Bad molt or feather plucking?

Sultan023

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Aug 26, 2021
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Green Cheek Conure
Hello all.

I have been having some deep concerns with my green cheek conure, Hawk. My wife and I moved to a new place due to having a new job. Recently Hawk has been losing a lot of feathers. I at first suspected it was molting given the time of year, but as time went on, the feathers went from small downy feathers to bigger ones. In the span of a few weeks, Hawk has been losing a lot of feathers. Sometimes we come home and see what looks to be a fistful of feathers on the ground in front of his cage.

For context, I'll explain Hawk's living situation: he has a decent sized cage, lots of toys, treats, and after work we spend time with him on the couch from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. Every morning from about 7-8:30am he's with us and weekends are pretty much dedicated to us as a family.

Around three weeks ago is when we noticed a lot of downy feathers on the bottom of the cage and the floor. About a week later his front became patchy and a week after that he slowed. Then today we came home to his entire front pretty much feather free. (Pictures below for reference.)

Hawk was molting pretty bad last year, but not on this level. We don't see chewed up feathers. He also continues to preen himself and just seems to have feathers come out without any effort. Even as I was typing this with Hawk snuggled up to my hand, he was preening and three feathers just came off, one just by me giving him scritches. He also is showing growth on his front, which might be signs of just a really bad molt.

We're really scared, confused and don't know what to do. We know on average we are spending more than 4 hours a day and plenty on the weekend with Hawk, we load his treat areas every day, offer fresh fruit and veggies, and give him lots of baths. We even give him outside cage time, with the TV on the news while we're at work.

Is this a bad molt or are we just not giving him what he needs and he's now plucking? Please help.
 

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ravvlet

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Definitely bring him in to see a vet. I have personally never seen a bird drop so many feathers they’re functionally bald in one spot; not even poultry. There are a number of diseases and issues that can cause the feather shaft to weaken or become brittle.

Your little friend is very cute and it sounds like you guys are taking great care of him, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this surprise issue!
 

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Welcome to the forums, sorry you’ve come here under these unfortunate circumstances!

It appears Hawk is plucking his belly. First things first! An avian vet visit is in order, plucking can be from an environmental factor but a bird that begins to pluck should have a blood test done to rule out a medical cause.

A few things I’d address too, I’d aim for 12 hours of sleep.
Another thing, limiting fruit and excess sugar in the diet is very helpful. Does he eat pellets?

Those PVC pipes could also be causing nesting behaviors.

I can’t tell from the pictures but does he have toys to destroy?
That’s good that you provide him with foraging opportunities, that definitely helps with engaging his mind.

Edit: Sorry @ravvlet didn’t see your message! 😅
 
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Sultan023

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Green Cheek Conure
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Thanks for the love, guys.

I'll try to answer each question as it comes. right now I'm tired and have been devastated from this, so my mind won't be as sharp as it usually is.

I'll arrange to see an avian vet asap. We moved into the new place about a month ago and only about a week after getting the lease settled had to get to our new jobs. We've basically only had 2 weekends to have full days to ourselves and finding a vet along with dentist, doctor, and everything else in between has been a lot of strain on everyone, Hawk included.

Hawk does have destroyable chew toys. The toilet paper roll on the top is his favorite and his branch has a lot of areas to chew on too. It's made of manzanita and he will sometimes even chew on the wood itself. He can go in and out of the cage whenever he likes, which we found is a lot better for him since he is a very active bird.

Hawk will eat pellets. We give him a mix. It's a majority roudybush pellets with a small amount of zupreme fruit mix pellets and a little oatmeal to give him options.

Hawk is a fruit nut. He loves all kinds of fruit and will steal any fruit we are eating. However before we leave, we'll leave a slice of fruit for him to snack on and keep himself busy and moving around to get to the food/treats he likes. I will say in the summer when we have the most fruit available, he'll eat somewhere between half an apple slice to a pitted cherry, but usually by the time one of us comes home, he's lost interest in it and will have eaten maybe 75% of it.

We'll give him chop, but he's hated the chop we made for him this go around, so we're going to try again with what he usually goes for.

The pvc tubes have been my idea since the time I got him about 3-4 years ago. My wife and I have back and forths on it all the time. He will usually go in the tubes just to sleep, nap or hide. He became territorial about it when he was reaching his terrible 2s. After that, he was pretty chill about it. While he's not dna tested, we are pretty sure he's a male. That being said, his bed time is around 9 pm and he's usually up by 7 am. We try to give him long bed times, but it's hard to get him to sleep in the summer when the sun is out for so long.

I'm grateful tomorrow is Friday, so we can at least see what our options are for the weekend. I want what's best for Hawk, and I am open to every opinion to make sure he's healthy. This has been really hard on the both of us. Hawk's behavior hasn't changed a bit, which is most important, but it's easy to feel like you've failed your feathered friend when they have such a bad case of feather loss.
 
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onamom

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So sorry you and Hawk are going through this. This resource may help you find an avian vet near you:

 

DonnaBudgie

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Hello all.

I have been having some deep concerns with my green cheek conure, Hawk. My wife and I moved to a new place due to having a new job. Recently Hawk has been losing a lot of feathers. I at first suspected it was molting given the time of year, but as time went on, the feathers went from small downy feathers to bigger ones. In the span of a few weeks, Hawk has been losing a lot of feathers. Sometimes we come home and see what looks to be a fistful of feathers on the ground in front of his cage.

For context, I'll explain Hawk's living situation: he has a decent sized cage, lots of toys, treats, and after work we spend time with him on the couch from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. Every morning from about 7-8:30am he's with us and weekends are pretty much dedicated to us as a family.

Around three weeks ago is when we noticed a lot of downy feathers on the bottom of the cage and the floor. About a week later his front became patchy and a week after that he slowed. Then today we came home to his entire front pretty much feather free. (Pictures below for reference.)

Hawk was molting pretty bad last year, but not on this level. We don't see chewed up feathers. He also continues to preen himself and just seems to have feathers come out without any effort. Even as I was typing this with Hawk snuggled up to my hand, he was preening and three feathers just came off, one just by me giving him scritches. He also is showing growth on his front, which might be signs of just a really bad molt.

We're really scared, confused and don't know what to do. We know on average we are spending more than 4 hours a day and plenty on the weekend with Hawk, we load his treat areas every day, offer fresh fruit and veggies, and give him lots of baths. We even give him outside cage time, with the TV on the news while we're at work.

Is this a bad molt or are we just not giving him what he needs and he's now plucking? Please help.
Hawk is such a cutie and it sounds like you are devoted to making sure he's a happy, healthy member of your family. A visit to an avian vet is first on the list and hopefully they will help solve Hawk's feather loss problem.

I have one suggestion that others haven't made- change the TV station when you're not at home to cartoons instead of the news. The bright colors and animation are so much more stimulating to birds than watching people talk about (depressing) things like our current events. When I was home sick with Covid a couple months ago for over two weeks my budgie and I watched colorful entertaining cartoons together. It even lifted MY spirits while I was sick!
Best wishes to you and Hawk!
 

ImaParrot

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Hawk is such a cutie and it sounds like you are devoted to making sure he's a happy, healthy member of your family. A visit to an avian vet is first on the list and hopefully they will help solve Hawk's feather loss problem.

I have one suggestion that others haven't made- change the TV station when you're not at home to cartoons instead of the news. The bright colors and animation are so much more stimulating to birds than watching people talk about (depressing) things like our current events. When I was home sick with Covid a couple months ago for over two weeks my budgie and I watched colorful entertaining cartoons together. It even lifted MY spirits while I was sick!
Best wishes to you and Hawk!
*hums Looney Tunes theme song*
Yep, I'd rather watch Bugs Bunny.
 
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Sultan023

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Green Cheek Conure
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Thanks for the continual suggestions and love guys. It means a lot to us and has been something that has helped us through this painful process.

My wife was able to get Hawk to a vet this morning. The vet said other than being slightly overweight (not serious, he's 64 grams), he's perfectly healthy and showing good signs of behavior and overall health. They said it is plucking but not out of depression, anxiety or loneliness. There were no signs of scabbing and the sign of pin feathers growing indicates it's not self destructive. Rather, it is something he picked up as a bad habit and is not serious in the long run, just something he needs to break. The vet likened it to nose picking and nail biting with kids. The vet recommended either a neck shield or a spray to prevent further plucking. They are recommending blood work to be done as well in case it goes deeper than behavior.

I assume the source to be a mixture of stress from the move and boredom, which has been biggest blow for us since we have done all we can to make sure Hawk is entertained and kept busy. He's very much a people person and has always preferred snuggling up to a shoulder, resting and preening while on a lap, or using us a taxi to get to the fruit bowl and pig out before hanging out on the porch with us and soak in some sun. My wife thinks the fact we aren't around as much made him pass the time by chewing on a couple feathers and it became a habit soon after.

As per recommendation, I'll start tuning into cartoons instead of the news. My reasoning for the news was the constant sound of people would help him feel less lonely, but the logic is sound as to why it may not be the best idea. We are trying our best to do what we can. If it comes down to it, I'll re-home him to my parents since there is almost always a person in the house and it may be the best way to prevent this problem from happening again. I really don't want to, but I don't have much of a choice.

Thanks again for all the love and advice. Its been tough, but we're taking it one step at a time.
 

Greenhouseparrots

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I'm glad he's healthy! I have the same cage as you for my conures too! There's not much space for loads of toys in it so I've had to be creative with the kind of toys and amount of toys I've got for them as they do get quite bored, even with around 4-5 hours out of their cages a day.

In the food bowls I put lots of foot toys with either seeds or pellets at the bottom to encourage them to forage for their food which keeps them busy. The foot toys I use change, but I use a variety of cork, dried pasta, large beads, discarded toy parts, scrunched up newspaper, apple sticks (for rabbits but birds love them) and anything else I can find that they can chew or at least have to move. I also have a hamster puzzle toy at the bottom of the cage (away from perches so it doesn't get covered in poop) that they have to move parts to get the food. I have a puzzle feeder for birds as well which is their favourite toy, but I've taken it out and use it outside now as they destroy it if they have access to it all the time.
 

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I just wanted to say, your vet said 64g is overweight for a green cheek?

The general weight for them is 60-80g, while I suppose your green cheeks body condition could be ‘fatty’ I would think not at the low end of the weight spectrum.
My green cheek is 78g but his body condition is perfect.
 

DonnaBudgie

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I just wanted to say, your vet said 64g is overweight for a green cheek?

The general weight for them is 60-80g, while I suppose your green cheeks body condition could be ‘fatty’ I would think not at the low end of the weight spectrum.
My green cheek is 78g but his body condition is perfect.
I wonder about this, too. It sounds like Hawk is very well taken care of and gets plenty of out of cage time so why would a vet say that a 64 gram well exercised GCC is fat? I have an English Budgie that weighs 65 grams (she's a big girl!) And GGCs are slightly larger than she is. I also wonder about the advice to use a spray on her to prevent feather plucking. If these really worked wouldn't all people with parrots that plucked be using them? I didn't think bad taste would have any affect since parrots don't have a highly developed senses of taste or smell. Sprays are better to repel mammals, aren't they? I also wonder about the gets determination that Hawk isn't plucking out of loneliness depression or boredom. How would a vet know after one vet visit? She said Hawk was developing a bad habit, and I suspect that may be true but aren't many bad habits from loneliness or boredom?
I guess I'm saying that I would take Hawk to a different avian vet. Misjudging a healthy weight by 20 grams would be a deal breaker for me. Hawk isn't fat.
I hope you don't have to re-home Hawk. He's so darn cute!
 
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Sultan023

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Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I discussed this with my wife and we agreed there are some things about the vet we are not too sure of. The reason the vet said Hawk is slightly overweight is because in her words, when she slid her fingers along the keel bone, she felt a little bit of "roundness" as opposed to having it feel completely defined. We try to keep Hawk in good condition with food, entertainment and sociability. Probably why this was such a big blow for us.

The remarks the vet mentioning Hawk's plucking as simply a bad habit was suspicious for me personally, but not my wife. However, we're not experts in the slightest. The vet we went to had only one bird specialist, and with the rush we were in, we were willing to get the one that could see us on such short notice.

If I were to have gone with my gut, I would have said Hawk was molting and the itchiness he felt from molting was compounded by the loneliness he feels when we're not around, leading to the immense feather loss. His personality is the same it has ever been. He is a cuddler that periodically likes to get treats and then chew on something to keep his beak busy. The fact that hasn't changed is where I am confused. Of course, that is a hypothesis and I am more than willing to accept that as false.

We will try getting a collar and see where that gets us. I ordered a few new toys too. I haven't considered foot toys since hawk just tosses them on the floor and thinks nothing else of it. I'll put that into consideration too. I can work with the cage size since the branch adds dimension and more places to explore.

As an update to Hawk's condition, I'll share a more close-up look at his body. Again, it looks like he's got a lot of pin feather growth. It is slightly relieving, but this whole thing has been a giant headache. On a more light note, I often say to my wife Hawk will be the death of me. It looks like he's getting close to accomplishing that. Lol
 

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DonnaBudgie

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Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I discussed this with my wife and we agreed there are some things about the vet we are not too sure of. The reason the vet said Hawk is slightly overweight is because in her words, when she slid her fingers along the keel bone, she felt a little bit of "roundness" as opposed to having it feel completely defined. We try to keep Hawk in good condition with food, entertainment and sociability. Probably why this was such a big blow for us.

The remarks the vet mentioning Hawk's plucking as simply a bad habit was suspicious for me personally, but not my wife. However, we're not experts in the slightest. The vet we went to had only one bird specialist, and with the rush we were in, we were willing to get the one that could see us on such short notice.

If I were to have gone with my gut, I would have said Hawk was molting and the itchiness he felt from molting was compounded by the loneliness he feels when we're not around, leading to the immense feather loss. His personality is the same it has ever been. He is a cuddler that periodically likes to get treats and then chew on something to keep his beak busy. The fact that hasn't changed is where I am confused. Of course, that is a hypothesis and I am more than willing to accept that as false.

We will try getting a collar and see where that gets us. I ordered a few new toys too. I haven't considered foot toys since hawk just tosses them on the floor and thinks nothing else of it. I'll put that into consideration too. I can work with the cage size since the branch adds dimension and more places to explore.

As an update to Hawk's condition, I'll share a more close-up look at his body. Again, it looks like he's got a lot of pin feather growth. It is slightly relieving, but this whole thing has been a giant headache. On a more light note, I often say to my wife Hawk will be the death of me. It looks like he's getting close to accomplishing that. Lol
Keep us posted. Hopefully all those pin feathers will grown in soon and Hawk will be back to normal. He really is adorable! Makes me want a green cheek but I have my hands full with eight budgies!
 
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Sultan023

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I will do so. Out of curiosity, what is the stance on collars? I was thinking of the cloth pancho collars to allow Hawk freedom to move and eat, but we are hesitant. I have heard horror stories of collars frustrating birds and needing to be put on them forever, which is hard as many just find ways to go around them. The fact Hawk has stopped and isn't going after his back feathers gives us reason to wait and see if the situation gets better, worse or the same. I also don't like the idea of having to add more stress to Hawk. The move was pretty hard on him already.
 

DonnaBudgie

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I will do so. Out of curiosity, what is the stance on collars? I was thinking of the cloth pancho collars to allow Hawk freedom to move and eat, but we are hesitant. I have heard horror stories of collars frustrating birds and needing to be put on them forever, which is hard as many just find ways to go around them. The fact Hawk has stopped and isn't going after his back feathers gives us reason to wait and see if the situation gets better, worse or the same. I also don't like the idea of having to add more stress to Hawk. The move was pretty hard on him already.
I would wait and see if Hawk stops before putting a collar on him. Others may have a different opinion and I'm not an expert at all.
 

DonnaBudgie

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I will do so. Out of curiosity, what is the stance on collars? I was thinking of the cloth pancho collars to allow Hawk freedom to move and eat, but we are hesitant. I have heard horror stories of collars frustrating birds and needing to be put on them forever, which is hard as many just find ways to go around them. The fact Hawk has stopped and isn't going after his back feathers gives us reason to wait and see if the situation gets better, worse or the same. I also don't like the idea of having to add more stress to Hawk. The move was pretty hard on him already.
If Hawk tends to toss foot toys on the floor of the cage try tying a piece of twine to them and hang them from the roof of the cage in an area where they perch most often so they can play with them and easily retrieve them when dropped.
 

Greenhouseparrots

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Crimson bellied conure- Tequila
Greencheek conure- Sierra
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Cockatiel- Volkan
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Blue budgie- Lightning
White and blue budgie- Ciroc
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I discussed this with my wife and we agreed there are some things about the vet we are not too sure of. The reason the vet said Hawk is slightly overweight is because in her words, when she slid her fingers along the keel bone, she felt a little bit of "roundness" as opposed to having it feel completely defined. We try to keep Hawk in good condition with food, entertainment and sociability. Probably why this was such a big blow for us.

The remarks the vet mentioning Hawk's plucking as simply a bad habit was suspicious for me personally, but not my wife. However, we're not experts in the slightest. The vet we went to had only one bird specialist, and with the rush we were in, we were willing to get the one that could see us on such short notice.

If I were to have gone with my gut, I would have said Hawk was molting and the itchiness he felt from molting was compounded by the loneliness he feels when we're not around, leading to the immense feather loss. His personality is the same it has ever been. He is a cuddler that periodically likes to get treats and then chew on something to keep his beak busy. The fact that hasn't changed is where I am confused. Of course, that is a hypothesis and I am more than willing to accept that as false.

We will try getting a collar and see where that gets us. I ordered a few new toys too. I haven't considered foot toys since hawk just tosses them on the floor and thinks nothing else of it. I'll put that into consideration too. I can work with the cage size since the branch adds dimension and more places to explore.

As an update to Hawk's condition, I'll share a more close-up look at his body. Again, it looks like he's got a lot of pin feather growth. It is slightly relieving, but this whole thing has been a giant headache. On a more light note, I often say to my wife Hawk will be the death of me. It looks like he's getting close to accomplishing that. Lol
To add on to him throwing the foot toys on the floor, my birds mostly throw their on the floor too but it entertains them a lot to do so. They sometimes go down and chew them up, but mostly they get thrown. It still gives them something to do and entertains them so I'd definitely start putting them back into his cage
 
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Sultan023

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Hello everyone.

Update to the situation with Hawk.

It has been approximately a week since he pulled almost all the feathers from his belly. He has not shown any further feather plucking. There are signs of pin feathers growing too. There was an instance on Wednesday where there were was a quarter-sized amount of downy feathers on the ground (picture for reference), but nothing out of the ordinary for bird that is molting.

In terms of changes, our work schedule has been more or less the same, which has me scratching my head as to why the situation started in the first place. I can only make an educated guess but the stress of moving, molting, and us not being around as much could have piled up and made what would have been a slow gradual molt a sudden one. Like having a beard where it itches on occasion and when you get stressed, are shedding hair and have idle hands, you begin to pull at it and scratch it aggressively.

We give him chop he likes regularly now (brown rice, steel cut oats, broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, Lima beans, green beans and kale). I scatter the nuts he likes in more varied places too. He doesn't seem to care too much about his foot toys, but he loves his shredding toys.

On a side note: Hawk used to have Swoop (an older GCC) as a friend. She sadly passed away about 6 months ago. They weren't bonded, but they did spend time together. I'm not really ready to consider adding another bird, but I am not against it if it keeps Hawk company and prevents this nightmare from happening again. I don't know if it will though. Adding another bird to the flock was a challenge given Hawk's age (he's about 4 years old).

Either way, I am glad to see there isn't a worsening of the situation. We're monitoring his health closely and giving him all the love we can.
 

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Greenhouseparrots

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Parrots
Crimson bellied conure- Tequila
Greencheek conure- Sierra
Pearled cockatiel- Malibu
Cockatiel- Volkan
Yellow budgies- Pina Colada and Houdini
Blue budgie- Lightning
White and blue budgie- Ciroc
Hello everyone.

Update to the situation with Hawk.

It has been approximately a week since he pulled almost all the feathers from his belly. He has not shown any further feather plucking. There are signs of pin feathers growing too. There was an instance on Wednesday where there were was a quarter-sized amount of downy feathers on the ground (picture for reference), but nothing out of the ordinary for bird that is molting.

In terms of changes, our work schedule has been more or less the same, which has me scratching my head as to why the situation started in the first place. I can only make an educated guess but the stress of moving, molting, and us not being around as much could have piled up and made what would have been a slow gradual molt a sudden one. Like having a beard where it itches on occasion and when you get stressed, are shedding hair and have idle hands, you begin to pull at it and scratch it aggressively.

We give him chop he likes regularly now (brown rice, steel cut oats, broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, Lima beans, green beans and kale). I scatter the nuts he likes in more varied places too. He doesn't seem to care too much about his foot toys, but he loves his shredding toys.

On a side note: Hawk used to have Swoop (an older GCC) as a friend. She sadly passed away about 6 months ago. They weren't bonded, but they did spend time together. I'm not really ready to consider adding another bird, but I am not against it if it keeps Hawk company and prevents this nightmare from happening again. I don't know if it will though. Adding another bird to the flock was a challenge given Hawk's age (he's about 4 years old).

Either way, I am glad to see there isn't a worsening of the situation. We're monitoring his health closely and giving him all the love we can.
I'm glad he's doing better! It does seem like the stress of everything was causing him to pluck
 

onamom

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Thanks for the update and glad to hear he has been doing better.
 

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