucking?

Green Cheek Conure Molting vs. Plucking

Last Updated on: 3rd October 2023, 11:22 am

Wild conures deal with harsh living conditions, extreme weather, and ectoparasites. That’s why green cheek conures molt at least once a year, shedding their old feathers and growing replacements.

The main difference between molting and plucking is skin exposure.

If a conure molts naturally, its feathers will fall out symmetrically without leaving bald patches. If you can see bare skin, a conure is plucking its feathers, implying it’s distressed.

If you discover that a green cheek conure is plucking its chest feathers, you must find out why. While molting is natural and essential, feather picking is a warning sign that a parrot is unhappy.

Is My Conure Molting or Plucking?

If you keep conures, you need to understand the molting process. Molting occurs naturally in parrots, but this process is sometimes confused with plucking or over-preening.

Molting arises once or twice annually in conures, keeping the feathers healthy, colorful, and vibrant. Strong and shiny feathers signify robust health and mating potential in birds.

Parrots’ feathers become damaged and worn over time, losing vitality and luster.

The Journal of Parasitology explains that parrots’ wings can attract mites and lice. Adverse weather also impacts the condition of a conure’s feathers, but molting rectifies these problems.

Plucking is a different process and a source of concern. Plucking involves a parrot forcibly pulling out feathers from its body with its beak, leaving bare patches of skin.

This is the easiest way to distinguish between molting and feather plucking in green cheek conures.

difference between molting and plucking

What Age Do Green Cheek Conures Molt?

A conure’s first molt will coincide with maturation into adulthood. In most cases, a green-cheeked conure will begin its first molt at 8-10 months of age.

It could be earlier, but this depends on the bird’s genetics and lifestyle. One thing for sure is a conure’s plumage will change color after its first molt, which is entirely natural.

What Time of Year Do Green Cheek Conures Molt?

Spring and fall are the times of year most commonly associated with molting. The fall is the most common time for a conure to shed old feathers and regrow replacements.

Mating season for parrots arrives in the spring, so the conure will be keen to look good.

In captivity, parrots aren’t governed by natural circadian rhythms. You’re still likelier to find a parrot molting in spring or fall, especially as it adjusts to light levels and temperatures in the home.

What Does a Molting Conure Look Like?

If a green cheek conure meets these criteria, it’s molting:

  • Feathers are falling away without exposing bare skin.
  • Tubular shapes on the body. These are called pin feathers, protecting new feathers as they mature.
  • Straw-like lines within the pin feathers. These are blood vessels found in the new feathers.
  • Small feathers are beginning to sprout from the pin feathers.
  • Fully mature feathers containing blood will grow, coated with keratin for protection.

If a parrot molts a second time, it might not undergo a complete molt. If so, it’ll just replace damaged feathers.

While a molting conure will itch and experience behavioral changes, it shouldn’t resort to self-mutilation.

Green Cheek Conure Molting Behavior

While molting is a natural process for parrots, it’s not enjoyable.

The green-cheeked conure is often considered a quieter parrot species, but this may temporarily change during molting. The bird may be irritable and nippy.

Other common personality changes in parrots undergoing a molt include:

  • Lack of energy and general sleepiness.
  • Uncharacteristic aggression – the conure may peck or even bite during molting.
  • Lack of interest in food.
  • Preening behavior (not to be confused with plucking).

A green-cheeked conure will need patience and understanding during this time, so avoid expressing frustration with its temporary change in persona.

How Long Do Green Cheek Conures Molt?

The molting process of a conure usually takes around 2 months from start to finish. Ordinarily, the head will be the first body part to molt, with the wings, body, and tail following shortly after.

Molting happens symmetrically, so you’ll find that the same number of feathers are molted on each wing. This is vitally important because it would otherwise affect the aerodynamics of birds during flight.

The earliest stages of the molt are when the conure is most uncomfortable and at its most vulnerable. Do what you can to keep a green-cheeked conure calm when molting begins.

How Can I Help My Conure During Molting Season?

The conure will be uncomfortable during a molt because it’ll be itchy. This can be stressful for a captive bird, so give it space and do your utmost to distract it from the discomfort.

If you have new toys, this is the time to introduce them. Parrots love novelty, and something new to play with will provide a distraction. Destructive toys are ideal, even just a piece of card or paper.

Chew toys mean a conure is less likely to nip at you. The opportunity to chew on a toy will also relieve stress. Remember, molting parrots have a diminished appetite, so snacks offer little comfort.

You could gently stroke the conure to relieve some of the itchiness. Be careful because the blood vessels in pin feathers can bleed. If the parrot enjoys the attention, it’ll rest its head on your hand.

what does a molting conure look like?

Why Do Green Cheek Conures Pluck?

Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice discusses how plucking (feather-destructive behavior) is connected to circovirus.

The most common reason for plucking is boredom. Some owners underestimate how intelligent parrots are and how dull life in a cage can be, especially without another conspecific with which to interact.

Give the conure stimulation and company because they’re naturally affectionate. In addition, ensure the conure isn’t exposed to other stressors.

Avoid loud noises around the conure, and provide a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

Does a Plucking Conure Need to See a Vet?

If spending more time with the conure has no impact and offering a new range of toys doesn’t distract it from plucking, it may be plucking due to stress due to a health issue.

The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine describes a situation where two green-cheeked conures were plucking due to discomfort caused by a gastrointestinal obstruction.

Green cheek conures are prone to the following health concerns:

  • Beak malocclusion.
  • Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD).
  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).
  • Psittacosis.
  • Breathing conditions are brought on by harmful fumes, like non-stick cookware and candles.

Always check for signs of molting if the cage is covered with feathers. If it’s spring or fall, this is always the likeliest explanation. Check for bare patches of skin if you suspect feather plucking.