Wild conures deal with harsh living conditions, parasites, and adverse weather. As a result, green cheek conures molt at least once a year, shedding their feathers and growing replacements.
The main difference between molting and plucking is skin exposure.
If your conure is molting naturally, feathers will fall out gradually but won’t leave any visible patches of skin. If you can see skin, your conure is plucking its feathers, suggesting it’s distressed.
If you find your green cheek conure plucking its chest feathers, you must find out why. While molting is natural and essential, plucking is a warning sign that your parrot is unhappy in its environment.
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 could be confused with plucking or over-preening.
Molting arises once or twice a year in conures, which keeps the feathers looking healthy and striking. Green-cheeked conures are proud of their appearance. Healthy, shiny fathers signify robust health and mating potential in the wild.
Alas, these feathers become damaged over time. The Journal of Parasitology explains that parrot wings can attract mites and lice. In the wild, adverse weather will impact the condition of a conure’s feathers. Molting is a natural defense against these problems.
Once a year, the green-cheeked conure will shed its feathers, growing back replacements that restore the lost luster of these wings. The process of feather replacement is entirely organic.
Plucking is a different process and a source of greater cause for concern. Plucking sees a parrot forcibly tearing feathers from its body using its beak.
Plucking leaves bare patches of skin on a conure’s crest, where molting won’t. This is the easiest way to distinguish between molting and feather plucking in green cheek conures.
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 usually begin its first molt at 8-10 months of age.
It could be earlier, but this depends on the bird’s personality and lifestyle. One thing is certain is your conure’s plumage may change color after its first molt, which is perfectly 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 popular time for a conure to shed old feathers and regrow replacements.
As the green-cheeked conure is native to tropical climes, it can survive without feathers during this season. Mating season for parrots then arrives in the spring, so the conure will be keen to look its best.
In captivity, parrots aren’t governed by natural circadian rhythms. You’re still likelier to find your parrot molting in spring or fall, especially as it adjusts to changing temperatures in the home.
What Does a Molting Conure Look Like?
If your green cheek conure meets these criteria, it’s molting:
- Feathers are dropping from the conure but not exposing bare patches of 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 the blood vessels found in the new feathers.
- New, small feathers are beginning to sprout from the pin feathers.
- Fully mature feathers will grow that contain blood and are coated with keratin for protection.
The most important aesthetic of molting is that your parrot pecks at feathers with its beak. While a molting conure will itch and undergo behavioral changes, it shouldn’t resort to self-mutilation.
Green Cheek Conure Molting Behavior
There’s no denying that, while molting is a natural process for parrots, it’s not enjoyable.
The green-cheeked conure is often considered a quieter parrot species, but that may change during molting. Your bird may be irritable and vocal.
Other common personality changes in parrots undergoing a molt include:
- Lack of energy and general sleepiness
- Uncharacteristic aggression – your conure may peck or even bite during molting
- Lack of interest in food
- Preening what feathers the conure does have (not to be confused with plucking)
Your green-cheeked conure will need your patience and understanding during this time, so don’t express any frustration with its temporary change in persona.
How Long Do Green Cheek Conures Molt?
The molting process for a conure usually takes around two months from start to finish. Ordinarily, the head will be the first body part to molt, with the wings following shortly after.
The earliest stages of the molt are when the conure will be most uncomfortable and at its most vulnerable. Do what you can to keep your green-cheeked conure calm when molting begins.
How Can I Help My Conure During Molting Season?
Your conure will be uncomfortable during a molt. Primarily, it’ll be itchy all over. This can be stressful for a captive bird, so give your conure some space. Equally, you should do your best 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 if it’s just a piece of paper.
Chew toys mean that a conure is less likely to nip at you. The opportunity to chew on a toy will also relieve stress. Remember that molting parrots have limited appetite, so snacks offer little comfort.
You could gently stroke your conure to relieve some of the itchiness. Be careful as the blood vessels in pin feathers can burst easily. If your parrot enjoys the attention, it’ll rest its head on your hand.
Why Do Green Cheek Conures Pluck?
The green-cheeked conure, in particular, can be prone to feather plucking behavior.
Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice discusses how plucking (also known as “feather destructive behavior”) links the behavior to a 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 to interact with.
Ensure your conure has stimulation and company, as these parrots are naturally affectionate. In addition, ensure your conure isn’t exposed to other stressors.
Avoid loud noises around your conure, and provide a balanced diet.
Does a Plucking Conure Need to See a Vet?
If spending more time with your conure has no impact, and offering a new range of toys does not distract it from plucking, your conure may be plucking due to stress caused by a health issue.
For example, the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine describes a case 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)
- Bronchial conditions are brought on by inhaling harmful fumes or vapors, such as non-stick cookware and candles.
Always check for signs of molting if your conure cage is covered with feathers. If it’s spring or fall, this is always the likeliest explanation. Check for bare patches of skin because feather plucking requires action.