How To Get Flight Feathers To Grow Back?


New member
Apr 26, 2020
Hello again! I adopted my umbrella cockatoo a little over a year ago. I posted a few pictures and questions about his feather damage and plucking issues when we first brought him home. He is doing much better now, but he will not let any of his wing feathers grow back in.

Some background, we are at least his 3rd owners and he is about 9 years old. The people we got him from did not have much time from him and kept him in their garage caged most of the day. He has always plucked but not badly. Since we brought him home he is now only caged and night and gets a lot of attention. His feathers have improved dramatically except for his flight feathers.

I would like him to eventually be able to fly. I?ve read that it?s better for their physical and mental health to be flighted. However, He will not let his flight feathers grow out long enough for this to be possible. He doesn?t pluck them, but he over preens them so that the ends are all chewed off about halfway down the shaft. We have tried various collars to try and stop him, but none seem to help as he can reach around them all. His wings were clipped by the previous owners but we have never clipped them. He over preens his tail feathers as well be not quite as extensively. I will see new flight feathers grow in, sometimes he will have about half of them intact on each wing and I?ll be hopeful that he?s improving, but then eventually he will chew them all down again.

Has anyone else had a similar issue? Is there any way to disuade him from chewing on his flight feathers? He has plenty of toys, a good diet, lots of attention, seems happy and well adjusted other than this. Any thoughts/advice appreciated! Thanks


Supporting Member
Aug 21, 2010
San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Welcome back, linking original thread to refresh memories:

Overpreening aka "barbering" is subset of plucking though not as physically destructive. Is your bird generally fidgety and neurotic, sometimes the tendency is driven by basic personality? By way of analogy, I have 5 Goffins, three were hatched in my home within span of 4 years. All raised by same methodology, share identical foods, same environment. Four in perfect or near ideal feather, the fifth (Abby) barbers incessantly. Prime difference is high strung personality. No health issues, so I lean towards this as theory with some cockatoos. You may find this terrific narrative on plucking helpful:


Supporting Member
Jul 10, 2015
Western, Michigan
DYH Amazon
Of the different groups of feather types on a Parrot, flight feathers tend to be the most difficult to replace from behavioral plucking. This as a result of the much longer time it takes for them to be naturally replaced and to grow into place. Add discomfort and you can understand the why's.

Keep-up what you are doing and except your baby as is! She may never allow them to grow back or you may get lucky. Time will tell.


Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Hello and welcome:
If I missed this, make sure you take your bird to an avian vet (avian certified/CAV if at all possible). They must go yearly at get blood drawn (at minimum) every 3. A standard (even even, exotics vet) almost always lacks the skills/equipment/training -Excluding supportive care, taking a parrot to most DVM's is like if a freshman student took "intro to psych" and immediately became a psychiatrist after getting a B on their report card...for that class...Most seriously lack the training.....and if they don't admit it, that is also concerning.

**plucking is like an addition but it has some triggers--- at least, avoiding triggers can often reduce it even if it doesn't go away**-- It's a lot like someone who cuts themselves...and it can be very very tricky.

That having been said, how many hours sleep does she get in a quiet space/on-schedule nightly? a U2 needs 12 solid hours (MINIMUM).
When you touch her, do you pet outside the head and neck? If so, stop-- a hormonal bird can self destruct this way. The sleep also regulates hormones and immune health.
If you have any shadowy spaces (huts, tents, boxes, bedding, pillows, blankets, under furniture, low ledges etc) remove those too-- again, hormones.

Are you using chemical cleaners, fragrances etc in your home? If so, stop. They should not be around oils, cleaners, fragrances, teflon/pte/pfoa/pfcs etc-- if you are touching your bird with lotion on, or wearing perfume, this could all be related.

How large is your too's cage? (dimensions)

How many hours out of the cage does your too spend daily?

U2s are EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY sexual birds and that "cuddle factor" that people love, often leads to aggression or self destruction. Please make sure you are not sending the wrong messages (sexually) through inappropriate touching, messed up sleep cycles etc.shadowy spaces, boxes, huts , LAPS*in many cases* etc.

My U2 is 15 (ish) and I was her 4th home. I have had her for many years and she was a plucker when I got her....I have a STRONG feeling that this comes down to sleep, lack of routine and a ton of hormones (which all interlink)--I don't necessarily even mean on your end-- if she was habituated to an inappropriate routine, you have to break that (patiently and gradually). That is their problem most of the time...If you interact with your bird constantly, your birds sees you sexually, you will very often see this type of behavior. They are the slowest to sexually mature and people often mishandle them young (too much touching, snuggling, hanging out in dim rooms etc) which can lead to insane anxiety at sexual maturity-- which can happen as late as 6- 8.

If you are certain that snuggles, sleep, shady spaces, or diet are to blame, then you can look at a low dose anti-anxiety drug-- this can sometimes help-- but I will say mine has been off of hers for years and she still will get anxious if she has less than 12 hours sleep, gets petted in a sexual way, has access to shadowy spaces etc. She recently was laying eggs and that was a big deal because I was already avoiding all of the triggers etc, BUT SOMETIMES, just me even walking into the room would put her in a sexy mood (when laying)....You really have to know your bird, but also, understand that "snuggles", stroking, touching under the wings, shadowy spaces, warm/mushy food in an already hormonal bird are nearly universal across parrots (whether or not you think you see the signs)... 12 hours sleep nightly in a dark and quiet space, pet on the head and neck only, feed a varied diet (excluding warm+ mushy foods during this time), mist often *unless she hates it*, no shadowy spaces in or around the least 3 hours out daily (minimum) with set bedtime and wake-up within an hour or so...
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