The willful damage or destruction by a bird of its own feathers. The general term of “feather destructive behaviors” (or FDB) encompasses any form of a bird’s self-inflicted feather damage, including shredding the feathers, biting them off, pulling them out, etc.
Depending on the manner in which a bird damages its feathers, one might see anything from an overall rattiness of some feathers, to bald spots, to areas where abnormal numbers of down feathers are visible (meaning the overlying coverlet feathers have been removed). Contrary to what some sellers might say, a normal molt does not result in bald spots.
As avian behavioral consultant Sally Blanchard once commented, there are likely as many reasons birds might damage feathers as there are birds that damage feathers. A generalized symptom of stress, causes (etiologies) can range from medical issues (malnutrition, infections, systemic disease, allergies, etc.), to management issues (inadequate sleep, improper caging and cage location, etc.), to psychological problems (over-dependence, threatening children and/or other pets, stress in the owner’s life, etc.) Unlike some uneducated people’s opinions, a FDB bird does not automatically indicate the owner is a failure, that the bird is unhappy, or that the bird is sexually frustrated and needs a mate. FDB is usually much more complicated than that.
Since many of the possible causes of FDB are medical, the first step is to have a full medical work up done by an experienced avian veterinarian. After medical testing is accomplished without identifying a medical etiology, management practices need to be minutely analyzed. After management is studied and found to be adequate, then and only then can an owner assume that psychological stressors might form the basis for this behavior. Note: Please refer to the medical index on this site for further information regarding the medical causes of FDB.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.