You’ll often find one or two feathers at the bottom of your parrot’s cage.
However, you may also find your parrot going bald on certain body parts, like the neck, chest, around the eyes, and under the wings.
A parrot’s feathers fall out 1-2 times a year due to its molting cycle, which is a healthy way to generate newer, stronger feathers.
However, feathers may fall out due to disease, infection, over-grooming, and emotional problems. Also, parrots become self-destructive when their needs aren’t met.
Bored, lonely, and stressed parrots may express this through excessive preening and feather plucking.
Why Is My Parrot Losing Feathers?
You may notice your parrot is losing feathers when you find:
- Feathers on the floor of the cage
- Patchy feathers
- Scraggly or uneven feathers
- White strands and specks on the feathers
This strange appearance can leave you puzzled. Should you be concerned about your parrot’s health, or is this normal? That depends on if other symptoms accompany the feather loss.
Here’s how to determine if your parrot needs to see a vet:
- Check for bald patches, as you shouldn’t see bare skin.
- Scrutinize your parrot’s health, behavior, and diet. Are there irregularities or imbalances?
- If your parrot has enclosure mates, check how they interact. Are they aggressive toward each other?
These questions will enable you to decide if feather loss is normal or abnormal.
Is It Good for Parrots To Lose Feathers?
It’s safe and healthy for parrots to lose feathers within a normal molting cycle. Once the molt has been completed, your parrot will feel and look better.
You may notice your parrot shaking out extra feathers from its wings, and it may even pluck some from its body. In moderation, it’s just trying to pull out feathers tangled in the others.
You may also find 1-2 feathers that fell out during normal preening sessions. This is okay, even if your parrot conducts several preening sessions daily.
Is It Bad for Parrots To Lose Feathers?
Clinical Practice notes that feather plucking is a common problem in pet parrots with:
- Behavioral problems
- Environmental problems
- Medical problems
This means your parrot is losing feathers because it’s unable to stop itself or the process.
Plucking or shedding may be caused by:
This problem must be resolved because plucked feathers don’t always grow back.
Do Parrots Shed Feathers?
As mentioned, parrots will shed their feathers 1-2 times a year. A healthy parrot won’t molt more frequently. The timing will vary, depending on its age and environment.
On average, you’ll find a parrot entering a molt before (and possibly after) mating season. That only changes for the following:
- Captive parrots. Not following a normal hormonal pattern and molting at random times.
- Different parrot species. Some kinds of parrots shed less frequently or at different times.
- Parrots with less light exposure. Sunlight and day-night cycles affect when parrots molt.
There are many advantages to a good, healthy molt, including the following:
Parrots discard certain feathers to rejuvenate themselves. These feathers would become frail, misshapen, and messy if they didn’t, inhibiting their ability to fly and clean themselves.
Keeping Warm Or Cool
Depending on your climate, parrots may 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 shed certain feathers to line their nests, creating padding and providing structure to the cradle for their young. If your parrot has eggs, a small amount of plucking or shedding is to be expected.
Why Do Parrots Bite Their Feathers?
Parrots clean themselves by biting on their feathers in an act called preening, which has these benefits:
- Removes debris and parasites
- Coats the feathers in oil
- Realigning the feathers.
If you’ve bonded with your parrot, you may find it attempting to preen you, which signifies affection and bonding between individuals.
Ethology found that birds, including parrots, groom their most important social partners. So, take it as a compliment if your parrot gently nips at your clothes, hair, or skin with its beak.
Parrots preen themselves often throughout the day. So, it’s normal to find loose feathers below their perch. This only becomes harmful with over-preening, which may cause:
- Excessive feather loss
- Stress to the hair follicles
Why Do Parrots Over-Groom?
Understanding why your parrot might start this destructive behavior is crucial, as it can prevent you from triggering this situation. Possibilities include the following:
Parrots are vulnerable to stress, which can manifest as anxiety-related plucking or self-mutilation.
Unfortunately, this is a common reaction that parrots resort to when they feel threatened and unable to escape. However, if you can identify and resolve the stressors, this will stop the plucking.
Any changes to the parrot’s environment can cause stress. These changes can be minor, such as moving its cage to a different side of the room, or significant, such as moving to a new home.
If you find your parrot is plucking its feathers at random, consider its surroundings:
- Have you swapped out furniture?
- Are you playing 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, which may involve:
- Time together
- Petting it
- Calming words
Abuse and neglect always trigger stress. Have you adopted a parrot from a shelter or rescue center? Then, it may take time to help it recover from past ordeals.
Usually, the parrot will show stress-related behaviors before you bring it home. A new environment can add another stressor, further hampering the parrot’s recovery.
Unintentional neglect can also cause stress and feather plucking.
The presence of new people or animals in the home can stress a parrot.
Parrots are prey animals, so their instinct is to be cautious of new sounds, smells, and entities. Adding a new member to your home will require an adjustment period.
Let the parrot grow used to this new presence before it becomes a permanent fixture, which can involve a few visits or play sessions if someone moves in.
You can keep the animal in a different part of the house with a pet, separate from your parrot. After introducing them a few times, you can let them spend more time in the same room.
The loss of a companion can be stressful. Parrots are intelligent, so they’ll grieve any loss. Your parrot may have been attached to a friend or loved one that recently:
- 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 and, while in this state, may express it by plucking their feathers.
Changes in Routine
Parrots can become stressed and uncertain about their environment when that routine changes. Even a minor change can trigger a small episode of stress, such as:
- Daylight savings change when you get home or leave for work.
- A different feed time because of a change in your schedule.
- A change in routine impacts the amount or quality of sleep the parrot gets.
All these factors can stress a parrot to the point of self-mutilation. Where possible, gradually introduce changes to the routine, allowing the parrot to adjust to incremental changes.
That makes the change less anxiety-inducing. For example, if you want to change the feeding time, move it by 20 minutes at a time rather than all at once.
Self-plucking can signify a medical problem with the skin causing irritation and inflammation.
To remove it, the parrot may pull out its feathers. This will exacerbate the discomfort and cause the parrot to pull out even more feathers. Irritation of the skin has many causes, including:
You should go to a vet if you discover evidence of these problems.
Parrots may pluck feathers if they can’t breed while experiencing hormonal shifts. Typically, this results in feather picking on the chest, but it can occur elsewhere.
This behavior will pass, but If the parrot is frustrated, it may start plucking many feathers. This makes it sensible to consult a vet or consider getting your parrot a companion.
Parrots are clever birds who need companionship and enrichment to be happy and healthy.
A parrot lacking these essentials will be bored. Alongside other behavioral problems, excessive plucking will result. That makes it important to stop boredom before it starts by doing the following:
- Getting your parrot a companion.
- Socializing more often, such as 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 larger cage.
- Letting it explore the area outside its cage so 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 to traverse.
Viruses And Bacteria
Feathers can fall out if a virus or bacteria is involved. If they become ill, their body may prioritize saving organs over feathers, which will cause the parrot to shed as it displays other signs of illness.
Plucking may also result from irritation, stress, or discomfort caused by infection. As the parrot grows more uncomfortable, it’ll get more destructive. Some diseases cause feather loss, like:
- 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 preens or plucks excessively could create wounds that never heal.
Do Parrots Feathers Grow Back?
A parrot’s feathers will grow back if the previous ones fell out due to seasonal molting.
The new feathers should return swiftly to take their place. However, this isn’t the case for parrots that lose their feathers for negative reasons. They may struggle to regrow if:
- There’s scarring around the feathers and on the skin from a wound.
- There is damage to the area from infection.
- The feather follicles are stunted or malformed from over-preening.
The parrot will be permanently scarred and will remain bald in places, impacting its ability to:
- Keep warm
- Protect against injury to the skin
- Attract mates
Can You Treat A Parrot with Feather Damage?
Treatment and a change in diet can help parrots achieve feather regrowth. For example, increasing the number of nutrients the body can utilize helps the feathers regrow.
Unfortunately, self-plucking can be difficult to stop once the parrot has fallen into the habit. So, the use of an anti-plucking collar or vest may be necessary.
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 sign that your parrot’s diet is imbalanced, so it’s unable to keep its feathers healthy and rejuvenated.
Feathers rely on calcium and other nutrients to remain strong and brightly colored. If your parrot is struggling to get sufficient minerals, it’ll forego the care of its feathers.
You may need to provide a mineral block, cuttlebone, or supplements.
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, which can be for these 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.
In these cases, asking your vet for antibiotics is recommended.
Parrot Losing Feathers Under Wings
Parrots have long feathers all along their wings, known as remiges or flight feathers.
For your parrot, these are crucial to its ability to fly in terms of lift-off and navigation. If your parrot begins losing these feathers outside of molting, it can cause long-term damage.
Parrots may self-pluck at feathers on the underside of their wings. This self-mutilation can be caused by stress or skin irritation. Disease, infection, and nutritional deficiencies can make feathers fall out.
Examine the wings for any irritants or wounds. If they seem fresh and aggravated, your parrot may be harming itself. If the area seems inflamed or rash-like, it may need vet-prescribed treatment.
Parrot Losing Feathers On Head
Grooming and preening are important social behaviors among parrots. Unfortunately, preening can have detrimental effects on the receiver. One of your parrots may be losing feathers on its:
- Difficult-to-reach places
This usually means its cage mate is over-preening it for the following reasons:
- Dominance issues
- Hormone-related tension
- A too-small enclosure
Separating the parrots will prevent further damage. Depending on why the parrot is zealously over-preening its cage mate, it may begin plucking its feathers.
Parent parrots can also over-preen their chicks.
How To Stop A Parrot Plucking Feathers
Most parrots won’t stop a plucking behavior on their own. You’ll need to identify why the parrot behaves this way and resolve the issue. Here’s how:
Speak To An Avian Vet
As you deal with the issue, it’s recommended to consult with an avian vet to:
- Help you narrow down the causes.
- Uncover if the feathers are falling out or have been forcefully removed.
- Prescribe a medical treatment to heal the damage.
While a dietary imbalance might be correctable, plucking behavior isn’t so easy to deter.
Improve The Parrot’s Environment
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 show displeasure or anger about your parrot pulling out its feathers, as this will further stress it or teach it that plucking is the way to get your attention.
The use of an anti-pluck collar may be beneficial. However, some parrots find these items inhibiting, so you must gradually introduce them.