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Recognizing the Symptoms of Over-Preening in Birds

Recognizing the Symptoms of Over Preening in Birds (1)

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Understanding Preening: A Natural Bird Behavior

Preening is a normal and essential behavior seen in birds. It’s their way of cleaning and caring for their feathers. Feathers, after all, play a pivotal role in a bird’s life. They help in flight, attract mates, and provide insulation. So, what’s the issue here?

The Purpose and Benefits of Normal Preening

Regular preening is a bird’s version of taking a bath and brushing hair combined. Through preening, birds remove dust, dirt, and parasites from their feathers. They also realign their feathers, which can get disrupted during flights or other activities. Preening also distributes oils across their plumage, enhancing its protective features. So, why does it sometimes go overboard?

What is Over-Preening in Birds?

Over-preening, also known as feather-plucking or feather-picking, is when a bird excessively preens to the point of self-harm. But, why would a bird harm itself? What could be the triggers?

Causes of Over-Preening

Stress and Anxiety in Birds

Just like humans, birds also undergo stress and anxiety. Changes in environment, loss of a mate, or boredom can lead to a bird feeling anxious. This anxiety often manifests as over-preening.

Physical Health Issues

Certain physical conditions such as skin diseases or parasites can cause discomfort to birds, leading them to over-preen in an attempt to alleviate their discomfort.

Recognizing the Signs of Over-Preening

Physical Signs

Feather Damage

Excessive preening may result in visible damage to the feathers. This could range from broken feather shafts to completely plucked-out feathers.

Bald Spots or Skin Lesions

Over time, over-preening can lead to bald patches on a bird’s body. In severe cases, it may even cause skin wounds or lesions due to constant pecking and scratching.

Behavioral Signs

In addition to physical symptoms, behavioral changes can also signal over-preening. Increased aggression, lack of appetite, or an unusual increase in preening activities might be indicators.

The Effects of Over-Preening on Bird Health

Over-preening can have serious implications on a bird’s health. It can lead to skin infections from open wounds, weakened immunity due to stress, and impaired flight from feather loss. The mental distress it indicates can be just as harmful.

When to Consult a Vet?

If you notice any signs of over-preening in your bird, it’s crucial to seek a veterinarian’s advice promptly. Prolonged over-preening can be detrimental to a bird’s physical and mental health.

How a Vet Can Help

A vet can diagnose the underlying causes of over-preening and propose a suitable treatment plan. This could involve changes in the bird’s environment, medications for physical conditions, or behavior modification techniques.


Over-preening in birds is a serious concern that requires prompt attention. Recognizing the symptoms early can make a significant difference in your bird’s wellbeing. With proper care, consultation, and intervention, it’s possible to control and even eliminate over-preening behavior.

mahatma gandhi portrait

- Mahatma Gandhi

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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