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How To Deal With Parrot Dust (And Why It Matters!)

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrot dust can lead to allergies, bird fancier’s lung (BFL), and other respiratory conditions in humans.

All parrot species, even the smallest birds, produce dander (feather dust) in varying quantities. This dust is released from the feathers during movement, preening, flapping the wings, and flying.

Parrots have an oil-based or powder-based coating on their feathers. Those with an oil coating produce less dust, while those with a powder coating produce significantly more dust.

Add a shallow water bowl to the cage to encourage the bird to bathe to reduce parrot dust. You can also assist a parrot by wiping its feathers or spraying it with water.

Why Parrots Are Dusty

All parrots naturally create a powdery substance. This comes from the feathers, which are coated in a protective film. This is a layer of fine keratin called barbules, which protect the barb of the feathers.

As time goes on, this naturally sheds off. It’ll happen most during molting but can occur at any time. It’s renewed into a fresh layer that protects the feathers. When the first layer disintegrates, it’ll be a powder.

All birds create feather dust, especially large birds with powder downs. This is a collection of specialized feathers located underneath the regular feathers.

It’s a fine layer positioned close to the skin. Combined with the harder-wearing exterior feathers, a feather down provides insulation, keeping parrots warm when temperatures fall.

Powder downs create feather dust as they renew themselves. In the wild, this dust would be carried away by the wind. In the home, parrot dust becomes airborne, so it’s inhaled or settles on surfaces.

Parrot Dust Can’t Be Prevented

Parrot dust is produced naturally throughout a bird’s life cycle. As a result, there’s no way to stop parrot dander. In fact, for the parrot itself, it’s a positive occurrence.

The dust protects the feathers while shedding old, worn-out keratin film that is no longer needed. The process is crucial for keeping the feathers healthy, vibrant, and strong.

Parrot dust is much like animal hair because it gets everywhere in the home. Since it’s white or gray-colored, dander shows clearly on dark surfaces, including:

  • Wooden flooring.
  • Dark countertops.
  • Black clothing.

You can contain the dust and clean it up. The dust may scatter when the parrot flaps its wings. Of course, you can’t stop it from flapping, but you can keep the bird in one designated room.

is parrot dust dangerous?

Dangers of Parrot Dust for Humans

Parrot dust is a collection of fine particles that can be inhaled and accumulate over time. If you already have respiratory issues, this will likely worsen them or cause new health issues.

Parrot Dust Allergy

According to Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, up to 40% of people are sensitive to foreign environmental proteins. If exposed to parrot dust constantly, you may develop an allergy.

Owners who are sensitive to airborne particles may deal with these symptoms regularly.

Triggering Asthma

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma. People with this condition are also sensitive to foreign particles.

Even short-term exposure to airborne particles can trigger asthma symptoms, such as:

  • Coughing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Shortness of breath.

Prolonged exposure may trigger an asthma attack.

Bird Fancier’s Lung

Bird Fancier’s Lung (BFL) is a disease unique to bird owners. It’s a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is caused by exposure to proteins present in:

  • Bird droppings.
  • Bird feathers.
  • Parrot dust.

This won’t be a problem for owners who keep their parrots’ cages clean. However, if they get messy, the lungs will be exposed to these contaminants. The symptoms of BFL include:

  • Inflammation of the alveoli or air sacs in the lungs.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest discomfort.
  • Chills.
  • Fever.

The only solution is reduced exposure to the avian proteins that lead to BFL.

Reduced Lifespan

If its cage isn’t properly cleaned and the dust isn’t removed, it’s common for parrots to fall ill. Placing them in a small, confined area can expose them to more airborne dust than usual.

Excessive quantities of parrot dust can accumulate in the airways, leading to breathing problems and the onset of certain respiratory diseases.

How To Keep Parrot Dust Down

You must limit how much parrot dust accumulates in the air. You’ll need to perform a regular cleaning routine to remove the dust by doing the following:

Wipe Down All Surfaces

If you leave the parrot in its cage while at work, most of its ‘dusting’ will be isolated to this location.

The cage should be deep cleaned at least once a week. However, if you notice the parrot produces excessive dust or reacts adversely to airborne particles, increase the frequency.

Change out the tray liner. Parrot dust is white or gray, so you may not see it easily, but it’s there.

Use a damp cloth to wipe down all surfaces. This could be done every 2 weeks if the parrot isn’t very dusty and you don’t experience allergies.

You may need to wipe down all services twice weekly during the molting season.

Air Purification

Owners can reduce the concentration of airborne dust with an air purifier.

You’ll need a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can remove 99.97% of airborne particles that are 0.3 micrometers or 0.0003 millimeters.

Small purifiers:These are best for rooms 300 square feet or smaller.
Medium purifiers:These work well in spaces between 300 and 600 square feet.
Large purifiers:These can filter the air in rooms of 700 to 1900 square feet.

Many purifiers list the device’s Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) on the packaging. This number covers how often the purifier filters the air in the room in one hour.

Owners of macaws, African grays, cockatoos, and other larger parrots should buy a purifier with a 4x ACH rating or higher to remove parrot dust.

Since parrot dust is light, it’ll drift away and rest on nearby surfaces. Parrot dust is large enough to be captured by an air purifier, so put one in the room where the parrot spends most of its time.

Showering

Some owners allow their parrots to perch near their showers while bathing, enabling them to rinse off excess dust and stay clean.

Alternatively, let it shower in the sink. Turn on the faucet, set the parrot in the sink, and lightly splash it with water. Some owners will spritz their parrots with a spray bottle.

Most Dusty vs. Least Dusty Parrots

The amount of dust a parrot species produces depends on the following factors:

  • Size: The larger the parrot, the greater the surface area of its down feathers. Large parrot species, like African grays and cockatoos, produce significant dust.
  • Region: A parrot’s origin can affect its dustiness. Each species develops feathers that assist them in their environment, so they produce more or less dust.  
  • Feather Type:  Macaws have oil-based feathers that produce little dust. They have little need for the thermal insulation that powder-down feathers provide.

Amazon Parrots

Amazon parrots live in warm, humid regions. Their feathers are oil-based, so they’re less likely to produce dust. Owners with asthma or dust allergies usually fare well with an Amazon parrot.

Quaker Parrots

Quaker parrots are indigenous to South America, so they have oil-based feathers. Quaker parakeets are medium-sized and reach 12 inches. Consequently, they produce little dust.

how to reduce parrot dust

Senegal Parrots

Senegal parrots are native to Western Africa. They don’t have powder-based feathers and reach just 9 inches tall, so they produce minimal dust.

Pionus Parrots

Pionus parrots are native to Central and South America. They don’t have a Uropygial (preen) gland that produces oil secretions, so their feathers are powder-based. Pionus parrots reach 10-12 inches long.

Pionus parrots are dustier than parrots with oil-based feathers. They’re less dusty than other powder-based species, like African grays and cockatoos, because they’re significantly smaller.

Eclectus Parrots Dusty

Eclectus parrots are native to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. These areas have warm climates, so their feathers are oil-based. Eclectus produce little dust and are suitable for people with allergies.

African Grays Parrots

African grays have powder-based feathers despite originating from Africa. Powder-based feathers and their medium-to-large size means they’re among the dustiest parrot species.

Alexandrine Parrots

These colorful parrots are native to India and Sri Lanka. Because their feathers are power-based, they produce more dust than other species.

The best way to reduce parrot dust is to clean and maintain a bathing schedule. Combining this with an air purifier with a HEPA filter will minimize bird dust in the home.