Male eclectus parrot viewing his environment from the top of a tree.

How Does a Parrot Molt Feathers?

How Does a Parrot Molt Feathers?

Every Parrot Molts Feathers Differently

Kirby, our Indian ringneck parakeet, goes through an aggressive molt once a year. Aggressive because it looks like his feathers are committing mutiny. No matter where he perches or barnstorms, little blue feathers, disgusted with their service, fall behind. They make their way onto furniture, under tables, and in my bed. They are delicate in nature. Baby blue snowflakes, demanding to be admired.

That's got to feel somewhat odd though. Part of you falling off. Scratch your head, feathers fly. Preen your feathers, one magically pops out into your beak. Sleeping in your hammock, you wake to little feathers, calling it quits, surrounding your feet. You've literally feathered your nest. It looks like an endless process. The more they fall, the funnier you look. Not long after one falls, a pin shows up. A sharp hard pointed thing. That must feel downright foreign. Does it pull on your skin? Does it itch? Does having 87 of them at the same time make you not want to move? A porcupine could relate.

Kirby is fast entering the funny looking grouchy pin cushion stage. He rubs against everything, including me. He welcomes pin destruction to open the opaque ends revealing new feathers. As his spa professional I have to be careful of both his stimulated frustration and the wrong pin choice. It gets tricky. He takes cold water baths I prepare every day. Soaking his head and body equally. That must be comforting. Although I'm not a cold-water fan myself.

Snickers, our scarlet macaw who's also molting, preens feathers at the top of his tree stand. Six feet up he works his tail feathers with individual care. I heard a soft almost organic pop; Snickers removed his longest tail feather. Twenty-four inches of glorious red plume in perfect condition. He inspected the end, looked at me, looked back at the feather end, and let go. It fell to the floor in silence. I picked up the feather while he resumed fashioning the remaining feathers that hadn't given their two-week notice. 

Butters, diva blue and gold macaw, is the laziest of molting birds in the house. She simply doesn't care. From the first day of exploding feathers, she looks a wreck. She randomly opens new feathers working the pins to reveal new blues, yellows, and greens. She doesn't feel compelled to create a workflow to any of it. She has no pride. She lands on my hand at lunch and waits for me to handle her work. Her own disinterest is reflected in the number of feathers quitting their jobs. Who would want to work with such a parrot? At the epoch of the process, she looks like something a big cat spat out. How awkward.

Our four cockatiels; Bennie, Louie, Stella, and Winston merely explode over a 72-hour period. Feather detonation is somewhere at the 39 hours. Winston is a whiteface cockatiel. His rejected collection of whites feathers with no striping stands out on the floor. All two hundred of them. The other three are handsome normal cockatiels. There's no finding the owner among the nine hundred ejected on the floor. After 10 years I've decided to wait for all four to look normal, then vacuum. No point in fighting the attrition rate.

Felix, a Congo African Grey, or CAG, molts with the same amount of critical thought he gives everything in his life. I honestly think his feathers are afraid to quit. He molts without a molting any specific time or season. His feathers seem to just quietly shrink and fall out, hoping not to catch his attention and disdain.

I can't imagine what it's all like. But I have a front row seat to the ways you can go about it. There are many ways that are right. There aren't many ways that are wrong. You can add extra nutrition and calories during this time to help the mutiny be a success.

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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