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is my conure molting or plucking?

Green Cheek Conure Molting vs. Plucking (Differences)

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Wild conures endure 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 new ones.

The main difference between molting and plucking is visible 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 of unhappiness.

Differences Between Conure Molting And 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.

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 involves a parrot forcibly pulling out feathers 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

Age Green Cheek Conures Molt

A conure’s first molt will coincide with maturation to 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 its genetics and lifestyle. One thing for sure is a conure’s plumage will change color after its first molt, which is entirely natural.

Time of Year Green Cheek Conures Molt

Spring and fall are the seasons most commonly associated with molting. In the fall, a conure sheds old feathers and regrows new ones.

The mating season 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 the spring or fall as it adjusts to light levels and temperatures in the home.

What Molting Conures 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 ones 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.

A parrot may not undergo a complete molt if it does so a second time. If so, it’ll replace damaged feathers. While a molting conure will itch and become moody, 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 when molting. It may become irritable and nippy.

Other personality changes in conures undergoing a molt include:

  • Lack of energy and general sleepiness.
  • Uncharacteristic aggression.
  • Lack of interest in food.
  • Preening behavior.

A green-cheeked conure will need patience and understanding during this time.

How Long Green Cheek Conures Molt

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

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

The earliest stages of the molt are when the conure is most uncomfortable and vulnerable.

How To Help A Conure During The Molting Season

The conure will be uncomfortable during a molt because it’ll be itchy. This can be stressful, 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 cardboard.

Chew toys mean a conure is less likely to nip 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 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 may rest its head on your hand.

what does a molting conure look like?

Why Green Cheek Conures Pluck Feathers

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 bird 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.

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

A Plucking Conure May 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 can experience the following health concerns:

  • Beak malocclusion.
  • Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD).
  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).
  • Psittacosis.
  • Breathing conditions brought on by 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 the most probable explanation. Check for bare patches of skin if you suspect feather plucking.