From toucans to macaws, and cockatoos to cockatiels, pampering parrots is a lot of work! Owning a parrot could very well become a lifelong commitment for its human. Depending on the type of bird, you could look forward to sixty years with an opinionated toddler. That is the possible lifespan of an umbrella cockatoo. Even a little cockatiel can live to be fourteen.
Parrots are sensitive creatures that live a long time. So, no matter how much you care for your Polly, it is possible that she may go through periods where she’s plucked herself a bare midriff or an exposed bottom. Don’t feel bad! According to Wikipedia, a full 10% of captive parrots suffer from this compulsive behavior, which even has its own name: pterotillomania. What could be the cause of this? It turns out that there are many possibilities.
Given their high activity and capricious natures, many people assume that the cause is emotional. They aren’t necessarily wrong. Parrots can react to boredom and anxiety by plucking out their own feathers. To discover if this is the reason, it requires a bit of trial and error to restore your parrot to their full plumage.
A change in environment can upset your parrot. If you’ve moved her cage to a new room, this can result in emotional stress. Isolation and over-stimulation are both bad for birds, so pick a place for Polly where she can interact with the family, but not participate in house parties.
A disturbance in light cycles, a lack of natural sunlight, as well as a lack of fresh air may all be the culprits behind your bird’s baldness. If you cover your parrot’s cage at bedtime with a blanket, make sure that it’s around the same time every night, and uncover her at a similar time every morning.
Of course, many parrots walk freely around their homes or hitch rides on their owner’s shoulders, which is important socialization for your pet. So the location of her cage may not be the central reason behind her compulsive plucking. If you feel that this is the case, it’s important to discuss with your vet the various health issues that may lie behind it.
For example, heavy metals, especially the unoxidized zinc that’s used on newer bird cages to prevent rust, are toxic to birds.
Food may be also the issue. Malnutrition, metabolic disorders, and negative reactions to the dyes and preservatives in their food can lead a parrot to plucking. Changing her diet and adding plenty of omega fatty acids will help to improve her condition.
Birds can also have allergies to many of the same things that humans do. If your bird’s plucking is accompanied by common symptoms of allergies, such as sneezing or itching, then you may have identified a reason for her lack of feathers. Your vet would provide antihistamines and topical sprays to help you combat this problem.
Dry skin caused by dry air could be another factor. It wouldn’t be pampering to get your parrot a humidifier, in this case.
It may also be mites, cysts, or a skin infection. A trip to your veterinarian would determine whether any of these issues are the cause and help you to treat them.
Unfortunately, more serious reasons are also possible, such as liver disease, kidney disease, or even cancer. So it is important to consult a specialist to hopefully eliminate these potential problems as soon as possible.
In short, excessive plucking is a clearly message that something is wrong, but it takes some detective work to find out what exactly that problem is.
And there may not just be one underlying problem behind Polly’s plucking, but a combination of them. This can make solving Polly’s behavior frustrating, but don’t give up! If you notice Polly pulling out feathers to a degree that’s beyond proper grooming, talk to your vet about improving her physical and emotional health. You will both be happier for it.
About Michele Sarver
Michele is the Owner & Founder of Totally Tails Pet Care Services. A Pet Sitting and Dog Walking business serving Stanwood, Camano Island, and Arlington, WA areas.