What Are Feather Stress Bars? Does Your Bird Have Them?

What Are Feather Stress Bars? Does Your Bird Have Them?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

If you’ve ever noticed strange lines running perpendicular (across) the shafts of your bird’s feathers these are what are called “stress bars”.

They are particularly noticeable when your bird is molting and are harder to see if the feathers are still on the bird. 

A bird’s feathers can be a great indicator of its overall health.
The growth of feathers requires a broad spectrum of nutrients and if how the bird is getting its nutrients into its body is disrupted while the feathers develop, feather stress bars can be produced.

If looking at a baby bird’s feathers and the stress bars are consistent along with all the same levels of the feathers this may be an indication that the baby at some time was sick or not properly fed by his parents or breeder.
bird feather diagram
Usually, an individual feather with a single line is probably not a stress bar feather but if there are lots of lines on the feathers it doesn’t mean that the bird is sick but it should be a red flag that the bird needs to be looked at.
Feather stress bars develop while the feather is still growing (a blood feather) and is usually caused by stress and/or anxiety in the bird surroundings or substandard nutrition, although other factors can influence this problem.
On the plus side, because stress bars move along with the development of a feather, it means they present a living record of issues your bird might have been having while going through their most recent molt. 
Three things you can do if you see stress bars on your bird’s feathers are:
  1. Analyze your bird’s diet – a bird on a high seed/treat diet could mean your bird is not getting enough vitamins and minerals.
  2. Evaluate your bird’s living situation, especially the arrangement of toys and accessories in their cage.
  3. Consult an avian vet.
Low humidity can cause problems with feathers much like it dries out human skin. A humidifier may be helpful. Full-spectrum lighting can also aid in the health of feathers too.

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