Cockatiel Picking Problem

by Bryce Francis
(Seattle, WA)


I have taken my bird to my local avian vet several times for this problem, and each time I walk away with a bill for at least a hundred dollars and no solution. My bird is 17 years old, and in pretty good overall health. His diet consists mostly of seed, (we have tried pellet, and he seems to be allergic... The vet advised to just keep on seed.) and grains.

About 6 months ago, he started picking at a spot on his back. Nothing changed in his environment. There doesn't appear to be anything on the surface of his back, other than a constant scab from where he does the picking. He doesn't pull out any of his feathers, but just sort of "pinches" the spot. When he is on my shoulder, he'll do the same thing with my neck... Just pinch at one spot. It hurts!

The vet has given me a few topical creams, and even some sort of oral aspirin, and said it should stop within a few days. They have kept him overnight, done x-rays, everything comes out clear. It's the same thing every time I take him in there, and now it's going on six months. I just don't have the money to keep taking him in with no solution in sight. It seems as though it's behavioral, almost like a tick. Have you heard of anything like this? Is there a way to train him away from this tick?

Thank you so much for any advice that you might have.

Best regards,
Bryce Francis

Comments for Cockatiel Picking Problem

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 02, 2010
Picking Problem
by: Bryce

Thank you all for you helpful suggestions and comments. I'm so sorry I'm just getting around to replying to your questions regarding the diet. Just an update: We continued going to the vet last year, and and the veterinarian diagnosed the problem as a type of arthritis. The reason I stated that I believed him to be allergic to pellet is because he would get a swollen crop every time we tried to change his diet, and would begin vomiting a thick mucous. A different vet at the same hospital suggested to keep him on a diet of seed. We had done blood test for kidney function and a liver panel, and they looked just fine. His cholesterol was a bit high due to the seed. At our last visit, the vet that he was regularly seeing insisted that we change his diet to Harrisons, and also sent me home with several recipes to make him, cornbread, pasta and beans, etc. I was reluctant, but followed the instructions to the letter. We were weening him off the seed, and he was eating his new diet just fine, but within three days of making the change, he suddenly passed away. I attribute the death directly to the diet change. Anyway, I just wanted to post a response to your questions and give an update. Thank you all very much for your help and support!

Dec 30, 2009
Cockatiel tick problem
by: Anonymous

I have a cockatiel who seems to have ticks under his wing, its black in colour. i think thats what the problem maybe. i'm not really sure but thought i'd just ask. Please reply back as soon as you can. If you know of some kind of a homemade remedy for ticks, please let me know.

Thank-you Kindly

Rhonda Blyth and Ann Wile

Nov 20, 2009
My 18 year old cockatiels head sores
by: Anonymous

My 18 year old cockatiel, Buddy Bird has a on the back of his head and is being treated with a topical medicine from my vet. He is hoping as well as I am the the scab will fall off by itself. In the meantime, it itches so much and Buddy usually scratches it. He eats and good healthy diet such as LaFeebers cockatiel food KT Forti-diet and now avicakes and nutriberries.I sprinkle Nekton Bio on his food along with aviculture provided by our vet. Do you think the scab will eventually fall off by itself? I have been giving Buddy human food for years, such as eggs, cereal fish, potatoes , corn and now peas and spinich. Would like a reply from someone regarding Buddy's head sores and scab. He also has been treated for infections, such as enteritis and other minor infections. Elaine

Editors note: You will not likely get any responses because you posted your question as an answer to someone else's post. You need to post your question under parrot questions.

Jul 30, 2009
Cockatiel feather picking problem
by: The Vet

This is not likely a behavior. Skin problems in birds are difficult to manage and treat. I suspect that there is some infection, either having started the problem, or is secondary to the self mutilation. Either way oral antibiotics are necessary. Topical antibiotic cream is also a necessity. It may also be necessary to put on a restraint device such as a tube collar (not an e-collar).

Many times these skin problems are nutrition related. Given that your bird is on seeds, I guarantee he has nutritional problems. I don?t know what pellets you have tried or what you base the allergies on, but there are diets that can cause these reactions. However, if you put your bird on the organic pellet, Harrison's, he will not have allergic reactions, and he will be nutritionally sound. The omega fatty acids on this food may be enough to fix this skin problem.

Also, regular bathing in plain water can help. Some of these problems start out as dry skin. You should bathe at least weekly with plain water, and at least once weekly with Avi-x Bird Rain. Avi-x also makes a spray antibiotic that will help heal and sooth this lesion.

Dr B

Jul 27, 2009
Picking Problem
by: Linda

Bryce, this one is a real mystery. One thing I did not understand is why you think he is allergic to pellets? A lot of birds don't like them at first, and so it takes some time to change them over from an all seed diet to the pelleted one. An all seed diet is not nutritious and since he is getting older could be having negative effects on his kidneys and liver.

Has the vet done any blood tests on him like the BUN for kidney function and a Liver Panel for the liver function? If not, then it would not hurt to get them done. Older birds who have eaten seeds all their lives begin to have problems with kidneys and liver and/or pancreas as well as feeling overall quite badly.

Has the vet tried any type of soft collar on him to stop him from picking at his sore? There IS something wrong here since he does not do this in any other area. What kinds of toys does he have? A simple toy made using cotton rope that hangs down so birds can preen the rope sometimes helps. Is he active and singing?

Unfortunately, I don't have any real answers for you in this situation. If it has become a habit, then the collar would be the way to change his focus from himself to a new rope toy. Always buy the cotton rope for toys as the nylon can hurt them if it gets wrapped around legs, heads and feet. The soft natural cotton rope does not get the "hold" the nylon does. See if the vet has a soft rolled collar he can put on your bird. I had one for a sick bird who had picked all her feathers out, and once she got used to the weight, the picking stopped.

I would also like to know WHY you think your bird is allergic to pellets. Your bird is getting too old to be on an all seed diet as this diet is killing parrots at much younger ages. Cockies should live to 25-30 years, and yours won't unless you make some changes in diet. The Harrisons is all organic, and we've used it for years and years keeping our older birds healthy.
Tracie has it out here plus a nice birdy bread mix they also make. Use the Red Palm Oil organic oil with it as the oils in grocery store are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and are poison for birds and not good for humans.

So, see about the collar, get bloodwork done if it has not been, and let us know why you think bird is ALLERGIC to pellets, and we'll do the best we can to support you and your birdy friend.


Click here to add your own comments