Blue and gold macaw over-preening

One blue and gold macaw over-preens his cage mate's feathers. What causes this behavior and will the bird's feathers grow back?
By David Dickson

"Up for some grooming?" These two blue and gold macaws, Big Bird and Clementine, lived in the same cage together for many years. During that time, Big Bird had a habit of over-preening his friend. Which means that Clementine basically sat still while Big Bird leaned over and plucked all the feathers off her head. Ouch!

What causes over-preening?

Perhaps that sounds cruel. Or maybe it sounds like an act of spite or jealousy. In truth, it’s hard to know. Over-preening is not usually an act of anger or an attack. One bird will simply be preening, or grooming, the other and in the process sort of snips off the feathers. Parrots are complex. Trying to figure out the reasoning behind feather picking or, in Big Bird and Clementine’s case, over-preening, can be like trying to fit excess toothpaste back inside the tube. An uphill climb.

Their previous person loved them to pieces but she also lived alone and worked long hours. She ultimately felt that she wasn't giving them the life they deserve, and couldn’t really spend enough time with these two beauties.

Will blue and gold macaw's feathers grow back?

They are now in separate aviaries (side by side) and only time will tell if those feathers can grow back. Sometimes when feathers are plucked too severely, the follicles are damaged. Still, Clementine says that if Hollywood leading men are allowed to go bald and still be considered heartthrobs, then she can too!

Read an in-depth resource about the causes and treatment of feather picking.

Photos by Molly Wald

Caring for Pets