Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

April 2, 2012

Bored birds can do some strange things


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Excessive grooming, or "preening" as it is known in the avian arena, is also not an appropriate pastime for birds.

"You should curb this behavior early," says Blue-McLendon. “If you allow it to continue, some birds, especially cockatoos, can become overzealous in their preening."

Preening can be another common precursor to feather plucking. Again, occupying its time with other activities can help rid your bird of its obsession with grooming, Blue-McLendon explains.

She says it's important to try to break any bad habits as soon as you notice them.

"Temporarily changing your bird's environment is a good start," Blue-McLendon explains. "Try adding new toys to its cage or simply rearranging its existing toys. Also, consider moving its cage to another area of the house, possibly one with heavier traffic."

If your bird's meals consist of only seeds, try to incorporate new foods and flavors into its diet, says Blue-McLendon. Add colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those that can double as chew toys like celery, carrots, and green beans.

However, know that change is not always the best remedy. Sometimes variation, especially sudden and dramatic variation, in a bird's environment can also lead to feather plucking, says Blue-McLendon.

Stressful events, such as moving, a death in the family or a reduction in time spent with its owner, can more than ruffle your bird's feathers. They can cause anxiety-based behaviors like screaming and, of course, feather plucking. Be sure to make changes gradually and monitor your bird's progress.

Also, before you make any changes, be sure your bird doesn't have a medical reason for plucking its feathers such as mite infestation, a hormone imbalance or skin infection. These problems would warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

"Breaking a bad habit can be quite a feat," Blue-McLendon adds. “But, if your mother could convince you to stop biting your nails, there's a good chance you can help your bird eliminate its feather fixation."

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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