Avian Feather Plucking

a doctor holding a sign that reads: Avian Feather Plucking

Avian Feather plucking is sadly an all too common behavior among pet birds, and it’s often caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors. Physical causes of feather plucking can include parasites, skin irritation, hormonal imbalances, allergy sensitivities, dietary deficiencies, or medical issues such as liver disease. Psychological causes can include boredom, stress, fear, lack of environmental stimulation, or overly close human-bird bonding.

Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking

Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking can vary depending on the underlying cause. In general, feather plucking can cause bald patches, particularly around your bird’s neck, chest and wings. The affected feathers may be thin or brittle, and might look broken or jagged. Some birds might also have signs of distress such as vocalizing excessively, pacing or panting.

Diagnosing Avian Feather Plucking

In order to diagnose avian feather plucking, a veterinarian should review a detailed history of your bird’s health and their environment. A physical exam will need to be performed to look for any evidence of skin irritation or other medical issues. Blood tests can also be recommended in order to check for potential hormonal imbalances, dietary deficiencies, or other underlying medical problems.

Stages of Avian Feather Plucking

Avian feather plucking can be split into three stages: pre-plucking, active plucking, and post-plucking.

a pile of loose bird feathers representing feather plucking disease


During the pre-plucking stage, birds will start to have signs of distress like vocalizing excessively or pacing. At this point, it is important to identify and address any potential physical or psychological causes for the behavior.

Active Plucking

During the active plucking stage, birds will begin to pull out their feathers in order to relieve discomfort or stress.


During the post-plucking stage, their missing feathers should begin to regrow. It can take several months for them to reach their full length and have them looking normal again.

Treating Avian Feather Plucking

Treating avian feather plucking requires addressing both physical and psychological causes. Treatment can involve a combination of environmental changes, dietary modifications, medical interventions like antibiotics or hormone therapy, and behavior modification techniques. 

It’s very important to give your bird regular mental stimulation to help prevent boredom and reduce stress. If necessary, an avian veterinarian may prescribe medications to help address underlying medical issues or to reduce anxiety.

Preventing Avian Feather Plucking

To help prevent feather plucking, it’s important to feed birds a healthy diet, give them a stimulating environment, and make sure they have plenty of time for exercise and social interaction. It’s also important to monitor your bird’s health and address any potential physical or psychological causes as soon as they are identified.