Birds of a Feather…Often Have Problems

Captive birds incur damage when tail and wing feathers continually brush against the sides of wire caging or the wall of too-small enclosures. A bird’s survival can depend on the condition of its feathers. Broken feathers with ragged edges will impair the ability to survive when the bird is released. Birds in rehab need an environment that is comfortable, offers enough space with several different branch sizes, plus places to hide. (Yes, birds like privacy also!) A balanced diet that closely matches the bird’s natural one is most important for proper feather development. If a bird with damaged feathers is released, he likely will need to be rescued again. Damaged feathers diminish his ability to fend for himself in the wild and escape from predators. Good feathering is necessary for flight, for insulation and for waterproofing. Some feathering problems that we see on rescued birds include: White feathering – feathers that are unnaturally white in areas where they would normally have color. This may be due to a genetic albinism. However, it is more likely that white feathers are a result of a nutritional deficiency. White feathers are not as strong as “normal” ones and the shafts can easily break. Stress Marks – feathers that have a definite mark across one area indicate the extreme stress of a nutritional deficiency has occurred at a certain point in the feather development. The feathers across one area of the tail, wings or body may have a serrated appearance due to stress. Lack of waterproofing is another problem that occurs in captive birds – this may be due to nutritional problems or an injury the prevents the bird from normal preening.
This article appeared in Bird Tracks 2010 edition and was written by Nancy.

Leave a Comment