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Sophie Knafo
Sophie Knafo, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 9
Experience:  Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts Univeristy
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This question concerns what research says is called a

Customer Question

This question concerns what research says is called a 'Quaker Parrot/Monk Parakeet. The original owner said the the bird was three years old. The bird is green with a greyish chest & tummy. The bird is talkative, alert & eats well, although she (?) prefers mostly sunflower seeds and bread. In cleaning the cage today, I noticed two long feathers at the bottom of the cage along with two very small fluffy feathers. I see no other signs of problems... except - The plot thickens. I own a a retail, combination gift shop and antiques, store. The bird was originally placed on consignment here. In order to have total control over the bird, I purchased the bird from the Consignor. He remains for sale. The store is often closed during the week. Every morning, nevertheless, I go in around 9:15A and spend 45 minutes to an hour with the bird. We talk, I hand feed her, do her food bowls, water, et al. My Concern: I have read that feather picking is a sign of an emotional problem frequently caused by isolation. What do I do?
The bird cage is a large, tall cage that usually retails between $400 - $450. There is only one perch that extends across the cage. There is a 'gadget/toy' that hangs in the middle with suede-type cords hanging from it, a bell a the bottom, some chrome looking things that move at the top. The bird plays with this toy - loves it when I wiggle it vigorously and she joins in trying to catch the bell. The past couple of days, however, she has not wanted to play.
The store is open on the weekend. She loves customers coming in and visits and chats with them.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Sophie Knafo replied 6 months ago.

Hi, This is Dr. Knafo. From your color description, it does sound like you have a Quaker or Monk parakeet. The molting of feathers is normal and occurs several times through the year depending on nutrition and environmental factors. However, as you have said, feather picking or what we often call "feather destructive behavior" can be caused by emotional or psychological problems in birds. Certainly, medical problems can cause feather picking (skin infection for example). Given the scenario you describe, this bird could be very stressed from its isolation in the store when no one is there. Birds are very social flock animals and when they are alone they are stressed. This bird would benefit from a few things: first, feed 75% complete pelleted diet like Zupreme, Roudybush, Lafebers or another reputable bird food company. There are available at PetSmart or most other pet supply stores. The other 25% should be fresh produce like sweet potatoes, beans, carrots, berries, etc. Only a minor part of the diet should be seeds, nuts, or people food treats (no more than 5-10% of the diet). Poor diet sets bird up for nutritional deficiencies (vitamin A, E, C, calcium, etc) and excesses (mainly excess fat with regard to seeds). This can cause a host of diseases that are serious so good nutrition is the foundation of a healthy bird. Second, as you suspect this bird needs to be with other birds or with people to alleviate stress. Its possible that those feathers were naturally molted and not plucked by the bird, but if this set-up continues, this bird is at risk of developing "Quaker self-mutilation syndrome." We don't know for sure the underlying cause of this syndrome, but once its set in motion and a Quaker parrot is causing self-mutilation it can be very hard to treat. Best to do all we can to prevent it in the first place. Avian vets can be searched on the Association of Avian Veterinarians website. The third thing is that this bird should have an exam by an avian savvy veterinarian to ensure its otherwise healthy. Parrots can harbor infectious diseases contagious to people, and if the bird is in a store through which the public comes, then people which compromised immune systems (chemotherapy, organ transplant, elderly, etc) could be at risk of contracting a disease like Chlamydia (psittacosis) which could be serious. I hope this has been helpful information for you. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Take care, Dr. Knafo

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