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Feather Plucking and Destruction
By Sharon St. Joan
Feather plucking and other destructive behaviors are
quite common in parrots. Some birds may excessively
chew their feathers enough to damage them, while others
resort to actually plucking their feathers out. Severe
plucking can result in permanent damage to the follicles,
so the feathers will not grow back. In the most extreme
cases, birds will self-mutilate, causing bleeding, open
lesions and infection.
The reasons for feather plucking and other damaging
behaviors are often complex and not simple to resolve.
Though these destructive behaviors can be caused by
a physical condition, in the great majority of cases, the
bird plucks his feathers for emotional or psychological
What to Do First
A bird who already has a pattern of feather-destroying behaviors, or begins to exces-
sively chew or pluck her feathers, should be seen by an avian veterinarian right away to
determine if any health, dietary, or environmental factors are contributing to the problem.
Though excessive feather chewing and plucking are not necessarily signs that a bird is
ill, your first priority is to rule out illness or disease as a cause of the condition.
To prevent feather plucking and destruction from becoming a lifelong habit, you must
try to identify and correct the cause or causes as soon as possible. You’ll also need to
monitor the condition over time to make sure that it does not worsen. In many cases, it
may be possible to reduce the feather plucking, but not to eliminate it entirely.
Feather plucking and destruction can be caused by anything that leads to physical
distress or discomfort, and negative emotional states like fear, anxiety, boredom,
depression, loneliness, and a sense of loss.
Since parrots are such highly intelligent and sensitive creatures who experience a wide
range of emotions, they can be very prone to stress. The stress that causes them to
begin to pluck their feathers can originate from