What’s Up With the Disconnect Between Avian Vets & Birds?
Veterinarian examining Alexandrine parakeet in clinic, closeup

What’s Up With the Disconnect Between Avian Vets & Birds?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman


I have a question and thought perhaps you might know the answer. I am also a strong proponent of flighted birds. I was wondering if there is any scientific data on whether flighted birds are less likely to pluck?
It would seem to me that being able to fly produces a more confident, content bird, so it stands to reason that it would reduce feather plucking.

Our vet said birds in multi-bird households are less likely to pluck as well (but I am not so sure I’d recommend that publicly as it takes a LOT of sacrifices to care for a whole flock!).
He said that there is something they get from each other that they don’t seem to be able to get from us. Keep up the great newsletters.
I look forward to them and read every one. Popcorn sounds SO adorable. She is so lucky to have you!
Best regards,
DeAnna (Dee)
Hi Dee
Thank you for the kind words and Popcorn had become such a neat little trip:-) You know you bring up a really interesting point.
First to answer your question I know of no scientific research on plucking. I’ll not stop looking but I think I would’ve stumbled upon something by now.
There are articles by veterinarians out there. Veterinarians are actually going to be my subject for today’s newsletter so thank you for helping me get it started. This week’s topic is going to be about the disconnect I see with avian vets.
I’m having a discussion with another woman about her plucking Greenwing Macaw. It’s fully flighted. The bird has been to an avian vet twice. Bacterial infection was found and Harrison’s pellets were recommended as a solution “as in”, I have no idea of what to do here so try this.
Can you imagine if you walked into a doctor’s office with a horrible skin rash and your hair was falling out and they said just drink Ensure because it’s a well-engineered diet? You’d be looking for another doctor.
First, let me qualify this by saying there are avian veterinarians who get it. Byron de la Navarre, DVM — Chief of Staff at Animal House of Chicago sends droves of bird owners to the Birdie Boutique because he understands the relationship between birds and their environments.
He (and his staff ) “get it”. Your veterinarian should talk to you about housing, nutrition, light cycles, foraging opportunities, and all the other components that go into keeping birds as pets. The blood workup is only one component of your bird’s health.
But I digress as you know I do a lot. Most people think the term “holistic” (defined as characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.) is interchangeable with “organic and natural” which is not accurate.
You can look at anything holistically, from the repair of an automobile to the operation of an e-commerce website, neither of which are organic nor natural.
The point is, having blood results is truly a gift especially if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford it, they can get pricey. Setting money aside, let’s break down your question.
We all know birds spend about one-third of their life preening thousands of feathers. When have you ever seen an unkempt bird? I’m not ignoring your comments about birds being flighted and flighted birds in multi-bird households, I just want to zoom in on some bird anatomy and how it may relate to feather plucking.
In a typical wing feather clipping, with three or four snips, the primaries are cut, leaving 24 of the largest feathers on the bird chopped in half with rough edges.
From here it’s no stretch that the bird feels the raw ends of these 24 large feathers (10- 12 on each side) with their sensitive tongues then instinctively goes to work to try to fix this problem.
diagram of bird feathers
With some birds, generally those with enrichment and social interaction, the preening gets interrupted with feeding, play, and socializing time.
But a newly clipped bird who spends the majority of its life in a cage and is stressed, to begin with, having no other distractions, may just focus initially on those 24 feathers.
“Heck, there’s nothing else to do around here so gonna work on these feathers, because it feels good like to scratching an itch”, but soon the mosquito bite itch becomes a poison ivy itch because no amount of scratching makes the irritation feel better, except this scratching isn’t scratching it’s now the feather plucking.

The treatment of feather plucking can take up volumes and we will gladly answer any and all inquiries on the subject that we can. Please drop us a line at [email protected].


Before we part, just a heads up about Thanksgiving next week. We thought you’d like to know the best foods that are shareable with your birds.

Pumpkin provides Carotenes that are converted into vitamin A, important for the lining of the respiratory tract, intestinal tract, the oviduct, and the tubes that make up the kidney’s filtration system. Little-known Zeaxanthin can also be found in pumpkins and helps protect the eyes. And believe it or not, Pumpkin is a great source of B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like calcium, copper potassium, and phosphorus.
Personally, pecans are not my favorite nuts but lots of people and most birds swear by them. Little-known fact – pecans are actually a fruit called “drupe”. Raw pecans provide a lot of vitamin E, lots of B-complex, and a bunch of minerals like selenium, potassium, manganese, calcium, and iron.
I’m diabetic (Type II) so when I eat potatoes it’s usually a sweet potato. Believe it or not, sweet potatoes have more than half of the vitamin C humans need on a daily basis. They have way more vitamin A than you’ll ever need and lots of potassium and beta-carotene. Overall sweet potatoes should really be part of your bird’s diet year-round.
Last but not least the lowly green bean offers a whole bunch of vitamin A and polyphenolic antioxidants including B-carotene! Enjoy, and have a happy, healthy, and bird-safe holiday.
Some Feedback from our Facebook fan page
Karl O
It never ceases to amaze me how bird owners justify clipping wings for “safety”. Utter nonsense.
Stella B
Proper wing clips do not keep a bird from flying.
Jennifer B 
A light trim yes, if they can still fly but a lot of people clip a lot having the bird incapable to fly at all just hope. That’s just sad.
Jennifer B 
I think it depends on the bird. Smaller hookbills have less tenancy to pluck. But birds as intelligent as greys and macaws may develop a feather plucking habit. I could never take that away from them. It’s what they do. They have winds to fly just and we have legs and arms to get around. If we were not able to walk that would have effects on us too. So why not our feathered companions? We already keep them in captivity, let’s not take that away for them too.
Amanda K
Do Amazon Parrots talk?
Carolyn M 
Amanda, some do, some don’t. Depends on the bird. They’re quite capable of it, but some prefer to siiiiiiiing, operatic solos! LOL
We respond,  ditto – when we used to do bird shows always know the Amazons who arrive because it sounded like a bunch of ladies at the hair salon – chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter.
Ariadna C
Joo quien me regala unooo?? Por favor , por favor.. Me encantan los guacamayos!!
Joo who gave me unooo? Please, please… I love the macaws! (Translated by Bing)
Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing
your zygodactyl footnote


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Because as Mitch says “we haven taken them from the skies”…..captivity will always present behavioral problems for our companion parrots. Our Kookie, a Goffin’s cockatoo plucks cyclically. She is fully flighted and will even chew off her wing feathers depriving her of her greatest gift of flight. It breaks my heart. Last year she did this right after New Year’s when it was extremely cold. This year she just did it the week prior to Thanksgiving while our temps were still in the 60’s. We use the FeatherIn spray to make her more comfortable and it is a great help with her feather regrowth. We have been through the well bird check up along with the blood work panels and all is good. A psychotrophic drug such as amitriptyline has been recommended, however I fear that would give our Kookie a chemical lobotomy suppressing her birdsonality. As long as she is not injuring her skin we let her do this hormonal ritual and love her with or without her feathers as she loves us. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0acc94e627a0890f4acbe0074120816432bcdd77d249c2c702babdec9611bd6.jpg

      1. Diet is pellets, seed mix as a garnish to encourage foraging (safflower seed mix no sunflowers) Human foods in moderation, ie meat, chicken, veggies and fruits in season. Light cycle is what the day presents (full spectrum on during dark and/or overcast days) She does call out past sunset and after dark. The fids room is exclusive to them. While we close their door and watch tv in another room or better yet go upstairs and watch tv before bed, Kookie will call out.

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