How to prevent cockatiel from chewing wing feathers?

by Erin
(Bloomington, IN)

Cockatiel with chewed wing feathres

Cockatiel with chewed wing feathres

Hello, my cockatiel of 10 years just recently (within the last 4 months) started picking at his wing feathers in one specific area. During the first few months, he would allow them to grow back in, so I wasn't too worried. But now, he constantly preens that area on his wing to the point that there is now a small bald patch.

I've only noticed a tiny bit of dried blood in that area, likely from a blood feather he broke during his preening, but he's never broken any blood feathers resulting in serious bleeding. In this area, he now has what looks like a blood blister where a new flight feather is trying to grow in, which I'm sure he won't allow.

So, my question is, is there anything I can put on the bald area to prevent him from further chewing. I'm confident that once his feathers grow back in that area, he will stop, but as of right now he just can't leave it alone. I assume it all started when he broke a feather during flight in that area, and now it's become a bad habit to chew.

My cockatiel's diet has been always been consistent and healthy, he takes baths about once a week, and his cage is full of toys to keep him occupied. Are there any safe bitter ointments for birds on the market for obsessive chewing of this nature? Any suggestions on how to prevent this behavior will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

I have included one picture that shows the blister and bald area. The blister is that small dark brown bump near the top left of the bald spot(The picture was taken after he bathed in shallow dish so his a few feathers appear damp still)

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Jun 29, 2011
cocateil plucking feathers under wings
by: Anonymous

I noticed recently that my cockatiel was making painful noises while she was preening herslef. I examined her wings, and she had plucked the feathers under her wings and the skin was red and inflamed. I took her to an Avian vet that prescribed Metacam and spray baths with a 50% soulution of water and aloe vera. After I gave her the spray bath, she is sitting on the bottom of the cage shivering. Is Aloe Vera ok to use on my cockatiel?

Editor's note: If an avian vet prescribed it, it should be fine. If you want people to see and answer, you need to post a question, not an answer here to another question, at Parrot Questions

Jun 30, 2008
Spoke with my vet
by: Erin

Dr B,

I just spoke with my vet again about any other options for my cockatiel's wing. After fully explaining my situation/location/budget, she said she would supply him with Meloxican to reduce inflammation. However, she also noted that if the medication doesn't work, then it is likely cancer, and the area on his wing should be removed. I asked if any other medication would be necessary if the area were perhaps infected, and she suggested that Meloxican should be enough. After hearing this, I looked the drug up online to learn about it and found that "Metacam" is the veterinarian formulation. Is there any difference between these two drugs? Also, I am curious to know your opinion on supplying my cockatiel with any other drugs that may prevent further infection (if an infection is also the case here) Please let me know. Thank you in advance for all your responses and advice!

Jun 30, 2008
Follow-up
by: Erin

Dr B

My avian vet chose not to give my cockatiel any antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication because she was unsure of the condition of his liver, even though his comprehensive examination (including fecal & blood analysis) proved to be excellent. What is your opinion on giving a bird of this condition these medications? I would never want to risk his health, although I hate to see his wing continue to be inflamed. However, he is just as content as ever, eating well and I have yet to notice him letting the affected wing droop.
I would like to mention that as long as I have owned him, he has never been a good flier because his flights almost always end in crashes because he gets going so fast he just can't control the direction. Because of this, I chose to not let him fly around the house, but rather allow him to hold on to my finger for daily VIGOROUS flapping. However, there are the times that he does take flight and crashes, almost always banging up his wing. It's these crashes that exacerbate the condition of his wing and may have been the start of it all. So, I was wondering is it possible for him to have an inflamed wing due to a damaged blood feather(s) that are growing back in incorrectly?

Jun 30, 2008
Cockatiel chewing feathers
by: The Vet

You should seek a second opinion, I agree.

Xanthomas do usually appear as a yellowish patch of skin. If your bird’s lesion is already healing and growing feathers, a xanthoma is less likely. There appears to inflammation, but I cannot say what the cause. A skin biopsy for microscopic exam would be necessary to get a diagnosis. However, you could choose to treat with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication and opt out of the surgery. Maybe your second opinion will offer you more choices than the first.

Please keep me informed.

Dr B

Jun 28, 2008
Cockatiel's Vet Visit
by: Erin

Dr. B, I just returned from my avian veterinarian and although she found that my cockatiel is in great overall health, she insisted I return with him so they can perform a microscopic examination of the tissue on his wing. She also noted that his wing was a little more swollen than the other wing.

However, as a student I am not able to afford the ~$500 charge of this upcoming exam. My vet also decided against giving him any medication to reduce the swelling. So once again, I am in the same position as before. I may look for a second opinion on his wing (although there are very few avian veterinarians in my area), and continue monitoring his wing.

Since that first picture was taken after his bath, he has progressed, as his feathers have now grown in the bald spot and now the spot is nearly unnoticeable. Also, I did some research on xanthomas and read that it normally appears as a yellowish/orange patch of skin. Is this generally correct?

Jun 26, 2008
Cockatiel
by: The Vet

Lafeber's is a good pellet.

The wing clip may or may not have been a factor. Please let me know what you find at your Dr's appointment.

Dr B

Jun 24, 2008
Cockatiel wing feather chewing
by: Erin

Dr. B,
Thank you for the advice; I will be setting up an appointment with my vet.
My cockatiel currently eats Lafeber's pellets and still has millet seed and millet sprays as the occasional treat. Would you still suggest I switch him to Harrison's pellets? The dimensions of his cage are 20L x 29H x 20W. Also, now that I think about it, I clipped his wings about 6-7 months ago, which was right before he started chewing his wing feathers. However, I haven't clipped his wing feathers since, and they are completely grown out now.

Jun 24, 2008
Cockatiel chewing feathers
by: The Vet

This is not a behavior problem. Your bird is chewing his feathers because something on his wing is irritating him. This is a common area that we find a skin condition called a xanthoma. These are very irritating and will cause birds to chew their skin and feathers. A topical treatment is not going to help this. A bitter spray is not going to help. Your bird should see an avian veterinarian and have medication prescribed that will help your bird.

Diet can be a contributing factor for xanthomas. Are you feeding a pellet diet? If not you should switch him Harrison's pellets. This should be 80% of his diet. However, a diet change will not cure this problem, but it can help to prevent it. Treating it will depend on the diagnosis determined for the lesion.

What size cage is he in? Has he had a wing clip recently?

Dr B

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