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Dr. Taus
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
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Experience:  Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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Hi,I have a 17 to 18-year-old cockatiel and his face is starting

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I have a 17 to 18-year-old cockatiel and his face is starting to look raggedy. I'm scared that he may be plucking. Is it, by any chance, molting season? There are a lot of little feathers in his cage and his daytime area (a fenced in place in my living room.) He was originally my parent's bird and they let him walk around free in their house during the day - the fenced area is my feeble attempt at that. My folks died - my mom last year and now I've got him. I took care of my mom for almost three years and so the bird knows me well. I know he isn't getting as much interaction as he did with them - I'm scared he may be bored or possibly ill. My main question right now is: is it molting season?
Hi there,

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. It's great, though, that your bird is able to live with someone he knows, since you've opened your home to him, rather than having to be rehomed with a stranger.

Cockatiels are naturally tropical or subtropical birds, and as such, they don't have a distinct molting season. They actually continuously molt low numbers of feathers throughout the year. 2-3 times a year, you may find heavier numbers of feathers on the cage floor and he may appear to have more "dandruff" associated with heavier molting. This can occur at any time. We don't usually expect to see bald or featherless patches associated with normal molting.

Boredom and feather loss from picking usually start on the chest and sometimes the wings. Rubbing just the face is unusual, but can happen.
Although it sounds as if you are doing everything you can to ease his transition, this is still a stressful time for him, so feather plucking is a valid concern. Some things you can do to help at home are:

-Be sure he is eating a balanced diet to encourage feather growth. I recommend pelleted complete diets (Zupreem and Mazuri make excellent products), because this eliminates the bird picking out the tastiest morsels and leaving behind important nutrients.

-Change his toys frequently. Let him keep his favorites, but rotate the others so there's always something new to do if you aren't around at home.

-Many cockatiels enjoy misting from a spray bottle or even a full shower once every week or two. It encourages preening to keep the feathers healthy, and it's fun. If he doesn't enjoy it or finds it scary, it's not worth forcing, but most actually like it.

-If the ragged areas are getting bigger or you see him scratching, or if the higher numbers of feathers in the cage floor persist beyond a couple of weeks, consider a trip to the vet to check the underlying skin. Birds are prone to a variety of bacterial and fungal infections that can cause feather loss and skin irritation. By examining the area and possibly looking at samples under the microscope, the vet may be able to prescribe something to clear up the condition. It's worthwhile to watch him for a week or two, since he may very well be in molt, but if he's not, medical attention would be the next step.

I hope this is helpful. If so, please rate me positively, and don't hesitate to let me know how I can help further.
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