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Why do parrots pluck?

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by Dr Fiona Froehlich Mag med vet GP(CertExAP) Resident ECZM(avian) MRCVS

Unfortunately feather plucking (or feather destructive behaviour) is still a common presentation in avian practice.

Some owners may have accepted this behaviour and fail to recognise their responsibility in addressing the condition.

Parrots pluck for many different reasons ranging from medical diseases to stress and frustration. In most cases there is not one, but multiple factors present that lead to the development of this dreadful condition. A bird may start plucking due to an irritant or disease, but develops an abnormal repetitive behaviour and continues to feather pluck after the initial cause is long gone.

Any disease causing pain, discomfort or itchiness may result in feather plucking, which is why it is vital to investigate and treat any such condition first of all. A parrot may pluck the skin around the crop in cases of a crop infection, around a painful joint or an infected preen gland.

Other medical causes for feather plucking include skin and gastrointestinal parasites, allergies, heavy metal intoxication, liver, kidney and metabolic disease as well as bacterial, fungal or viral infections. A thorough clinical exam as well as blood tests and radiographs will help to diagnose any underlying disease.

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