Quaker Parrot plucking issues.

by Shaun
(Clearwater, FL USA)

My quaker parrot "Mango" just started plucking about 4 days ago. He is just about to turn 2 in a couple of months. He has been seen by a vet and is has been on a very healthy diet of fresh veggies, fruit, pellet and very little seed. We give him a variety of foraging toys and lots of love and attention. His disposition has totally changed and my wife and I are at our wits end.

The vet did a complete work-up and found nothing wrong from blood or stool samples and we requested DNA sexing to be done as well. The DNA will be back in two weeks. Well, after several hundred dollars at the vet including $30 of FAKE eggs for him/her to sit on, we still have no answers and no improvement and now there seems to be bruising on his beak. He/she has no trouble eating or drinking but couldn't this be the start of some other underlying cause in conjunction with the feather plucking? What can we do?

Please help!!! This little guy is a member of the family and honestly is on a better diet than I am!!! We did a lot of research and discussed thoroughly every aspect of bringing him home so that we could be good owners and I now feel like we are letting him/her down. There are no toxins of any sort used and even our own laundry detergent is hypo allergenic.

The only thing I am guilty of is having the occasional cigarette but I always wash and then sanitize my hands before ever handling him. What can we do?

I honestly don't by into the bird puberty theory from our vet.

Comments for Quaker Parrot plucking issues.

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Aug 22, 2010
what you wash with
by: pj

This might help...I have a Quaker and I have been through several different episisodes that have caused feather destruction:
1. hand cream
2. body/shower washes
3. nail polish/remover
4. regular soaps
5. perfume
6. shampoos
7. my stress levels if they raise because I evidently emit a scent that is related to stress.
8. change in laundry supplies.
9. shampoos and hair sprays.

Makes sense when you think about it. These are all foreign substances to a bird that is super sensative to begin with. Try and keep a mental or journal note of some of the things you put on yourself or your clothing or hair.

It seems my Quaker is super sensitive to scents as well as color colors and black and white. I never know until it is too late what will trigger him to pluck and his disposition to change but he lets me know in not so retty ways.

I read in magazine that some creams we put on especially ones with protection from sun actually appear like bright colors on our skin through the bird's eyes. Thanks, PJ

Jul 06, 2009
Follow up with the Vet with FANTASTIC RESULTS
by: Shaun (Owner of Mango)

I have great news about Mango. His follow with the vet revealed that he is indeed a boy and he has STOPPED plucking. His feathers are growing back in and the fake eggs were a good idea in my opinion while we were waiting on the DNA results. I was a little uneducated with the mating rituals if you will, of quakers and right now is their breeding season. He is just maturing and has chosen me as his mate. As for the bleeding and bruised beak, when they performed the DNA test, he managed to get a small hematoma and it has totally cleared up and he is almost fully feathered and back to normal. His disposition is just as he was before. I am not really sure if this was a mating thing or a household irritant but two remedies that we used to resolve his plucking were children's benadryl (1mg) twice daily and a homeopathic product called Pluck-No-More. Also we started using only bottled water for bath times. His routine is still the same and yes I still smoke occasionally but only outdoors and I always wash and sanitized my hands and change my shirt and brush my teeth before handling him. He is NEVER near me while I enjoy my nasty cigarette. I hope these remedies might help someone else going through the same issues with there bird. Thank you all for your comments and support.

Jul 05, 2009
Follow up with the Vet with FANTASTIC RESULTS
by: Shaun (Owner of Mango)

I was a little skeptical of my vets advise but Mango has STOPPED PLUCKING and is now growing new feathers and ALL of his bald spots are gone. The DNA results showed that Mango is a boy and the vet refunded the money for the fake eggs. She recommended 1mg of children's liquid benadryl twice daily for a couple of weeks. We also visited our local pet shop and bought a rather expensive bottle of Pluck-No-More. It's hard to say which remedy worked but he is almost completely back to normal. The bruising in his beak and bleeding was caused by the drawing of blood for the DNA test, and the vet explained that it was just a small hematoma. It was a rather scary thing to see, but the bruising is gone. His disposition is back to normal and so are almost all of his feathers. He is going back to the vet next week for one last follow up. I would like to thank all of you for your advise. I don't know what did the trick but we are ecstatic that our little guy is back to his old self!!!

Jun 17, 2009
Quaker Parrot plucking
by: The Vet

Your case is not rare, in fact it is the norm from my perspective. Quakers are one of the most common species that I see in my practice that exhibit feather damaging behaviors. And, the most common age that this begins is 18 months to 2.5 years of age. Most of the these birds come from excellent homes, doing all of the right things, such as what you have described here. I do complete work ups including blood work, x-rays, viral screening, etc., and usually find no medical cause. The sad part is that I rarely get these Quakers to stop, no matter what I do. The two things that I have seen make the most difference are foraging and daily bathing.

No one really know why they do this. Many believe that it is sexual, or hormonal, or as you put it puberty, but there is no real evidence to support these theories.

However, I have a theory as to why Quakers pluck more than most birds. In the wild all other parrot species flock in the non-breeding season and pair off during breeding. Quakers flock year ?round. They build large communal nests, multiple females will sit in one nest cavity and sit on all the eggs from the other females sharing the nest. Their natural history is very different. They are programmed to be with lots of other Quakers all of the time. But, as pets, we put them in cages, take away their flight ability, and isolate them from their own kind; this must affect them psychologically.

Certainly smoke will affect bird. So if you smoke indoors, you should not. Even washing hands will not always remove all of the nicotine. Nicotine and other chemicals from tobacco are known to cause many health problems and birds, including allergic reactions, skin disease, respiratory disease, etc. all of which can lead to feather damaging behaviors.

I read that you fed pellets. I recommend that you feed Harrison's organic pellets. Many of the colored pellets and pellets with artificial flavors, preservatives, sugar and other additives are known to contribute to this problem.

Does you bird have a UV light? If not, he needs full spectrum lighting. This may or may not stop the feather damaging behaviors, but it will be beneficial either way.

What size cage is he in. The bigger the better, but the minimum is 20 x 24. This can affect them dramatically.

What happened four days ago that may have started this problem ? think very hard, because it can be very subtle to you, but very important to him. Some thoughts: moved his cage with him in it, turned on a ceiling fan, got a new dog or cat, had company over, had a repairman come in, noisy construction, change in routine...

I am puzzled why someone sold you fake eggs when you don?t even know what sex your bird is.

What has changed about his disposition?

Dr B

Jun 16, 2009
Your Parrot
by: Linda

I hate to suggest this, but you may need to take your bird to ANOTHER Avian vet. Whatever the problem is sounds physical, and the bruising of his beak sounds like some kind of bleeding issue.Was he also checked for parasites?

Smoking around the birds is taken in as second hand smoke which is a killer for someone as small as a parrot.I'm not saying this IS the problem, but it could be a factor. Smoke outside and continue to wash hands before handling him.

Ask for reports for tests your vet has done thus far so you can take these results to another Avian vet in your area. That way, they would not have to duplicate tests already done. I'm not saying your vet is wrong, just that sometimes things are missed that another pair of eyes will pickup.

The feather plucking indicates something on or in the skin that is causing irritation. Look at his ENTIRE environment right down to what is used in the cage tray to catch the poop. Look at what toys are made from and where they were made if possible. What kind of perches does he have? What kind of wood was used as some types are toxic. Then, read ingredients in ALL of his food. If you find ANY preservatives, these can cause allergies and worse. Fruit and veggies from the grocery store are not too healthy for birds or humans actually. They come from commercial growers who use a variety of chemicals for growth and pest control. Buy only certified "organic" fruits and veggies from a reputable health food store or coop. Look at what you bathe bird with. Plain warm water in a plant sprayer will work just as well as a lot of the "designer" stuff on the market. Use only warm water to clean perches and cage bars as well. I use cotton dish towels and water to clean cage bars, and perches.The last issue is quality of your water. Ours is so bad that we have an under the sink Culligan Water filter system for over $30/month.A good water company like Culligan will come to your home to test your water for lead and other toxins(drinking water can contain lethal chemicals and toxins plus Fluoride and Chlorine are toxic for birds as well as too many minerals).Rent, don't buy as all the service calls are free if renting. Many things can effect a bird's health and a lot of them can be found in either food, water, environment or caging. Make sure the cage is lead and zinc-free or low as is possible. Light colored cages usually have a lot of zinc as do welded wire cages. Lead can be found in any powder coat and is normally controlled and extremely low. Find out who manufactured cage and contact them. Most manufacturers have had their powder coat paint tested in US and results on file in the US.
Do your investigative work and take him back to vet to test for toxins like lead, zinc.Keep us informed as to what your findings are, and you are in our prayers.

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