Excessive Preening

Hopefulworld

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Apr 23, 2018
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Charlie (aka. Coco) - Green cheek conure - Born August 12, 2017
My mom and I have a green cheek conure, who just turned 1. However, we've noticed he's constantly preening. He has tons of toys, which we change so he doesn't get bored, and we take him out and play with him every chance we get. The vet says he's a very well socialized bird. He plays, talks, sings and does small tricks like dancing to a specific song or giving kisses.

Often though, in the middle of playing, dancing, or just sitting on us, he will stop and preen. I'm a bit worried because it's constant. As in he'll have just finished 5 minutes of cleaning himself, and then 2 minutes later he's back at it. He doesn't have any bald spots, is a healthy bird and is on a very well balanced diet. We're just worried his preening has become a bit obsessive, almost like he's a neat freak. The only incident of a feather that shouldn't have fallen out was a flight feather. He was having a shower with my mom and something startled him. He took off and had a bit of a rough landing in the shower. 30 seconds later his big flight feather, very literally, fell out. What was worrying about this situation was there seemed to be a bit of blood on the tip of the feather that is connected to him, but our bird never made a sound of pain.

Anyway, should we be worried by what seems to be excessive cleaning of his feathers? Or is it normal that they should spend a long time cleaning, and then let's say you pet them or give them a scratch on the shoulders, the clean themselves all over again? As I'm writing this, he's cleaned himself at least 5 times, in no more than 15-20 minutes (scratching and cleaning feathers).

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Laurasea

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Aug 2, 2018
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Hi he looks beautiful! Welcome! I'm not sure? Birds like to preen be social, when feathers getting out of line during play. Make sure your hands ate clean, no lotion or perfume on then them. I have had green cheek for 17 years but I have never paid attention to how often they preen, as I type my girl is preening right now lol. I think As long as she isn't pulling feathers or tearing them up your ok. Do you offer her baths, or sprits with a clean never used before spritzer? They like baths.
 

noodles123

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Jul 11, 2018
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Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Preening can be a self-soothing issue (like thumb-sucking). It is best to provide alternative activities whenever possible (because when it is a habit/crutch, it can be harder to break). That having been said, you also don't want to pay so much attention to it that you inadvertently reward an attention-seeker via undesirable behavior. Check humidity and diet....Make sure blood-work is normal...Make sure you are only petting the bird in ways that DO NOT induce nesting types of behavior, and finally, my cockatoo is less inclined to overpreen when she has been misted with water (not as a punishment, mind you). She prefers to preen dry feathers, 100%.
 

ChristaNL

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If you are kissing him with any kind of lipgloss/ chapstick/ listick on ... you get gunk on the feathers (no idea if you are... just thinking out loud).
There is alway the option of feathermites of course- but then he'd be scratching a lot as well.

Birds preen a lot (just like cats are always grooming) they need everything in perfect working order for optimal survival.... excessive preening is if the feathers are showing signs of wear an tear.

Sometimes while petting a bird you can get a feather out of place that will cause discomfort (they are all attached, so the bird gets non-stop feedback from them) and he will readjust it for you.

(is it not easier to zoom in on the bird if you do not make selfies? or does he take off? it's hard to see details this way)
 

texsize

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It's a good question. How much is too much.
It's something I worrie about with my Bella because she was badly plucked when I got her.

I also have a Cockatiel that plucks but I don't watch her so I never catch her at it.


So long as she not pulling feathers out I would not draw attention to the behavior.
 

lplummer52

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I've always heard that if a bird preens consistently, it is a healthy bird. Your bird looks great and you're very pretty too!
 

MonicaMc

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Yay!!! He's got a blue butt!!!! And yes, I find that cool! :p :D


It does appear to be some feather bronzing on the feathers on the "back" aka wing area. This is the discoloration at the tip of the feathers.

This could be due to improper diet, lighting, handling or even over-preening. Maybe his feathers are somehow getting "dirty" (lotion on hands?) and it's bothering him so he's preening to try and remove? (just a thought)
 
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Hopefulworld

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Apr 23, 2018
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Charlie (aka. Coco) - Green cheek conure - Born August 12, 2017
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If you are kissing him with any kind of lipgloss/ chapstick/ listick on ... you get gunk on the feathers (no idea if you are... just thinking out loud).
There is alway the option of feathermites of course- but then he'd be scratching a lot as well.

Birds preen a lot (just like cats are always grooming) they need everything in perfect working order for optimal survival.... excessive preening is if the feathers are showing signs of wear an tear.

Sometimes while petting a bird you can get a feather out of place that will cause discomfort (they are all attached, so the bird gets non-stop feedback from them) and he will readjust it for you.

(is it not easier to zoom in on the bird if you do not make selfies? or does he take off? it's hard to see details this way)
I'm taking the pictures off my computer sadly, so there is only the webcam which shows me and the bird. Not exactly sure how to take pictures of my phone and get them on my computer.

My mom and I never use perfume, lotion, lipstick or anything. And we are making sure to pet him in ways that do not induce nesting behavior of any sorts. We also give him showers on a daily basis. So it's normal than for him to preen constantly?
 
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noodles123

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Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
I don't know about constantly..
I have always wondered how much is too much as well.
How long does it last and is the length increasing?
If he is doing it more and more and for longer periods, I would be worried that this was a coping mechanism for boredom, anxiety, tactile sensations, you name it.
However, if it is staying the same, feathers look okay and the bird doesn't resort to this behavior as an alternative to healthier options, then I am guessing you are okay...
 

EllenD

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As long as you aren't noticing any of his feathers looking like they are "over-preened". With Green Cheeks, as Monica already pointed out on your bird, they tend to get a little obsessive with the feathers in their shoulder area and upper back. That seems to be one of the very first places they start out over-preening, and you can tell this because eventually the tips of the feathers on their shoulders and upper back start to become frayed, or kind of "chopped-up" looking...So it's not that they are actually "plucking" or pulling their feathers out, but they are over-preening and actually chewing on the tips of their feathers until they start to get scraggly and chewed on the ends. That's when you know that you may have an issue, as this is a feather-destructive behavior, and can lead to them eventually plucking.

I can't tell in those photos whether or not your bird's feathers are over-preened, you'd have to post a close-up of his back. They do look to be a bit "bronzed", as Monica pointed out, so it could be that he's concentrating on those particular feathers. The hard part is trying to figure out why he's doing it. Sometimes it's extremely difficult to figure out, as they have all the toys in the world, they're never locked in their cage, they get all kinds of attention, they eat a great diet, and yet they still over-preen or pluck. I had a Budgie who did this to the feathers on his shoulder and back, you couldn't really notice it until you got a close look at him, then you could see that the tips of the feathers on his back were all chewed-up. We tried everything, including blood-work and cultures at his Avian Vet, and everything was fine. For whatever reason he just kept doing it, like an addictive sort of behavior. It didn't effect his flying, so we just kept showering him daily and making sure that we tried to distract him whenever we saw him doing it.

If you have had your Green Cheek to a Certified Avian Vet or Avian Specialist Vet for a yearly wellness-exam, then that's where you should start. It's a very good idea to find an experienced Avian Specialist that you trust, and get basic, baseline blood-work done on him to check for infection, anemia, liver function, kidney function, etc. And then you do this once every year and you'll have the baseline values to compare with each year. Sometimes it's an infection causing it, sometimes it's a parasite like feather-mites, sometimes it's even a kidney or liver issue. And with birds hiding all outward signs of illness and/or pain for as long as they can, it's very important to stay ahead of the game anyway and do at least a once-yearly "wellness exam" that includes both routine blood-work and cultures, in addition to a complete physical exam.
 

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