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Hello. My name is***** and I am an avian veterinarian that can answer your question. I understand that 3 of your cockatiels are losing feathers on their heads and face. There is a parakeet who splits time living in the cockatiel cage and canary cage. Is that a correct summary? Can you please tell me if the parakeet is losing feathers in any places?
The main causes of feather loss on the head is from trauma. Other possibilities include mites or bacterial/fungal infection, but I would suspect a dominance pecking to be the first possibility.
Feather picking is a bit unusual in a cockatiel and more likely to be medical than what we see in many other parrot species. However, with a parakeet in the mix then I would strongly suspect a cage mate picking. Poor nutrition can also be a factor if the diet is primarily a seed based food, which is typically deficient in vitamin A and other essential nutrients needed for proper feather growth.
Is it possible to keep the parakeet separated from the cockatiels?
Either a bacterial or fungal infection would require topical and/or oral treatment. That is also the case for a feather mite, although a mite is not expected in this location (usually with flight feathers). A culture of the area will help to determine if this is a factor. Does the diet appear to be a factor - is it a seed based diet?
That is a common problem once they get hold of the seed food. A diet change will need to be done in a gradual manner and usually forage toys are needed to help make this transition (http://hari.ca/our-products/toys/foraging/foraging-toys/). Birds are taken to a separate cage where there is a foraging toy (start with an easy toy first and gradually work up to more complicated ones) to mimic what is done in the wild. Cockatiels, parakeets, etc. will travel long distances where they will forage for the day and then travel back to roost. A separate cage where they are left to forage and interact with the food (start with seed/pellet mixture and gradually transition to pellet) is recommended and then no food in their roosting cage. That is the recommendation for the transition, but it is a difficult process in birds. It takes months (i.e. 2-3 or more sometimes) to make a transition, so patience is an absolute necessity.
Regarding the feather loss, if the one that is possibly doing dominant head pecking has been removed then the diet and infectious/parasite issues need to be addressed next.
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