Parrots have beautiful, colorful feathers that sometimes fall out. You might see one or two in the bottom of your parrot’s cage and think nothing of it. However, you may also find your parrot going bald around different parts of its body. It’s difficult to know what’s happening and if it’s a bad thing. Fortunately, parrots lose feathers for specific reasons.
A parrot’s feathers will fall out for natural reasons 1-2 times a year due to molting cycles that all birds experience. It’s a healthy way for parrots to generate newer, stronger feathers and to build nests. However, feathers may also fall out for reasons such as disease, infections, over-grooming, and emotional problems.
Parrots can become self-destructive when their needs are not met. Bored, lonely, and stressed birds will express this through excessive grooming and plucking. If left unchecked, your bird may seriously harm itself. Likewise, medical issues can make it so that your parrot’s feathers don’t grow back. If you notice your bird losing more than a couple, check for the danger signs.
Why Is My Parrot Losing Feathers?
You may first notice that your parrot is losing feathers when:
- You find batches of feathers on the floor of your bird’s cage.
- Your bird appears patchy.
- Its feathers are scraggly or uneven.
- White strands and specks, almost like dandruff, coat your parrot.
This strange appearance can leave you puzzled. Should you be concerned about your parrot’s health, or is this normal? That depends on the other symptoms accompanying this feather loss. By taking a look at all the factors, you can decide if your parrot needs a trip to the vet:
- Check for bald patches. You should not see bare skin.
- Scrutinize your parrot’s health, behavior, and diet. Are there irregularities or imbalances?
- If your parrot has enclosure-mates, watch how they interact. Are they aggressive towards each other?
These questions can help you decide if it’s good or bad feather loss.
Is It Good For Parrots To Lose Feathers?
In small amounts, it’s not only safe for parrots to lose feathers, but it’s also good for them. Parrots naturally lose their feathers. When this is within a normal cycle, your parrot will feel and look better after the process.
You may notice your parrot shaking out extra feathers from its wings. It may even pluck a few from its body. In moderation, this means the bird is trying to pull out feathers that became tangled in the others.
You may also find 1 or 2 feathers that fall out during normal grooming sessions. Such a small number is not a concern. Even if the bird conducts several grooming sessions in a day, this is fine.
Is It Bad For Parrots To Lose Feathers?
On the flip side, your parrot may be shedding or plucking feathers for negative reasons. Clinical Practice notes that feather plucking is a common problem in pet parrots with:
- Behavioral problems
- Environmental problems
- Medical problems
That means your parrot isn’t losing feathers to rejuvenate them. It’s losing feathers because it’s unable to stop itself or the process. The rapid plucking or shedding may be caused by:
- An infection
The quicker you diagnose the problem, the better. After all, it’s possible that the plucked feathers won’t grow back. You may need to consult with your vet or schedule an examination right away.
Do Parrots Shed Feathers?
Parrots will shed their feathers 1-2 times a year. A healthy bird will not molt more frequently than this.
The timing will vary, depending on the bird, its age, and its environment. On average, you’ll find a parrot entering a molt before (and possibly after) mating season. That only changes for:
- Birds kept in captivity. They won’t be following a normal hormonal pattern in response to mates. They may molt at random times.
- Different parrot species. Some kinds of parrots will shed less frequently or at different times.
- Birds with less light exposure. Sunlight and day-night cycles play a huge role in a parrot’s overall health. This will affect its ability to molt.
There are many advantages to a good, healthy molt. These include:
Parrots shed as a way to remove old or damaged feathers. Parrots discard certain feathers to rejuvenate themselves. If they did not, these feathers would become frail, misshapen, and messy. This would inhibit the parrot’s ability to fly or clean itself.
Keeping Warm Or Cool
Depending on your climate, parrots may also shed certain feathers to warm up or cool down with the seasons. That’s no different than how a cat or dog sheds its winter coat.
Parrots will also shed certain feathers to line their nests. This creates padding and provides structure to the cradle for their young. If your bird has eggs, a small amount of plucking or shedding is to be expected.
Why Do Parrots Bite Their Feathers?
Parrots will bite their own feathers as a means of grooming. Parrots clean themselves by lightly chewing on their feathers in an act called preening. This has many benefits:
- Removes debris and parasites
- Coats them in oil
- Realigns the feathers.
If you’ve bonded with your parrot, you may find the bird attempting to groom you as well. It’s a sign of affection and bonding between individuals. Ethology found that birds, including parrots, will groom their most important social partners. If your parrot gently chews on your clothes, hair, or skin, take it as a compliment.
Parrots groom themselves often throughout the day. As such, it is normal to find a few loose feathers below their perch. This only becomes dangerous with over-grooming. That may cause:
- Excessive feather-loss
- Stress to the hair follicles
Why Do Parrots Over-Groom?
To diagnose the problem early on, it’s crucial to understand why your parrot might take on this destructive behavior. It can also help you prevent the triggering situation from happening.
Parrots are vulnerable to stress. This can manifest as anxiety-related plucking or self-mutilation. Unfortunately, this is a common reaction that birds resort to when they feel threatened and unable to escape.
The good news is, you can identify the stressors and resolve them. That will stop the plucking.
A parrot will consider its immediate environment to be its home. Any changes to this environment may cause stress. These changes can be minor, such as moving its cage to a different side of the room. It can also be large, such as moving to a new home. If you find your bird plucking its feathers at random, take a look at the surroundings.
- Have you swapped out furniture?
- Are you playing music, especially loud, electronic music?
- Have you been using air fresheners?
- Have you painted the walls a new color?
- Is there roadwork nearby, making noise?
- Are the neighbors loud?
Depending on the scenario, you can remedy this by removing the stressor or helping the parrot adjust to the change. This may involve:
- Spending more time with it
- Giving it treats, pets, and calm words
- Helping it to self-soothe with toys instead of harming itself.
Abuse and neglect will always trigger stress. Have you adopted a parrot from a shelter or rescue? Then it may take a good deal of time and patience to help it recover from past ordeals.
Usually, such a parrot will be presenting stress-related behaviors before you bring it home. A new environment can apply yet another stressor. This may hamper the parrot’s recovery.
Unintentional neglect can also cause stress and feather plucking. Consider your care of the animal.
- Is it being fed the right food?
- Is it provided the right enclosure and enrichment?
- Is it given the right care?
Not all parrots are the same. Each species and parrot will have its own unique needs. Be sure to take the time to understand your parrot and see what it reacts to.
The presence of new people or animals in the home can stress the parrot. Parrots are prey animals. Their instinct is to flee and be cautious of new sounds, smells, and entities. Adding a new member to your home, be they a guest or permanent fixture, will require an adjustment period.
Ideally, let the parrot slowly grow used to this new presence before it becomes a permanent fixture. This can involve a few visits or play sessions if a human is moving in. You can keep the animal in a different part of the house with a pet, separate from the bird. After introducing them a few times, you can let them spend more time in the same room. Slowly, the bird will learn to perceive them as new and different, but not bad.
On the other hand, the loss of a companion can be stressful as well. Parrots are intelligent, and they grieve in their own way. Your parrot may have been attached to a friend or loved one that recently:
- Passed away
- Moved away
- Spends more time outside the home
Even if it seems minor, your parrot may be grieving their absence. Parrots can experience episodes of depression. While in this state, your bird may express it by plucking its feathers.
Changes in Routine
Parrots like order and routine. When that routine changes, the parrot can become stressed and uncertain about its environment. Even a minor change can trigger a small episode of stress, such as:
- Daylight savings changing when you get home or leave for work
- A different feed time because of a change in your schedule
- A change in routine that impacts the amount or quality of sleep the parrot gets
All these factors can stress the bird to the point of self-mutilation. Where possible, you should introduce changes to routine gradually. This allows the parrot to adjust to incremental changes over a period of time.
That makes the overall change less anxiety-inducing. For example, if you want to change the feeding time, move it by 20 minutes at a time. It shouldn’t be all at once.
Self-plucking can be a sign that there is an underlying medical problem with the skin. This will cause irritation and inflammation. To remove the annoyance, the parrot may pull out its own feathers. This will worsen the discomfort and make the parrot pull out even more. That creates a damaging cycle. Irritation of the skin has many causes, including:
If you discover evidence of these problems, you should go to a vet. Birds have fragile immune systems that are easily impacted. Self-mutilation will only escalate that problem.
Parrots may also pluck feathers if they are unable to breed while experiencing hormonal shifts. Typically, this results in feather picking on the chest. However, it can technically occur anywhere the parrot can reach.
In small amounts, this behavior isn’t good, but it will pass in a short amount of time. If the parrot is very frustrated, it may start plucking a dangerous number of feathers. This makes it wise to consult your vet or consider getting your bird a companion.
Parrots are intelligent animals. Because of this, they need companionship and plenty of enrichment to be happy and healthy. A parrot lacking in these essentials will become bored. Alongside many other behavioral problems, excessive plucking will result. That makes it important to stop boredom before it starts. Good methods include:
- Getting your parrot a companion
- Socializing with it more often, such as by talking to it, playing with it, or letting it sit on your shoulder
- Giving it enrichment in the form of toys, tiered perches, and a sufficiently large cage
- Letting it explore the area outside its cage so that it can scurry, fly, and stretch its legs.
As noted in Applied Animal Behavior Science, enrichment for parrots should include problem-solving challenges. This may be a toy with a treat inside or a complicated perch for it to traverse.
The same study also noted that feather plucking was a common result of poor enrichment. If your bird doesn’t like where it lives, it will take it out on its body.
Viruses and Bacteria
Feathers can fall out on their own if a virus or bacteria is involved. As mentioned, parrots don’t have the strongest immune system in the animal kingdom. If they become ill, their body may prioritize saving their organs over their feathers. That will cause the parrot to shed as it displays other signs of illness.
Plucking may also result from irritation, stress, or discomfort caused by an infection. As the parrot grows more uncomfortable, it will get more destructive. There are diseases responsible for feather loss, including:
- Feather disease
- Bacterial and yeast infections in the skin itself.
Scarring from an injury may also damage the feather follicles beyond repair. A parrot that grooms or plucks excessively could make wounds that never quite heal.
Do Parrots Feathers Grow Back?
A parrot’s feathers will grow back if the previous ones fell out due to natural, seasonal molting. This is true even if the feathers were molted prematurely. The new feathers should come in swiftly to take their place. However, this isn’t the case for parrots which lose their feathers for negative reasons. They may struggle to regrow if:
- There is scarring around the feathers and on the skin from a wound
- There is damage to the area from an infection
- The feather follicles are stunted or malformed from over-grooming
The parrot will be permanently scarred and forced to remain bald in places. This may impact their ability to:
- Keep warm
- Protect against injury to the skin.
Can You Treat A Parrot With Feather Damage?
In some cases, treatment and a change in diet can help parrots achieve feather regrowth. For example, boosting the nutrients that their body can draw from will help the feathers to reform. Repairing damage to the follicles or skin will let them resume growth.
However, this is sometimes unsuccessful. Instead, it’s better to quickly get on top of your parrot’s surprise molting or plucking.
Self-plucking can be a difficult behavior to stop once the parrot has fallen into the habit. The use of an anti-plucking collar/vest may be necessary. Consult with your vet for how to best care for your parrot.
My Parrot’s Feathers Look Frayed
Do your parrot’s feathers look brittle and frayed, even if they haven’t fallen out? Then it’s a clear sign that your parrot’s diet is imbalanced. The bird isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs, so it’s unable to keep its feathers healthy and rejuvenated.
This is caused by a lack of minerals. Feathers rely heavily on calcium, along with other nutrients, to remain strong and brightly colored. If your bird is struggling to maintain its body’s mineral levels, it will forego the care of its feathers. This will be accompanied by irritated skin.
You may need to provide the bird with a mineral block or supplements. If your parrot is mineral deficient, you’ll need to consult with your vet. They will be able to:
- Recommend a change in diet
- Provide more effective supplements than you’ll find in pet stores
- Help monitor any other side effects the parrot has experienced as a result of this deficiency.
Once your parrot’s mineral levels are back up to par, its feathers should begin looking stronger. Just be sure to maintain this new standard, as the issue may return otherwise.
Parrot Losing Feathers Around Eyes
You may notice the feathers thinning or falling out around your parrot’s eyes. They may also appear brittle or discolored. This can be for 3 reasons:
- Sinus infections. Parrots can get uncomfortable sinus infections, which may cause feather loss.
- Eye infections. The bacteria may infect the skin and surrounding feathers, causing them to fall out.
- Skin irritation. Your parrot may rub its face on objects to relieve the irritation. This can damage the feathers.
In these cases, it’s smart to consult with your vet for an antibiotic. You won’t stop the parrot from rubbing its face but can relieve the irritation causing it.
Parrot Losing Feathers Under Wings
Birds have several long, powerful feathers all along their wings. These are known as remiges or flight feathers. For your parrot, these are crucial to its ability to fly. That’s true for both lift-off and navigation. If your parrot begins losing these feathers outside of molting, it can leave serious, long-term damage.
Parrots may self-pluck at these and smaller feathers on the underside of their wings. This self-mutilation can be caused by stress or skin irritation. Likewise, disease, infection, and nutritional deficiencies can make feathers fall out on their own.
Examine the wings for any irritations or wounds. If they seem fresh and aggravated, then the bird may be harming itself. If the area seems inflamed or rash-like, you may need to seek medical attention.
Parrot Losing Feathers On Head
Grooming and preening is an important social behavior between parrots. Unfortunately, preening can have detrimental effects on the receiver. One of your parrots may be losing feathers on its:
- Other places that are difficult for it to reach
This usually means its cage-mate is over-grooming it. That may be a result of stress between the birds, caused by:
- Dominance issues
- Hormone-related tension
- A too-small enclosure
Separating the birds will prevent more damage from occurring. After that, you should try to resolve the source of the problem. Depending on why the parrot is zealously over-grooming its cage-mate, it may begin plucking its own feathers.
Parent parrots can also over-groom their chicks. The age of the chick can make separating it from its parent risky.
How To Stop A Parrot Plucking Feathers
Most parrots will not stop plucking behavior on their own. You will need to identify why the parrot is behaving this way and resolve that issue.
Speak To An Avian Vet
As you deal with the issue, it’s recommended to consult with an avian vet. An expert will be able to:
- Help you narrow down the causes.
- Uncover if the feathers are falling out on their own or being forcefully removed.
- Prescribe a medical treatment to heal the damage.
While a diet imbalance might be correctable on your own, plucking behavior is not so easy to deter.
Improve The Bird’s Environment
In the meantime, the strongest course of action is limiting stressors. By providing alternative outlets for your parrot’s energy, you can direct its attention away from this destructive behavior. This may include:
- Improving its diet
- Providing new toys and enrichment activities
- Keeping to a routine
- Adjusting its environment to be more comfortable
- Allowing more wandering time
- Interacting with it more
- Cleaning its enclosure more frequently
Never outwardly react to plucking. This will further stress the bird or teach it that plucking is the way to get your attention. The use of an anti-pluck collar may also be beneficial. Some parrots find these items odd or strange, so gradually introduce them to wearing such an item.
By ensuring your parrot feels safe, happy, and entertained, it’s less likely to lose its feathers outside of natural reasons.