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Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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Why has my cockatiels tail feathers all fallen off

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My cockatiel is a little over 4 months old. All of his tail feathers have fallen off. Is this normal or should I be concerned?

Hi Sunny. Had your bird lost the feathers before you bought him or has he lost them since coming home with you? Was he a pet store bird? Are you saying he has none of the long tail feathers left at all? Are you also seeing a lot of the body feathers shedding also? So I can help you from the nutrition standpoint, please tell me everything your bird gets to eat everyday. The extra information will help me to give you my best advice. Thanks, Patricia

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Patricia's Post: He lost his tail feathers after I bought him. His last tail feather fell off about a week ago. He was bought from a breeder. Yes, he has no tail feathers at all. Yes, I am seeing a lot of other feathers falling off as well...he seems to be getting a lot of new feathers in around his head area. I feed him mostly seed diet (he still won't eat pellets)...and the occasional fruit and vegetable.

Okay, thanks for that extra information. It's very helpful. Your bird is at the age where it may be starting it's first adult molt. If so, it may be a heavy one with it losing a lot of both body and flight feathers. That molt is normal and you will see at least one of these heavy molts each year for the rest of it's life. You may even see more than one. It is not normal for them to lose every single one of the tail feathers at once. It should be a gradual replacement process, just as it is with the rest of the body. However, it's not necessarily anything to get alarmed about so long as your bird is eating well, you are observing all safety measures so far as household toxins and you have seen no symptoms of illness. If there is any possibility that any one, a small child another pet, has grabbed at the tail feathers, or if there is a toy or a place in the cage where he might have gotten a feather stuck, that would be an explanation. They have the ability to release their tail feathers if they should get caught in, or by, something. The problem is going to be that until those feathers are replaced totally, the bird is going to be off balance, will not be in complete control and if allowed free flight around the house, is at risk of injury from flying into something. That feather replacement could take several months. As for diet, don't be surprised if you are never very successful getting him to try any fruit. Most Tiels don't seem to care for fruit. From my experience, those who will eat fruit are in the minority. A good brand of pellets will be good for him, if you can get him to eat some. The ones I've had the most success with, with my Tiels are the LaFeber with no added colors. I mix them in with their seed mix, approximately 1/3 seeds, 2/3 pellets. But, pellets or not, veggies and other items should make up the majority of his diet. The sooner you start offering them, the more likely you will be to have success. The longer they have mostly seeds available, the more likely they are to end up as picky eaters. Many will not sample new things the first few times it's offered. But it's up to us to be persistent and keep offering. They will eventually sample different things. They may not end up likeing some of everything but they should end up eating enough of a variety to stay in good health and not develop liver problems. (Liver problems being one of the main things they are at risk for, if eating too many seeds.) He can have things like cooked brown rice, cooked pastas, well cooked bean mixes, hard boiled or scrambled eggs and green leafy items like kale, mustard, collard and turnip greens and Romaine lettuce. No ice berg because it has no nutritional value and no spinach because it contains oxylates that can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Speaking of calcium, make sure there is always a cuttle bone available. If it should turn out that you have a female, that never ending calcium supply is even more critical to her health. During these molts, and really at all times, you should give him the opportunity to bathe, at least once a week. You can offer a shallow dish that is large enough for him to spread his wings and get a good soaking bath. A pie pan is one good choice. You can also try misting him but if you try that method, don't ever spray directly on him. Spray from above and let it mist down as if it's raining. If you have, or can get, a couple aloe plants, the juice from them is very good for our birds, both inside and out. For bathing purposes, you can cut an arm from the plant, slit it open and squeeze the juice into the bath water. It is especially helpful during molts as it will soften those itchy pin feathers and it's great for skin and feather conditioning. Since it's totally harmless, it doesn't matter how strong you make the mix and no harm comes from them ingesting some as they preen. For now, I would not get too excited about the tail feathers. Just be very alert for any symptoms of an illness. One of the problems we have with our parrots is their very strong instinct to mask all symptoms of illness or injury, from us. In the wild, they are prey and to show weakness is to get kicked out of the safety of the flock. By the time we see any symptoms, it's because they are too sick and too weak to keep up the pretense. A couple of the first things we will be able to notice is a change in behavior, (less playing, less or no talking, etc.), any change in the appearance of the droppings that lasts more than 24 hours and cannot be accounted for by diet. For example, a lot of fruits or veggies one day can make more runny droppings but it should not last more than a day, then go back to normal. Other symptoms are sitting with feathers fluffed, giving up the perches and staying on the cage floor, and sleeping an inordinate amount of time. If you should ever see even one of those symptoms, it's time to get to your Avian vet. I'm going to give you several links about basic Tiel care, diet and safety issues you must be alert for, including the toxins I mentioned. There will also be links to help you locate your nearest avian vet, in case you don't already have one. I urge you to get a proper vet located and put the information will all your other emergency numbers. If and when the time comes you need one, more than likely it will be an emergency and you won't have time to be searching for one. I hope this is helpful for you but if you have any more questions at all, just let me know. Patricia

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