by Heike Ewing Ott
The term “blood feather” sounds a lot scarier than it really is. Still, as a parrot owner it is important to understand what they are and what to do if your bird experiences a problem with one. The following article explains both.
How can you tell if a feather is a blood feather?
“Blood” feathers are immature feathers that still have a blood supply to the shaft. You can spot them by the dark- colored shaft, as opposed to the white or clear shaft of a mature feather. Also, they will usually be shorter than surrounding feathers and not completely “spread out.” If you cut one or it breaks, it will bleed profusely and not really heal, so over a period of days as the feather constantly gets knocked around and moved, it will bleed again and again, and the bird can actually die of blood loss.
If you pluck the broken feather out of the follicle, though, there are muscles in the follicle that will cut off the blood flow. It is helpful to grasp the feather with tweezers or pliers as close to the skin as you can and “twist” it in the socket before you pull – this usually results in the complete shaft coming cleanly out of the follicle. When you do pull it, pull straight out and smoothly rather than “yanking” it. This procedure, while absolutely necessary, DOES hurt, so make sure the bird is properly restrained (preferably by another person) when you do it. A new feather will grow back in in 2 – 3 weeks.
If ever at some time you go to your bird and find the cage or the wall splattered with seemingly large amounts of blood, don’t panic – check the wings for a broken blood feather. They seem to have an amazing talent for flapping their wings when this occurs and splattering what is actually a small amount of blood all over the place so that it looks like more. (I sometimes think they -enjoy- scaring us!).