Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

April 2, 2012

Bored birds can do some strange things

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By Pet Talk staff
CNHI News Service

Nail-biting, gum smacking, knuckle popping - they can be irritating habits people have. Even birds display their share of odd behaviors.

Feather plucking is a common habit among parrot-type birds, says Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, a veterinarian with the Winnie Carter Wildlife Center at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

While most adult birds lose their feathers naturally once or twice a year in a process called molting, it is not natural for a bird to pluck out its own feathers, says Blue-McLendon.

One of the clues that a bird is plucking its feathers is to look at the bird's head. Since a parrot cannot pluck feathers from its own scalp, a feather-plucking bird will have a full head of feathers but be missing a lot of feathers on other parts of its body.

As simple as it may sound, the most common reason for a bird to pluck out its own feathers is boredom, says Blue-McLendon.

"When a bird isn't stimulated by its environment, it may begin plucking its feathers for entertainment or out of frustration," she says.

Because of birds' high intelligence level, environmental enrichment is extremely important for them, Blue-McLendon notes. They need plenty of toys to play with, especially ones they can chew.

"The more time they spend chewing on toys and food, the less time they have to chew on their feathers," she adds.

Some birds enjoy playing with their own feathers after they have fallen out naturally through molting. Although feathers are cheap and simple toys, they aren't appropriate ones.

Playing with loose feathers may spawn a nasty plucking habit.

"You don't want to encourage your bird to pluck its feathers out to have something to play with," Blue-McLendon says. "Remove the feathers from the cage as soon as they fall out."

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