Why Do Parrots Pluck Their Feathers?

Do you have a feather plucking parrot? Are you wondering why your parrot is plucking their feathers and what you can do about it? Check out this blog post to learn more about why parrots pluck their feathers and how you can help your feather plucking parrot!


Parrots are majestic birds with vibrant colors that deserve our respect and admiration. However, some parrots may exhibit a behavior called feather plucking, which could be a sign of an underlying behavioral or medical issue. In this article, we will explore potential causes of feather plucking in parrots. We’ll discuss possible medical and behavioral causes, as well as potential treatments and prevention methods.

Causes of feather plucking

Feather plucking, often referred to as “feather destructive behavior” (FDB), can have many causes. As with any health or behavioral issue in parrots, it is important to first rule out any medical issues as a cause for the behavior. Your avian veterinarian can complete a thorough physical exam and lab workup to rule out any potential medical issues such as an external parasite infestation or an internal disease process.

In addition to medical causes, there are behavioral conditions that could lead to feather plucking. These include environmental conditions like inadequate perching, overcrowding, stress and boredom, as well as hormonal fluctuations due to excessive sun exposure or nutritional deficiencies. Psychological conditions including psychological problems due to past trauma such as neglect or abuse can also lead to FDB. If it has been determined that the feather plucking is not related to an underlying medical issue, then it is important to identify the source of the behavior in order to provide proper treatment and management protocols for your parrot.

It is important that owners create an environment and lifestyle for their parrots that provides security and stimulation – this will help prevent feather plucking from occurring in the future. Other steps can be taken such as providing bird-safe toys, increasing cover like appropriate plants around the cage area and using positive reinforcement techniques to reward desirable behaviors from your parrot instead of focusing on scolding or punishing undesirable ones Such methods may help reduce feather plucking in some cases, although further research is needed on this topic so that more effective treatments may be developed.

Biological Causes

Parrots, like other pet birds, will sometimes pluck their feathers and this can be a source of stress for owners. There can be numerous causes for this behavior, but one of the most common is biological in nature. This can include health and nutrition problems, genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, stress, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the biological causes of feather plucking in parrots.

Hormonal Imbalance

One biological cause of feather-plucking in parrots is an hormonal imbalance. This type of feather-plucking often occurs in parrots that are nearing sexual maturity, when the natural changes in their hormone levels can trigger abnormal behavior. While hormones are a normal part of reproduction, too much or too little of these hormones can lead to feather-plucking as your pet attempts to self-medicate the imbalance. If you suspect that a hormone level issue is behind your pet’s self-destructive behavior, consult a veterinarian who specializes in avian medicine. They will be able to provide you with the proper diagnosis and treatment options necessary to help your bird overcome the problem and restore balance in their body.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies are often the primary cause in parrots that pluck their feathers. A lack of certain vitamins, minerals, and proteins can cause harmful health effects, both physical and psychological.

Avian veterinarians recommend providing parrots with a well-balanced diet consisting of pellets, fruits and vegetables, and occasional treats. Foraging toys can also encourage natural exploration and behaviors to finding food. However, many pet parrots join their new families already lacking the healthy nutrition they need to stay healthy long-term. Symptoms of a bird who is suffering from malnutrition include feather picking or chewing, behavioral changes such as aggression or depression, changes in sexual activity (like laying eggs when not bred), weight loss and more.

If your bird is accidentally underfed or the diet does not contain enough essential vitamins or minerals for an extended period of time (and especially if those deficiencies happen during critical stages of development), nutritional deficiencies can also be one of the key culprits behind feather plucking behavior. It’s important to provide caretakers with detailed instructions on proper feeding to keep birds at their healthiest!

Stress or Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are commonly cited as the underlying cause of feather plucking in parrots. Prolonged stressful situations can lead to chaotic hormone levels associated with behaviors such as plucking, but in most cases it is primarily caused by an inappropriate environment that results in a feeling of insecurity or agitation.

Some parrots will begin plucking when faced with perceived threats or changes in the environment. Familiar surroundings and consistent routines can greatly reduce the risk for feather plucking due to stress or anxiety. Once your bird has started plucking, make sure to provide ample enrichment activities to distract them from the habit.

Social isolation, neglect and under-stimulation can all contribute to heightened levels of stress and anxiety resulting in feather destruction. If you notice your parrot beginning to pick out feathers or self-mutilate, look for potential sources of disturbance and remove them from their environment. Prompt intervention is often enough to prevent full on destruction cycles from developing.

Behavioral Causes

Parrots are known to pluck their feathers for a variety of behavioral causes. Some of these causes can include boredom, stress, lack of socialization, as well as hormonal and genetic issues. In some instances, plucking can even be caused by environmental issues. It’s important to understand the root cause of the plucking behavior before attempting to address it. Let’s take a look at some of the common behavioral causes of feather plucking in parrots.


Parrots can become bored easily due to their innate intelligence. Boredom and lack of variety in activities can cause birds to pluck their feathers as a type of self-amusement, mollifying emotion and establishing dominance. A parrot that doesn’t receive enough stimulation may explore its own body and begin to pluck out feathers that are easily accessible, like those on the back or wings.

Inadequate boredom-busters can include inadequate toys; lack of interactive playtime with owner; extended periods alone in the cage; solitary confinement (i.e., living in only one room or not being taken places); insufficient attention from its owner; or playing outside its cage for too short a duration.. If your parrot lives an overly sedentary life with few activities, it may begin to engage in other forms of self-stimulation such as feather plucking. Providing new and varied objects such as foraging toys, puzzles and perches can encourage physical exploration which stimulates both cognitive processes and emotional well being.

Lack of Stimulation

Lack of stimulation can be an issue for pet parrots, which may lead to self-destructive behaviors including plucking. In the wild, birds are always looking for food, places to nest and sheltered spots away from predators or large flocks of other birds. They also use their environment to engage in activities such as flying or finding comfortable perches. When a bird is denied these activities due to confinement or a lack of suitable living space, it may become bored and anxious, which can lead it to perform behaviors like feather plucking.

If you own a pet parrot, it’s important to provide frequent stimulation in the form of varied enrichment activities that encourage natural behavior patterns. These activities should help keep your parrot engaged throughout the day and prevent it from feeling bored or neglected. Ideally, interactive play should be included when possible. Create appropriate play paraphernalia using items from around your home like paper bags, cardboard boxes or wooden blocks that you can place in the parrot’s cage for activity time outside its resting hours.

Also providing pleasant distractions with visually stimulating toys can also help give an escape route into engaging activities instead of focusing on impulse control through feather plucking. Providing items that challenge mental dexterity such as strings with knots and bells can give much needed enrichment and allow them some activity time which may reduce overall boredom and subsequent feather plucking events

Social Isolation

Social isolation, or loneliness, is one of the most common behavioral causes for parrots to pluck their feathers. This type of feather plucking can occur in domestic pet birds if they don’t receive enough attention from their owners, or if they live alone in an environment that does not provide access to other parrots. In this case, the bird may engage in feather plucking as a form of self-soothing despite attempts from its owner to minimize it.

Aside from individuals living apart from other parrots, social isolation can occur among wild captive birds if there is competition between them for food or other resources. Stressful encounters in these cases can cause some birds to pick at their feathers instead of establishing dominance over another bird by taking part in physical confrontations instead.

In the case of adoptable birds, social isolation can develop after a traumatic experience such as being passed through multiple owners or spending time in a rescue facility without sufficient contact with humans or other birds. When taken on by new owners, many rescued parrots will show signs of neglect and have bald spots due to feather plucking that had been going on during their time away from an attentive home environment. Taking steps to help lonely birds adjust back into a healthier and happier lifestyle that involves lots of positive reinforcement and bonding activities is essential for breaking any negative association the bird has with being alone and encouraging its full rehabilitation back into society.

Prevention and Treatment

Feather plucking is one of the most common health problems seen in parrots. The persistent picking of feathers can cause severe damage and discomfort in parrots and can eventually lead to secondary infections or even death if left untreated. It is important to understand the reasons why parrots pick their feathers and then take steps to treat the underlying causes. In this article, we will discuss the prevention and treatment of feather plucking in parrots.

Proper Nutrition

Nutrition plays an important role in preventing and treating feather plucking. It is essential for parrots to receive the correct balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Parrots need a diet that is high in protein and low in fat, which will help them to stay healthy and maintain their natural preening behaviors. A doctor of veterinary medicine may be able to recommend a suitable diet for your parrot.

Good quality pellets should make up about 50-70% of the diet for most parrots. Legume-based pellets are preferred over seed-based diets since legumes are higher in protein and aid digestion better. Fresh vegetables (greens such as kale, spinach, sprouts, etc.), fruits (such as apples, pears, oranges) or chopped wild bird mix can also be offered in moderation (2-3 times per week).

Mineral blocks should be provided to encourage natural nipping activity to prevent over-plucking of feathers on certain areas of the body such as the wings or neck. Cutting boards coated with a vitamin/mineral mix can also be added to help satisfy a parrot’s curiosity while helping them receive essential nutrients necessary for feather maintenance and regrowth. Additionally, supplementing with an omega 3 fatty acid can also help improve feather quality by providing essential fatty acids that may not be found in sufficient levels in the standard commercial diet given today.

Environmental Enrichment

Environmental enrichment is one of the most effective ways to reduce feather plucking in parrots. Enrichment of the bird’s environment should include providing a range of items to keep the bird occupied, such as an assortment of bird toys, perches, bird swings and ladders. Adding new objects regularly will ensure the bird is continually stimulated and prevent boredom.

In addition to physical enrichment, ensuring your parrot’s emotional needs are met is also important in preventing self-plucking behavior. Parrots are highly intelligent creatures that can suffer from boredom and mental fatigue, so it is essential to provide psychological stimulation for your pet via socialization and interactive activities like training games. Be sure to spend quality time with your parrot each day, offering treats during training sessions as reward for good behavior.

Finally, create a safe and comfortable living environment for your parrot that meets their needs for temperature regulation and shelter from potential predators. This means providing a quiet retreat with sturdy perching so your pet can rest without anxiety or stressors that may lead her to pluck her feathers for comfort or protection.

Veterinary Care

Veterinary care is essential for parrots who are feather plucking. A thorough physical exam can help your veterinarian identify any underlying causes that could be contributing to the behavior. Your veterinarian will also ask questions about the bird’s diet, activity level, environmental conditions, and other potential triggers to identify what could be causing the plucking. Once an underlying cause is identified, it can be treated appropriately to reduce or eliminate the behavior.

In some cases, medical treatments such as antibiotics may be given in order to treat a condition such as infection or parasite infestation. Medications may also be used to address behavioral medical conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders that could lead to feather plucking. Depending on the bird’s individual situation, additional therapies such as nutrition counseling or environmental enrichment protocols may also need to be implemented in order to ensure the bird’s overall wellbeing.


In summary, there are many potential causes of parrot feather plucking, such as stress, boredom, environmental factors and medical issues. While it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of feather plucking in parrots due to the complexity of the issue, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that you are providing your pet parrot with a healthy environment and lifestyle.

If your pet parrot seems to be showing signs of feather plucking, it is important to take them to an avian veterinarian for an evaluation and appropriate treatment plan. With a combination of diet changes, enriching activities and stress relief techniques, it may be possible for you and your feathered friend to work together on reducing or eliminating the behavior.

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