Don’t be alarmed if your pet bird plucks several of his own feathers as he molts. This behavior is normal among caged birds, from conures and cockatoos to African grays and Amazons. Permanent damage to follicles can be caused when obsessive behavior begins, though, resulting in large featherless areas on the skin. This behavior is exclusive to pet birds, but it can arise out of a plethora of scenarios and situations. Each must be identified and treated for the sake of your bird’s health.
Molting is a typical cause for slight preening and plucking. Pulling out more than several of one’s own feathers is generally unusual in a healthy molting bird. On occasion, the molting process can be prolonged or disturbed by a dietary problem, such as when a bird suffers a vitamin deficiency. A bird experiencing such a condition is likely to pluck the uncomfortable remaining feathers out on his own.
Parrots in particular are susceptible to plucking as a result of hormonal changes similar to those of a pubescent teen. Maturity occurs between about five and eight years of age, and confused birds experiencing fluctuating levels of hormones react to their perplexity by plucking their own feathers, sometimes obsessively.
If your bird’s plucking is area-specific or occurred immediately after a physical trauma, it is likely the cause of a bone break or fracture. Pain from such injuries, especially when healed incorrectly, can prompt otherwise healthy birds to begin plucking feathers at the site of the wound. Consult an avian vet about your bird’s treatment for such an injury.
All-over skin itching can arise from a slew of infections, such as viral and fungal infections which may infect the follicles of the feathers, as well as allergic reactions to a number of items. Parasites and even vitamin or other dietary deficiencies can cause similar skin discomfort for your pet bird. All of these can incite picking and plucking of feathers wherever the itch is felt to soothe and calm the skin.
Stress and Anxiety
Just like many humans, your pet bird will grow accustomed to his daily routine. Upsetting the flow of his normal events, especially significantly with something such as a move, may cause distress and lead to plucking. Birds that constantly fear danger, perhaps from a household dog or another pet, are likely candidates for feather plucking as well. Emotional trauma occurring from neglect or abuse is a less common cause for avian plucking than some expect; it is, nonetheless, a contributor.
Very much affected by his habitat, your bird could grow distraught if his cage were in an unsuitable environment. Consider the same factors that would hinder a human’s living environment: poor lighting, greatly limited space or quick temperature fluctuations. A lack of interesting stimuli in a bird’s cage is a common cause for plucking, as birds may pluck simply to pass the time.
Rebecca Sweat, “The Complexity and Frustration of Pet Bird Feather Picking,” Bird Channel
“Bird Behavior and Misbehavior,” Petco
“Conure Feather Plucking,” The Conure Parrot
Judy Leach, “Feather Plucking and Chewing,” Judy Leach’s Parrots
“Why Do Birds Pluck?,” Parrot Island