Plucking Quaker

Hi, This is my first post, so I hope I do it right. My name is Cathy and I have 2 quakers, Wozzo and Wishbone. Wozzo will be 6 years old in Sept., and Wishbone will be 5 years old in Nov. Most other background information is given in the evaluation form following. I’d like to be able to help Wozzo with her plucking, which I believe is caused by stress and hormones. Any suggestions or questions will be welcome!

Thanks! Cathy


Birds Name: Wozzo Species and/or color mutation: Quaker Parrot – normal green Age: 5 years 10 months Sex: Female (DNA) Where was the bird obtained: breeder

1… Please describe fully the problem the bird is experiencing: (Additionally include whether the bird appears to be warm, cold and fluffed, energetic, lethargic, hyperactive, excitable, calm, comfortable, uncomfortable, crabby, happy, angry and any behavior changes like stopped talking, increased screaming, bobbing etc.)

Wozzo periodically uses her foot to pull out the feathers on the back of her head and neck, and recently plucked most of the contour feathers from under her wings and on her back. She has been pulling head feathers since age 15 months, sometimes pulling just a few, sometimes leaving only a few.

Only once before has she ever drawn blood when plucking, but this time she cut the back of her head, either with a claw or by catching it on something in the cage. (The vet’s guess is she scratched so hard her claw got caught somehow and cut her skin.) The vet gave her an injection of Haldol, the lowest dose, which he said should help her leave her feathers alone for about two weeks.

After two days she began ripping out feathers again, which is when she cut the back of her head. The vet cleaned up her head and said the cut did not require stitches, and it is healing very quickly. I put Bach’s Rescue Remedy in her water for a few days and she hasn’t plucked since. But she isn’t acting like her normal self. She’s eating okay, no weight loss (111 grams nearly her whole life), but she’s very quiet. She does screech from time to time, when the situation calls for it, and talks occasionally, but mostly she just sits quietly in her cage or in Wishbone’s cage (DNA male quaker–they do not like each other, but seem to have a strange bond). They rarely tolerate being in the same cage together, and will chase each other out if they happen to be in the same cage at the same time.

Wozzo sometimes sleeps, sometimes sits quietly, which isn’t like her at all. I wonder if what I’m seeing now is a delayed result of the Haldol. Just today (Sunday) she has been climbing down from her cage to the floor and goes under the couch and just sits. She never ever has done anything like that before.

2… When did the problem start, was it sudden or gradual: She’s been plucking from time to time since she was 15 months old. Usually when she’s stressed, but may be something hormonal.

3…When is the problem worse, EX: morning, night, after handling, after eating etc: She plucks sometimes overnight, sometimes while I’m gone during the day. But not all the time, only a few times a year, usually.

4… When are the symptoms less noticeable: When I’m home with her. She doesn’t bother her feathers when I’m within her sight.

5… Has the bird seen a vet: Yes, several times.

6…Have any OTC (over the counter) treatments been used prior to a vet visit: Bach’s Rescue Remedy

7… What condition was the bird in (depressed, dehydrated, etc.) when seen: Plucked

8… Were tests, cultures, X-rays, etc. done: blood tests were done as part of her annual check up, then later when she had a plucking episode. No changes.

9… If so, the results and diagnosis of problem/disease: None.

10.. Was treatment/medication prescribed: Please detail what was given, dosages, and duration of prescribed treatment. Haldol was given by one-time injection in the lowest dose, but I don’t know the exact dosage.

11.. Was there an improvement shown from treatment: For a couple of days, yes, then she started pulling out her head feathers again.

12.. If treatment failed, what other steps were taken to resolve the problem: The vet suggested oral Haldol or a collar, but suggested I give her Rescue Remedy for a week or so, since it has helped her in the past. He also blunted her nails so she won’t cut herself again.

13.. Have dropping changed in color, frequency, consistency, and quantity: Yes, less well formed, more liquid.

14..What is your level of skills as far as giving emergency supportive and medical care. EX: do you know how to tube/gavage feed, SubQ, etc: Not skilled at all.

15..Whom do you have in your area (breeder, experienced friend) if the bird becomes critical, and you can not go to a vet. These people would be good to know during times when no one is available to help: Several breeder friends in the area.

16… How did you hear about HolisticBird List: recommended by a friend



1… How long have you had the bird: since she was 8 weeks old.

2… Do you have other birds, and how do the birds react to each other: One other quaker, Wishbone. They don’t get along, but seem to be strangely bonded. Must keep them in separate cages or they fight. Both exhibit mating behavior, but Wozzo’s is directed at me, while Wishbone’s is directed at both Wozzo and me. It’s obvious that Wishbone would like to be Wozzo’s mate, but she has chosen me for her mate.

3… Is there other pets in the household, and how does the bird respond to each: No other pets.

4… What other *Human* members of the family interact with the bird, and does the bird have preferences: No other humans in immediate household

5… Are other pets or family members ill: No

6… What is the cage size and location: Both cages are side by side in front of sliding glass door onto a covered porch. Each cage is 20x20x25, on stands that are 28″ high. Tops of cages are about 48″ from the floor.

7…How much activity is there in this location: This is the living room, where I watch TV in the evenings. Any entry into the house is into this room.

8… How does the bird respond to activity: She does very well when people are around, but will say “C’mon!” or “All gone!” when she’s ready to be quiet or go to another room.

9… How does the bird respond to being alone: She doesn’t like to be left here alone without Wishbone. I try not to leave just one of them by themselves.

10… How often and how long is the bird alone: the birds are here while I’m at work every day, about 10 hours, but in their separate cages.

11.. How often is the bird out of the cage: About 2-3 hours in the evenings on weekdays, and about 8-10 hours a day on weekends, usually.

12.. Is the cage covered at night. Does your bird sleep in a different cage: The cages are covered with the same cover, except I leave the front uncovered.

13.. What type of exercise does the bird like, such as exploring, flying, etc: We play “helicopter”, where they each sit on my hand and I “drop” my hand slowly, enough that they have to flap their wings to keep balanced. Their wing feathers are clipped, so they don’t fly very far. They are never allowed on the floor unsupervised. I have a long ladder that I sometimes put up to their cages. I put them at the bottom of the ladder and they climb up to their cages.

14.. What type of perches are in the cage and positions: Wozzo has a forked manzanita perch in the back of her cage a few inches from the top, and a 3/4″ dowel perch lower, in front of her food cups.

15.. What is used in the bottom of the cage (newspaper, corn cob, etc.) and does the bird have access to it: Black and white newspaper lines her cage on top of the grate. When I used to put the paper under the grate she would drop food through the grate and then try to squeeze through the bars to get the food. I put the paper over the grate to alleviate that problem.

16.. If toys are provided, what is the birds preferences: She prefers hand held toys that she can shake and make noise. And she likes leather, fabric, cotton rope, anything soft she can chew.

17.. Is the bird passive or aggressive to the toys, EX: plays, or chews up: She chews and chews on the soft toys, but screeches at and chases, then throws the noisy ones.

18..Is the bird quiet or very vocal: Usually she’s pretty vocal. Sometimes talking, sometimes singing made up songs to herself, sometimes screeching. Right now she’s much quieter.

19..What type of lighting is used (such as incandescent or full spectrum): No special lighting is used right now, just regular light bulbs.

20..Is the photo period (of lighting source) natural and regulated, or random and irregular: Irregular, but the lights are turned off in the birds’ room every night between 7:00 and 7:30PM, when they are covered and put to bed.

21..Does the bird have access to natural sunlight or is taken outdoors: The cages are in front of a sliding glass door onto a covered porch, but light comes in strong in the mornings. They rarely are taken outside, either because it’s too hot/cold, or because they get too nervous outside.

22..What is the water source and location, EX: bowl, dish, water bottle: Water bottle attached to the side of each cage. Water dish on their playgym.

23..Does the bird like to bath, and what is it’s favorite form of bath (mister, sink, bowl, etc) and how often: I offer both birds a bath nearly every day, but Wozzo will only bathe when she wants to, which is about once a week. Wishbone will only bathe every two weeks or so. They both prefer baths in a sink with running water, or in a large pan.

24.. Are night lights used: No night lights.

25..Was anything changed at all prior to the first display of symptoms. This could be a change of food, cage location, new bird additions, interior decoration (such as new drapes, carpet, furniture), new people, loss of bird buddy or human friend, etc.

No changes that I can recall. The first time she pulled out her head feathers was when she had to spend time in her carrier. She hates the carrier.

26.. Has your bird been showing signs of sexual maturity: Oh yes. Very amorous with my hand, ear, anything she can get close to. Except Wishbone.



1… *If this is a bird being handfed* list what is being fed, how many feedings, amount, temp of food and container/brooder: Adult bird, no longer handfed

2…Is the bird emptying between feedings: N/A

3… What is the overall condition (both physical and mental, color of droppings, etc.) of the bird: Physically, she looks normal except that her head is bald, and has mostly just down under her wings. Mentally, at the moment she seems possessed of a will to be under the couch. When not trying to climb to the floor, she’s eating or sleeping or just staring into space. Her droppings are light brownish, the fecal matter not well formed, with lots of clear liquid.

The following is for weaned and adult birds. *NOTE:* In each category list: the % from 0% – 100% offered and eaten, how often fed, birds likes and dislikes, etc.

1… What is your feeding schedule: Birdy cornbread in the morning, about 6:30AM, available all day. Veggies in the evening about 6PM. ZuPreem maintenance formula pellets available all the time.

2… Seed Mix (mfg. brand or are you mixing your own) 0%

3… Pellets (brand/s), and mixed with seed or separate dish: 40% ZuPreem maintenance (cockatiel size)

4… Vegetables: fresh or frozen, cooked or raw, shredded or chunks: 20% frozen mixed veggies, cooked

5… Fruits: types, and sizes, offered separately or with veggies: 5% Apples offered separately from veggies, wedged and cut in smaller chunks

6… Is the produce washed and rinsed first: Yes

7… What type of supplements do you use, EX: vitamins, spirulina, etc: None

8…Is there a source of calcium such as mineral blocks, cuttlebone, etc: Mineral blocks that go untouched. Cuttlebone is scraped and the powder mixed into their cornbread.

9… Do you use herbs such as Echinacea, etc., how often and for what reasons: No

10.. Do you add anything to the drinking water or treat it: The water is filtered, but nothing added, except Rescue Remedy, only when Wozzo is plucking.

11.. Does the water intake change with certain foods: Not noticeably.

12.. Does your bird eat table foods, and what is it’s preferences: Tuna, chicken, salmon, whole wheat bread, rice, pasta are about the only table foods that are offered, and they love each of them.

13.. What does your bird refuse to eat: Eggs, Harrison’s pellets

14.. What does your bird appear to eat or crave over other foods: Birdy cornbread, corn, green peas



1… What are the major products you use for general housecleaning. EX: Clorox, Windex, types of soaps, floor products/waxes etc: NOW Cleaner, Windex

2…Are there carpets in the house and what chemicals are used for cleaning them: Yes there are carpets. No chemicals are used to clean them.

3.. What disinfectants are used to clean the birds cage, and how often: Cages are washed every other week on average, and rinsed with bleach (then thoroughly rinsed with plain water). Daily, bars and surfaces are wiped down with paper towels and plain water.

4… Are scented candles used: Never

5… What type of aerosol sprays are used, EX: room deodorizers, hair sprays, pesticides, etc: Vegetable oil spray is the only aerosol spray used, infrequently. All other sprays (hairspray, cleaner) are non-aerosol.

6… Are there any smokers in the household, and do they handle the birds: No smokers

7…Are strong perfumes used while around the birds: Never

8… Are fabric softeners used in cage coverings: Never

9… What type of ventilation (such as windows, vents, fans, etc.) is used when questionable products are used, or painting or heavy cleaning is done: All windows are opened and ceiling fans are turned on.

10.. *IF* birds are housed outdoors what type of shelter is there from sun and bad weather: N/A

11.. Are any predators (cats, birds, mice, wild animals, insects) disturbing/distressing the birds during the night: Not that I’m aware of.

12.. Is the home heating electric or gas: Electric

13.. What is the temperature in the house, and is it constant or varied: Thermostat is set on 80º during the summer months, and stays around 78º.

14.. What houseplants does the bird have access to: None

15.. Are exterminators used: No

Hi, Being a breeder, though of a different species from your given information my *first* impression is that the problem may be hormonal and sexual frustration. If there has never been a bond with the male, most likely there never will be…yet his presense can subconsiously be a contributor to her problem. Several things came to mind: First off, your mention of her wanting to be under the couch can be either nesting behavior or a need for her own secure private space. If it were me I would try one of those Happy Huts in her cage or box similar to a nestbox that she could get into….either to alleviate a hormonal/sexual frustation, or for private space.

Secondly…in rare instances some birds can have problems with malabsorption of the vitamins/mineral content in their sources of food that can contribute to an itching under the skin that can be so intense that at times they will pluck and scratch to alleviate the itch. Even though you have listed that you don’t suppliment with vitamins…you do give a formulated diet which *may* contain synthetic sources of vitamins that your bird may be very sensitive to.

This may be a primary problem OR it can be a secondary problem which leads me to also think of the possibility of giardia…given your description of the droppings….and giardia will also cause a malabsorption of vitamins/nutrients which can cause the urge to pluck.


You might be interested in this article on Quaker Mutilation Syndrome. http://birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww19eiv.htm Regards, Linda Herbs for kidney/bladder are, couch grass, meadowsweet, and uva ursi. Regards, Linda Linda, Thank you for the list. Are you absolutely sure about the meadowsweet? I’ve always used it for stomach problems. Perhaps you meant Queen of the Meadow? That’s also known as gravel root (gravel as in kidney stones) and at least in New England, it’s called Joe Pye weed.

I just got my book out…. much more sensible.

Meadowsweet is Filipendula ulmaria, a member of the Rose family. According to David Hoffman in the “New Holistic Herbal,” meadowsweet is “one of the best digestive remedies available…”

Gravel Root is Eupatorium purpureum, a member of the same family as the daisy, echinacea, chamomile. According to the above-referenced book, it “is used primarily for kidney stones or gravel.” Also useful for cystitis and “it can play a useful role in a systemic treatment of rheumatism and gout.”


After reading your post, and researching meadowsweet, I have come to the conclusion that we are both right. It seems that they are related. 🙂 Read the following. The Columbia Encyclopedia: Sixth Edition. 2000.


(spr´) (KEY), any plant of the genus Spiraea, Northern Hemisphere deciduous shrubs of the family Rosaceae (rose family). Most are indigenous to central and E Asia, whence come most of the popular ornamental species, e.g., the bridal wreath (S. x prunifolia), native to Japan, and its similar hybrid S. vanhouttei. In these species the fragrant, spirelike flower clusters typical of the genus are borne on long, arching branches. Spiraeas native to North America include the hardhack, or steeplebush (S. tomentosa), a local source of astringent and tonic, and the meadowsweets (several species). The name meadowsweet is also applied to the related genus Filipendula, tall, hardy perennials (also often cultivated) formerly classified as Spiraea because of the similar showy blossoms. Filipendula includes the Eurasian dropwort (F. hexapetala), the queen of the meadow (F. ulmaria), now naturalized in the United States, and the North American queen of the prairie (F. rubra).

Spiraeas are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae. Regards, Linda

Linda, That’s interesting. Thank you. I guess this is another example of how important it is that we use Latin names. I’d never heard of Meadowsweet being called Queen of the Meadow before.

However, I still believe it’s not an appropriate kidney herb. The primary active principle is salicylic acid. It’s the plant that Herr Bayer used to extract the sal. acid to make aspirin.


> Oops. I forgot to ask you, Cathy….. what are the ingredients in your > birdy bread? It would help to know that too. Thanks for reminding me, Nancy, I meant to include the birdy bread ingredients in the evaluation, but I forgot. I don’t know if knowing the amounts of everything would make a difference, but here’s what I use: organic cornmeal whole wheat flour (no preservatives) baking soda baking powder natural unsweetened applesauce egg (no shell) cuttle bone (scraped into a powder) dried red pepper flakes organic strained vegetables and juices frozen mixed vegetables (not previously cooked, but mixed into the batter frozen) a small scoop of ZuPreem pellets

I’ve been concerned about the ZuPreem mainly because of the amount of sugar it contains. I also suspect that’s the reason my birds like it so well and hate Harrison’s pellets. I’ve always been told that pellets are the most balanced diet for birds, and even though I’ve always fed my birds pellets, I’m still not quite convinced. That’s why I try to offer them other foods as well, but if I can find a diet that I believe is truly healthier for them, I’m all for it.


Hi Cathy, Birdy bread:

The main thing I was concerned about was a packaged mix as the base. I’ve read the boxes and wouldn’t serve them to anybody. Your ingredients look similar to what I use except for the following differences:

1. I use egg shells. Of course mine are from my own free-range chickens fed certified organic feed so that makes a difference. I probably wouldn’t use someone else’s egg shells either.

2. I omit the baking soda and powder. It’s kind of flat but the birds don’t seem to care.

>I’ve been concerned about the ZuPreem mainly because of the amount >of sugar it contains. I also suspect that’s the reason my birds like it so >well and hate Harrison’s pellets.

Agreed. My tiel came to me on an all-seed diet. I had no trouble getting her to eat ZuPreem but I had a horrible time switching her to Harrison’s. My Quaker, who had had nothing but seed for 4 or 5 years, was reasonably easy to convert to Harrison’s. I’m sure if a ZuPreem pellet had ever passed her beak, she’d still be eating them.

>I’ve always been told that pellets are the most >balanced diet for birds, >and even though I’ve always fed my birds pellets, >I’m still not quite >convinced.

I was never convinced despite the brainwashing. I think you’ll see on this list that whole, live foods are recommended over processed foods. I still use pellets as a base but try to offer a varied diet.


Nancy, > 1. I use egg shells. Of course mine are from my own free-range >chickens fed certified organic feed so that makes a difference. I >probably wouldn’t use > someone else’s egg shells either. I used to use eggshells, but decided they were too much of a risk for possible added chemicals. That’s when I switched to cuttlebone. I also like the idea of the scraped cuttlebone having no sharp edges to accidentally bite down on. (Am I protective, or what?) But then again, the cuttlebone could be worse than the eggshells, I don’t know.

> 2. I omit the baking soda and powder. It’s kind of flat but the birds >don’t seem to care.

I’ve considered omitting the baking soda and powder, but I’m not enough of a cook to know if the bread would be edible (to birds) without it. Now maybe I’ll try it. I can live with flat, and surely the birds won’t miss it.

> My Quaker, who had had nothing but seed for 4 or 5 years, was reasonably > easy to convert to Harrison’s. I’m sure if a ZuPreem pellet had ever passed > her beak, she’d still be eating them.

How does Hagen Tropican stack up against ZuPreem? It smells so sweet, I hardly ever buy it, but I know Wozzo and Wishbone don’t like Harrison’s. Do you recall the name of the organic pellet you mentioned? I like the idea of having pellets available all the time, even if they don’t eat THAT many of them. And if they have more fresh foods and a more varied diet, maybe they won’t need as many pellets anyway.