Ask Lafeber


June 23, 2020

How do I know if my cockatiel is molting or Plucking?

Hey! So I have a cockatiel at the age of about 4 months. I bought him weened but the seller said he was only 4 months, so that makes him 5 now. Anyways, I have been seeing a lot of feathers around and in his cage. I am not sure if he is molting or plucking. I am not seeing any bald spots, but he won’t let me fully examine him. I see him preening and then I will see feathers come off every once in a while. He looses about 10-20 every day. Is this normal? Should I be worried? How long will this last? Also, when molting, do they ALWAYS get blood feathers? Should I always remove them? I haven’t seen any yet, but I am just tryign to be prepared.


Hi Sarah,

It sounds like your little guy is going through his first adult molt. So he might be a month or so older than you thought. Cockatiels start their adult molt between 6-12 months old – just depends on the bird and sometimes the weather. Warmer weather can trigger a molt. He will always lose feathers and grow more, but once or twice a year he will go through a heavy molt like he is doing now. He should start showing male coloration, depending on what color or mutation he is.

All feathers begin as blood feathers. The blood nourishes the feather until it is fully formed, and then the blood supply to the shaft stops. Blood feathers should never, ever be pulled out unless one is broken with the shaft still attached to the bird. In that case, the broken shaft acts like a straw and the blood will not stop flowing until the rest of the feather is pulled. Sometimes if the feather is nearly grown out, the blood supply is less and it might clot, but the broken feather should still be removed. This is just an issue with wing and tail feathers – body feathers do not have the large shafts or as much blood flow to them.

Now sometimes it helps a bird to groom their pin feathers around the head. Pin feathers are feathers that have not been released from their protective coating. It is wax like and pin feathers appear like small white spikes. A single bird has trouble grooming the pin feathers on the head, so you can gently roll them between your fingers and the waxy coating falls away. If the pin feathers is still a bit too new, the bird will react because they can feel it.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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