Q: I adopted a one-year-old love bird six months ago. Recently, I noticed blood stains in his cage. His feathers are falling out, so we know he is moulting, but there are wounds on his body. What is happening?
A: Normal moulting occurs as love birds reach maturity. However, it should not present any skin injury or irritation. The moulting should last about three to six weeks and you should see normal shedding of the feathers, with new ones growing in their place.
When there are blood stains or wounds, take extra care as follicles of the skin can get infected; especially when the bird pecks excessively at the wounds. Infection can be made worse with skin and feather mites, damp living conditions, and skin trauma.
Skin and feather mites are relatively common—these are parasites that feed on the dead skin and feathers of your lovebird, and often cause skin itch and irritation. These mites are also relatively invisible to the naked eye, and they can only be detected with the help of a microscope at the veterinary clinic. Skin and feather mites are easily treated and can be eliminated over a three- to four-week treatment course.
Our humid and wet weather often causes fungal and bacterial outbreaks on our pets’ skin. As such, it is important to make sure your lovebird is kept in a well ventilated room space. If he likes water and plays by splashing water all over himself, ensure that he is cleaned and dried quickly after. Moisture attracts fungus, and such infections will penetrate the skin follicles and cause intense itch and irritation.
Skin trauma can occur if his toys have sharp edges and/or pieces that can traumatise the skin. Often, I see pet birds exhibit “bored behaviour” by rubbing themselves on the toys, food bowls, water dish, and cage rims. Such boredom is called stereotypic behaviour, which is triggered by the pet being in a cage with not much socialisation and interaction. It is essential to monitor your lovebird as it is reaching sexual maturity—sexual frustration and loneliness can trigger self-mutilation. Assess the time you spend with your lovebird. You may also consider introducing a new pet bird to him, so that his need for interaction will be fulfilled.
If the wounds persist, and your lovebird is still moulting in an abnormal manner, medical attention is advised so that the veterinarian can assess the injury. In doing so, your vet may then be able to prescribe the necessary treatment for your lovebird to get better.