Sometimes, a macaw will lose its feathers due to plucking, an underlying health condition, or the natural molting process. You may begin to wonder whether your macaw’s feathers will grow back or if it’ll stay bald forever.
Will the feathers grow back?
A macaw’s feathers will grow back as long as the follicles aren’t damaged. Follicle damage happens when the macaw plucks vigorously, whether due to an infection, parasite, or stress. Feathers lost because of the natural molting process or a condition like hypothyroidism will grow back.
A Macaw’s Feathers Will Sometimes Grow Back
Parrots’ feathers naturally fall out and grow back in again through the process of molting.
However, they can also be plucked out by either the bird or another bird, in which case the feathers will only sometimes grow back.
The feathers won’t grow back if the plucking damages the follicles, responsible for the growth of new hairs.
You can tell that the feathers lost are from molting and not plucking if they seem to disappear in a symmetrical pattern.
Molting typically happens one or two times per year and is a perfectly healthy and normal process.
Follicle damage usually occurs from either vigorous, repeated pecking or removing a feather before it’s ready to fall out.
Sometimes, the follicle will stick to the plucked feather, and other times it’ll stay in place but simply be too damaged to produce another feather.
This results in permanent, irregular baldness.
Why Do Macaws Pluck Their Feathers?
Macaws pluck their feathers out for several reasons, many of which are signs of illness or distress.
If your macaw has started plucking out its feathers, it’s a good idea to consult an avian veterinarian to figure out what’s causing the behavior.
Here are the most common reasons macaws may pluck their feathers:
Stress or Boredom
One reason why macaws pluck out their feathers is stress or boredom due to a wide range of environmental factors (loud noise, a recent move, or a change in cage location).
Even something as small as new paint color can upset a parrot and trigger feather-plucking.
Too little stimulation can also cause stress and boredom in your parrot.
In this case, feather-plucking could signal that your macaw isn’t getting enough time outside its cage or needs more time interacting with you.
If your macaw doesn’t have toys, now would be a good time to invest in a few.
Feather loss can also be a sign of poor health.
Your parrot could be plucking due to skin irritation from a bacterial infection or a parasite infestation or due to a metabolic disease brought on by poor nutrition.
Feather loss can also result from hypothyroidism and psittacine circovirus, although these are less common triggers.
When parrots pluck out each other’s feathers, it’s usually a sign of aggression.
This behavior may happen when you suddenly introduce a new cagemate to your bird or any other time birds are establishing a hierarchy.
When this happens, separate the birds to avoid the permanent loss of feathers and other damage.
What To Do if Your Macaw Is Losing Its Feathers
The right approach when your macaw is losing its feathers depends on the cause of the problem. If your macaw has been plucking its feathers, try to sort out the cause.
Have there been any recent, stressful changes contributing to the problem? If so, try to mitigate these issues and provide familiar comforts to your bird.
If your macaw has been plucking and you suspect that the root cause is boredom, spend more time interacting with your bird outside the cage, and providing plenty of attention and room to explore a new environment.
You can also try introducing a new toy, like the DELOKEY Bird Chewing Toy.
If the feather loss seems to come out of nowhere and the pattern of loss is irregular, consult an avian veterinarian, as this could be a sign of a serious problem whether the bird has been plucking or not.
The sooner that you visit a veterinarian and get a diagnosis, the more likely you’ll be able to address the problem before permanent baldness can set in.
Make sure that your macaw has a balanced diet appropriate for the species. Kaytee makes Kaytee Macaw Food, which provides all the nutrients that they need.
If you’ve been relying on a seed-based diet, it’s a good idea to switch to pellets instead.
Finally, if you have multiple birds and suspect that they’re plucking each other, separate the two and make sure that they’re both getting plenty of food, time, and attention.
The more they feel their needs are taken care of, the less they’ll feel like they need to compete to get what they need.
Does Baldness Cause Health Problems in Macaws?
Permanent baldness can cause several problems for macaws, like:
- The loss of feathers can make it hard to keep warm.
- Irregular balding patterns make it difficult for birds to take flight and to stay in the air.
- Without a full set of feathers, birds are less water-resistant and can’t tolerate a bath as easily. Make sure that you dry off your parrot after a bath if it has bald patches.
- If your bird takes excursions outside, it may become burned by the sun without the protection of its feathers on its bald spots.
When Do Feathers Need To Be Removed?
A bird’s feathers actually need to be plucked to avoid dangerous blood loss in some special cases. This happens when a bird’s pin feathers, or blood feathers, are broken.
These are brand new feathers that have blood vessels running through them, bleeding when they break.
As these feathers grow and mature, the blood vessels inside them become atrophied and die and are no longer a bleeding risk for your parrot.
A bird will usually remove a broken blood feather on its own, but you can remove it to stop the bleeding when it doesn’t.
It’s essential that you do this carefully and consult an expert if you’re unsure how to do it. These feathers are very sensitive, and you don’t want to hurt your bird.
How To Remove a Broken Blood Feather
Generally, the right way to remove a broken blood feather is by restraining the bird safely in a towel, grasping the feather with either fingers, pliers, or tweezers, and pulling in the direction of feather growth.
This will stop the bleeding and stimulate the growth of a new feather in its place.
If the broken feather is on the bird’s wing, take extra care to securely support the wing against the direction of the pull throughout the process.
After pulling the feather, if the feather was particularly large, there may be a short bleeding period afterward, although the bleeding will generally stop.
If bleeding happens after plucking the feather, apply gentle pressure to the follicle.
A veterinarian will gladly do this procedure if you’re uncomfortable with the process and don’t have the experience necessary to do it safely.
Macaws lose their feathers for various reasons, whether that be the infestation of a parasite or plucking that results from boredom.
These feathers will only grow back if there hasn’t been any damage to the follicle.
The sooner you address the root cause of the feather loss, the more likely it is that you’ll avoid follicle damage and permanent baldness.