Avian Behaviour

Looking for valuable information regarding positive reinforcement and behaviour, in addition to the articles below? Please refer to the “Education” section under the Resources tab.

Feather Picking, Plucking and Self-mutilation


Feather Picking and Self Mutilation in Companion Birds – Dr. Tara Sager

Feather plucking seldom has a single factor as the cause, and all possible reasons should be explored, including underlying medical problems. Possible medical causes for feather plucking include skin or internal parasites, liver disease, cancer, allergies and other inflammatory skin conditions, infectious diseases, metabolic or nutritional disorders, or heavy metal poisoning (notably zinc).

Malnutrition is a common contributing factor to feather plucking. Basic seed and table food diets often create nutritional deficiencies that cause abnormal skin and feather development. This can result in plucking behavior, as well as many other medical problems. The dyes and preservatives added to seeds and many pelleted diets may be detrimental to birds or can cause allergies. The relatively low humidity in most households also has a drying effect on the skin. Being deprived of natural sunlight, fresh air, humidity, and the normal light/dark cycle has negative physiologic and psychological effects on birds.

According to two avian veterinarians Parrot Resource Centre works with have shared: in most cases there is an underlying medical condition that triggers the picking which then turns behavioural to maintain it. It has been stated that 80% of feather picking is due to a medical condition and the reason why birds need to be seen immediately to diagnose and prevent the chronic behaviour from starting.


All articles have been shared with permission to Parrot Resource Centre from the author.

Appropriate Bird Handling

Pet Bird Noise 101

Acceptable Parrot Screaming

Ten Things Your Parrot Wants You to Know About Behaviour – Dr. Susan Friedman

Behavioural Problems in Companion Parrots – Greg Glendell

Feather Picking and Self Mutilation in Companion Birds – Dr. Tara Sager

Biting – Liz Wilson, CVT, CPBC

Positive Reinforcement Training – Barbara Heidenreich

Screaming – Barbara Heidenreich

What is Wrong with the Step Up Command – Barbara Heidenreich

Empowering Our Parrots – Kristi Flemming

Foraging: 12 Easy Steps – Kristi Flemming

“Good Bird” – Empowering Our Parrots to Choose Good Behaviour – Kristi Flemming

“Bad Bird” – Punishment and the Parrot – Kristi Flemming

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