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is my conure molting or plucking?

Green Cheek Conure Molting vs. Plucking

(Last Updated On: March 9, 2023)

Wild conures face harsh living conditions, adverse weather, and parasites. So, green cheek conures molt at least once a year, shedding their feathers and growing replacement feathers.

The main difference between molting and plucking is skin exposure. If a conure is molting naturally, its feathers will fall out gradually but won’t leave any visible patches of skin. If you can see skin, the conure is plucking its feathers, suggesting it’s distressed.

If you find the green cheek conure plucking its chest feathers, you must find out why. While molting is natural and essential, plucking is a warning sign that a 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 feathers signify robust health and mating potential in the wild.

Alas, these feathers become damaged over time. The Journal of Parasitology explains that parrots’ 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 lost luster to its wings. The process of feather replacement is entirely organic.

Plucking is a different process and a source of greater 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.

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 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, the conure’s plumage may 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 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 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 changing temperatures in the home.

What Does a Molting Conure Look Like?

If a 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 containing blood will grow, coated with keratin for protection.

The most important aesthetic of molting is that the 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. The bird may be irritable and vocal.

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 what feathers the conure does have (not to be confused with plucking).

A 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 2 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 is most uncomfortable and at its most vulnerable. Do what you can to keep the green-cheeked conure calm when molting begins.

How Can I Help My Conure During Molting Season?

The conure will be uncomfortable during a molt. Primarily, it’ll be itchy all over. This can be stressful for a captive bird, so give the conure space. Equally, 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 if 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 the conure to relieve some of the itchiness. Be careful because the blood vessels in pin feathers can burst easily. 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?

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 called 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.

Give the conure stimulation and company, as these parrots are naturally affectionate. In addition, ensure the conure isn’t exposed to other stressors.

Avoid loud noises around the conure, and provide a balanced 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, the conure may be plucking due to stress caused by a health issue.

For example, the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine describes a case where 2 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.
  • 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 the conure 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.