Ask Lafeber


November 3, 2022

Cockatiel keeps losing flight feathers

I have two male cockatiels, both only a couple days apart in age, each about a year and a half old. One of them is Kirby, who is an excellent flier. The other one is Yoshi, who is not so much. I purchased them both at six months old at a shop that specifically sold birds, and they had to be bought together as they were a “bonded” pair. I say “bonded” because now that I’ve had them I wouldn’t call them bonded, they just tolerate each other in the cage, but Kirby does scream whenever Yoshi is away from him so I suppose that’s why they said that. Anyways, the cockatiels are both pied, Kirby light pied and Yoshi heavy pied. Both very friendly and wonderful birds who have never bit me- except when they have to get their nails trimmed. They’re perfect- except for the fact that everytime Yoshi tries to fly, he drops his flight feathers on his left wing. He can maybe get a maximum of three flights before he ends up losing his feathers. No matter what stage they are in, even if they are fully grown in, he will lose them. It’s like he just drops them. And its only on his left wing. Never his right.
I have considered the possibility that maybe he’s chewed them or plucked them, but I observe him a lot and he never does. He just preens like a normal healthy bird and shows no other signs of plucking anywhere else. I have also upped the amount of nutrients in his diet and feed him a variety of fruits nuts and vegetables, as well as he always has a cuddlebone available in case this was the issue. But nothing has helped. The only other thing I can think of is malpractice with wing trimming. I have not once trimmed my cockatiels’ wings. I believe birds should be flighted, or at least be able to glide, but my cockatiels are fully flighted as far as my trimming practices, which are none. However, when I bought the birds, the shop trimmed their wings when we purchased. I wish I had told them I didn’t want that, but since these were my first tiels I thought maybe it’d be easier this way since they may need taming and if they’re scared they may fly somewhere hard to reach. They were already very tame however and after just three days of having them they were eager to spend time with me and cuddle, so wing trimming ended up not being necessary. Now I worry that Yoshi may never fly because they cut his wings wrong or something. If there may be another reason for it, I’d love to know. And when I say the feathers appear to be dropped, I mean it. Theyre full, perfectly healthy feathers that just fall out mid flight. I’m at a loss.



Losing feathers is perfectly normal. They lose feathers all the time, and about once or sometimes twice a year, they go through a heavy molt over a several week period where they lose all their feathers gradually and grow new ones. As long as the bird doesn’t have bare spots, the feathers loss is normal.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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