Rescued Bird Scratching

by Diane

I rescued a Severe (mini) Macaw six weeks ago. She was molting at the time and is now beautiful and looks perfectly healthy. However, she scratches her "ear" and opens her mouth wide. She also clutches the feathers above her left eye and holds them, closing her eyes. She looks like a person suffering from a hangover or a migraine when she does this!!! She holes this pose for 5-10 seconds at a time. I thought it was a molting thing, but she's still doing it.

Is there any need for alarm? Her feces looks normal, her appetite is healthy, and she is still vocal. (She gets VERY vocal with wing flapping around 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.) I'm not sure what to do. I have other birds coming home from the breeder this week (a CAG, a caique, and a blue-headed pionus). She is anxious for me to get the birds, but I don't want to expose them to anything toxic. Further complications include 1) I just had back surgery, 2) I cannot drive, and 3) the closest avian vet is 2 hours away!!!

I will post pics of this behavior if I can figure out how.

Thank you so very very much!!!

Tiki's mom

Comments for Rescued Bird Scratching

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May 04, 2011
Update on Tiki
by: Diane

Hey! I'm sorry it took so long to respond, but I lost this site and just found it tonight. Tiki, my Severe Macaw, is doing VERY VERY well! She is a delight!

We now have 4 birds and absolutely love their different personalities. At first, I thought the little Caique was going to be a pain, but he has turned out to be the cutest -- and most mischievous -- little guy!!! It's fun to watch the wheels turn in his little head.

Thank you for all of your comments and advice.

Loving my feathery flock,

Jan 12, 2011
by: Anonymous

Honestly I really dont think you have anything to worry about unless your bird it doing this 24\7. My severe has the same ticks I guess you would call them and the opening the mouth while rubing the ear is a good thing means he is giving himself pleasure. It feels good kinda like when you clean you ear it feels good. I would just watch it but i think what you are looking at it normal behavoir.

Jan 06, 2011
Bird holding head and scratching
by: The Avian Vet

This behavior is common among many parrots. I see my caique do it, and I have seen many others do it. What concerns me though is the scratching the ear and yawning, coupled with holding her head. This can be an indication that she has an ear infection or sinus infection. It may be nothing at all, but you should have her examined by an avian veterinarian to be sure. It is common to see birds feeling normal, eating, playing, and vocalizing and have a serious sinus infection. I am treating an Amazon in the hospital now with these similar symptoms.

Dr B

Jan 05, 2011
Rescued Bird Scratching
by: Linda

Diane, I forgot something and I also called your bird a boy when you said she is a girl, so forgive me for that.

The thing I forgot to say whas when Sherlock finished slowly moving her fingers through her hair(feathers), she would scratch on it some too as if she had tickled herself. Unless the scratching is relentless and draws blood, your little girl is just being a Macaw! Feel free to write to us about anything to do with birds because we enjoy hearing from good people like you willing to go that extra mile for a bird! You are a part of the unsung real life heros group, and know that you are recognized and appreciated here with us.


Jan 05, 2011
Rescued Bird Scratching
by: Linda

Yes, hold off on getting the new birds because younger birds are very suseptible to infections of any kind. I had a Scarlet Macaw who used to do this head scratching thing, and she did it very slowly staring off into space with this dreamy look on her face. If that's what your bird is doing, then he is just enjoying the feeling of running his "fingers through his hair".

If this bird has not been seen by an Avian yet, you are taking a chance bringing in any new birds. In fact, the new birds could be bringing in something for the Macaw to get, so have both of them checked out by an Avian Vet before they come home. If the breeder is in a big hurry, then request she take the birds into the Avian Vet herself so you know they are healthy. Then all you'll need to take care of is the Macaw. If you have any friends or family close by, ask them if they can take the Macaw into the Avian Vet. You would put bird in travel cage, and the Avian Vet will get him in and out once he's there. Offer to pay their gas and maybe a little extra plus whatever expenses are incurred. Also, anyone, other than you, the owner, taking a pet to any kind of vet has to have a short, to the point release form signed and dated by you. This gives the people taking your bird in the authorization to be bringing him in instead of you, so don't forget the release form. A simple form stating your name and address, and bird's name and species, and that you are authorizing, name and address or just name is enough to take your bird to Avian Vet because you cannot drive to get him there will be sufficient.

Just tell the breeder that unless she wants to take your Macaw and your new birds to Avian Vet, she will have to wait until you are able to drive. Sounds like one bird is about all you can take care of right now anyway, so try and relax. Best of luck and keep us posted. I LOVE all things Macaw, so thank you very much for being willing to take this one in. They are beautiful little birds, and you are fortunate to have him.I'm sending best hopes and wishes that your back heals quickly and correctly!


Jan 05, 2011
Bird scratching ear
by: Tracie

The pictures worked great! My mom's Hahn's macaw would hold it's head like it had a headache too. We thought it was cute. But, her bird did not scratch at it like you describe.

I know you said the vet is over 2 hours away, but I think it is the only way to make sure your bird doesn't have an infection. Honestly, I would not take in any bird without a vet check first. A bird can have a disease for years, passing it along to other birds, before showing symptoms.

As a matter of fact, our avian vet suggests that you get your birds vaccinated because you can bring disease home with you on your clothing just from visiting a place that has birds.

I am sorry I can not assure you your bird is well. :-(

I am sending your question to Dr B, so you can expect an answer from our Avian Vet within a couple of days.

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