Lovebird is losing feathers and started plucking

by Michele
(West Plains, Missouri)

On March 6, I was at a livestock auction and someone was selling a lovebird in a homemade small cage. I have several parrots at home and felt so sad for the poor little guy.

When I brought him home (quarantined from the others), he had some missing feathers on the "shoulders" of his wings. He also had some yellowish - orange crusty scabs from where he appeared to have picked. The lady who brought him said he was molting and was about 1 year old. I knew molting shouldn't cause large bald spots so I researched all I could.

Unfortunately, we do not have a vet in our part of the state. I have arranged to take him to a vet in another state, but I am waiting to hear when they can fit me in.

In the past couple weeks, this little bird has gotten progressively worse. The area under his wings, on his thighs, and around his neck are bald. The vet I spoke with on the phone said it may be fungal. I asked if I could put something on him in the meantime (while waiting for the appointment). The vet said to get Lotrimin.

I have been putting that on. The skin itself looks a little better. However, since I have used the ointment, he has begun pulling the feathers off his chest area! It is now completely bald.

Also, not sure if this is important, but he has new feathers growing in. However, he has started pulling those, too, and some of the ones growing in are yellow (feather and shaft) where they should be green.

The woman who sold him at the auction had him on a huge seed diet. I have switched him to pellets. She said he wasn't friendly, but he has been just adorable since I have had him. He loves to be held and cuddled.

I just love this little guy. He is my own personal rescue. While I am waiting for my vet appointment, do you have any thoughts? He also seems to shake alot. I keep the house above 70 degrees for the birds so I don't think he is cold. In fact, he feels warm when I pick him up, warmer than my other birds (fever?)

I am willing to try whatever you can suggest. I have looked for mites with a magnifying glass, but haven't seen any.

Any ideas would be appreciated. He has become one of my favorites. He seems so happy to have attention and care.


Comments for Lovebird is losing feathers and started plucking

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 06, 2013
lovebird has a raw patch on shoulders
by: Anonymous

I was told it was caused by a virus, or that it may be a mite or a fungal condition I wonder if there is a preparation or two I could mix, non-poisonous, to cover most causes, and see if there is any slight improvement, I thought of aloe vera with some things added, but what could I add? Has anyone else had a similar situation and improved it, please?

Editor's note: In the future if you want people to see and answer, you need to post a question, not an answer here to another question, on our Parrot Questions page.

Mar 01, 2010
my lovebird has the same as michel's

my lovebird seems to be suffering from the sam thing michels has.I am very worried because i think its spreading.Especially because he himself has so much discomfort.I dont have any money to take him to a vet and i would like to know what i can do or give him to cure him,and if there is any lotions that are non-expensive please let me know immediately.

Editor's note: Nothing over the counter is suggested, take your bird to an avian vet ASAP.

Jan 09, 2010
Ulcer on lovebird
by: Linda

I also have a lovebird who all of a sudden started plucking in one area on his back. I did take it to certified avian vet. She is wonderful.
My little Ernie has been switched to Harrisons peletts and loves them!He likes the very tiny ones.He does still have a small ulcer after using antibitics and now is favoring one wing. He lifts it up all the time. So now it is back to the vet.Any ideas?

Editor's note: You need to post this as a new question to be seen by others. Taking your bird to the avian vet is the best course of action.

Apr 17, 2009
Great News!
by: Michele

Hello all!

I am just updating the news on my little rescue bird. The vet that I had spoken with (in an adjoining state) was going to be out of the office and we had not been able to get an appointment. So, I found a lab that would do a disease workup on samples submitted by an owner instead of a vet. I sent in the samples and, at the beginning of the week, got back the news that my little rescue is a boy (named Skittles) and, most importantly, he tested negative for the major bird diseases.

That was a huge relief, because in researching, I was terrified it was beak and feather disease or, worse, a humanly transmissable disease.

Anyway, while awaiting the test results, the avian vet called back and was able to fit us in. It was a long drive but it was ABSOLUTELY worth it.

She was an excellent avian vet, very thorough. I found out several interesting things. First of all, Skittles is NOT around 18 months as I was told. The vet said he had some cataract formation and, due to that and other chronic issues, appeared to be at least three years old, if not more.

After an exam, the vet said that she thought his condition was from chronic neglect, poor nutrition, and the resulting immuno deficiencies. Basically, my little guy has thickened skin, evidence of past infections, feather plucking from itching and burning, etc. He probably has only ever been given high seed diets and has stress marks all over his feathers.

The avian vet said she found no active infection, although Skittles has been very tired, depressed, and has had some difficulty breathing. However, when she listened to his lungs, she did not hear fluid or abnormal sounds.

She said she felt like he probably had some skin fungal, possibly baterial, issues from his compromised immunity.

She gave me some antibiotics, antifungals, and some good creams (non-oil) to help him along and help him from getting further infections while in recovery.

His stools were normal and there was no evidence of organ damage that was readily apparent (from symptoms). She said he's probably had chronic issues from his past, but felt like there was a good chance of getting him back on track.

I am so excited!! My $8 auction lovebird has become the "million dollar bird" from the disease testing, etc., but the vet agreed with me. He is a very special, loving bird. His personality is so docile and sweet. I am excited we have this chance.

I can't speak highly enough of the avian vet we saw. She was absolutely wonderful and has called to check on Skittles each day since we saw her.

I couldn't have picked a more perfect vet for Skittles - which is good, because she was my only choice! Grin!!

Thanks everyone for the support. We are not out of the woods, but I am very hopeful!


Apr 05, 2009
Thank you for your comments
by: Michele

I appreciate the comments and remarks. I just wanted to add a little more information for clarity. The Lotrimin is not oil based. She told me not to use that because of the temperature regulation issues. The avian vet that I spoke with was very clear that I would need to bring the lovebird in. I just asked if there was something I could do for the itching in the meantime because it seemed so severe.

I hope and pray that this is not PBFD. I know there is probably a good chance of that and have been very careful. This little guy is so precious. I hope we will be able to get in near the first of the week.

I will update as soon as possible. Thank you for your help.

Apr 05, 2009
Lovebird losing feathers
by: The Vet

I have to say that lovebirds are one the top three birds that carry PBFD ? Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease virus. This is a highly contagious and fatal disease that you must have our bird tested for twice in 90 days before you should expose this bird to your flock.

This is certainly not molting. Dermatitis in psittacines, especially lovebirds, is very difficult to diagnose and treat. It will require cultures and possibly biopsies after a thorough exam.

I don?t know about your state, but in NC it is illegal for a veterinarian to diagnose and treat over the phone. Although fungal infection is a differential, it is not the first on the list, there more effective ways to treat it, and treatments given for diseases that re not present can actually make the problem worse.

If this Lotrimin is a petroleum-based ointment instead of a water?based cream, you should not use it at all. This will be preened throughout the feathers and they will be come ineffective at helping to maintain body temperature and your bird will become dirty quickly.

I is not uncommon for a plucked feather to grow back a different color. It is due to damage to the follicle. It could also be diet related.

He shakes a lot because he is cold. First, he is missing many of his feathers; second, if he is coated in an oily substance, the feathers he does have aren't functioning properly; third, his body temp is 105ºF, he is cold in a room that is 70º without some of his feathers. He feels warmer because you are touching his skin which feels hotter than feathers. But he does not have a fever. That really does not occur in birds like mammals.

Mites might be on my list of differentials but they would be very very low.

My differential list includes polyfolliculitis, bacterial dermatitis, fungal dermatitis, self mutilation, hyperkeratosis, vitamin A deficiency and other nutritional imbalances, contact allergy, food allergy, PBFD, polyomavirus, poxvirus, toxins, neoplasia (cancer) , endocrine disease [In no particular order.].

Please let me know what you find out when you see you veterinarian.

Dr B

Apr 03, 2009
by: lori

When my cockatiel started plucking she had and infection. 10 days on and antibiotic and she was fine. I don't think lotrimun is a good idea because its for topical use only and the bird is probably getting some of it in its mouth when it preens. Try spraying aloe vera juice or a bird spray with aloe vera to relieve the itching and please get it to a vet ASAP.

Click here to add your own comments