Posts Tagged ‘feathers’

A Bird-y Saturday

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

SamGarbageFirst order of the day was to clean cages!  Sam is in a nesting mode, so he snuck into the trash where I stash the old cage papers.  He did not want to leave….argh!  But a little tidbit helped change his mind.

Then I took Chipper to the vet to have his check and to have my avian vet check this weird feather he was growing.  Chipper has been molting heavily – as has everybody else except Sam – and it’s taken a long time for him to grow a new set of feathers.  He’s been lethargic and grumpy.

One of his primary feathers was starting to grow weird and then it became painful for Chipper.  He’d wince or squeak when he stretched.

So the doc just pulled it out.

Here is what it looked like – a spiral feather with a really heavy, thick shaft. The doc felt the strange growth occurred when it was growing out and probably got injured.

Chipper feels much better since it was pulled!

FeatherAnd then there was the matter of the TURKEYS…

Chipper and Charlie often sit, play, sing, chew boxes on top of their cages, a side of which faces the front door.   Whenever I’m home on mild or warm days, I open the inner door and just use the screen door in order to provide more light for the birds.

Of course, they also see whenever the deer traipse through the front yard, or if the neighbor’s calico cat stalks through.  These sightings are ho-hum for them.

On this day, however, they saw — EEEK!  These monstrously large VELOCIRAPTORS!  (Or otherwise know as wild turkeys.)  At least, to the cockatiels, they looked pretty bit and very scary…

turkey1Mass cockatiel hysteria ensued and I had to collect my two witless birds from various locations of the livingroom before they hurt themselves.

Well, all in a day’s work…

Charlie Molts

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Charlie has decided that it is a good time to molt.

Lest you think I never vacuum (admittedly, not my favorite pasttime, but I do it every week!) this pile of feathers is just a two-day accumulation.

Everywhere I walk in the living room, there are little drifts of creamy gray cockatiel feathers and down clusters.

You’d think he would look rather tatty and nearly featherless, but he’s got plenty left. While he is out of step with everybody else’s molting period, I think he’s got good timing. What better occasion to shed some extra warmth than during a heat wave?

Preening as Group Therapy

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

With four birds in my home, a lot of preening gets done every day. I don’t know how many feathers any of my parrots have individually, but an interesting factoid I found was that a bird may have as few as over 900 feathers (Ruby hummingbird) or as many as 25,000 (whistling swan in winter). Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of feathers to care for.

Preening is what takes care of the feathers, besides taking a bath – which my birds do regularly. Even after bathing, preening is necessary to get the feathers properly groomed and maintained; to add oil to the feathers to keep them waterproof and insulated. In the wild, it also helps to remove parasites and debris. (You can see tiny bits of down and keratin here on Sam’s head.)

And when birds are molting seasonally, it helps to remove the keratin sheathes that encase the new feathers. I’ve also read that it helps to strengthen relationships. That makes a lot of sense.


Whenever my birds preen, it is often “contagious” – that is, when one bird begins, usually everyone else follows suit. Group preening. It is one of the most soothing activities I’ve ever witnessed. Everybody quiets down to the focussed task of preening, and it can last for many minutes. I think it must be very important socially and emotionally for birds to preen in a group. Maybe it’s the original group therapy. After all, birds have been around a lot longer than we have.

One of the unexpected side benefits to me is that whenever this preening business happens and I’m present, I get caught up in the quiet, almost meditative atmosphere. When everybody has finished with a nice stretch, I sigh and collect myself for the next task ahead. Ahhh….