Budgies preen to remove old and damaged feathers so their plumage isn’t disrupted. About 1-3 times per year, budgies will molt their weathered and frazzled feathers before regrowing new ones.
Budgies naturally shed their feathers and preen themselves. Their feathers don’t have an infinite lifespan, so they’ll be gradually replaced when the need arises.
A healthy, stress-free budgie won’t pluck or shed feathers excessively. Budgies only lose their feathers when they’re damaged or at the end of their lifespan.
If a budgie is bald around its face, wings, and chest for no obvious reason, it may have lost feathers due to injury, illness, rough handling, parasites, or plucking.
Why Do Budgies Lose Feathers?
Feathers become worn down over time, even if the budgie preens them and bathes regularly.
It’s normal to find one or two stray feathers at the bottom of the cage when you clean it. These will grow back and be replaced with new, healthy feathers. As long as your budgie isn’t losing excessive feathers, especially at a rapid pace, there’s no need for undue concern.
Aside from one or two lost feathers, budgies will molt their plumage at least once per annum. Depending on their health status, environment, and breed, this can happen up to 3 times a year. It’s a normal process, and while it may leave your budgie looking temporarily frazzled, it won’t harm it.
Molting is an uncomfortable, stressful experience but a necessary one. Maintaining a healthy plumage is vital for wild birds. Captive birds will still molt, so we must monitor molts for abnormalities.
Budgies may behave out of character during a molt, especially when pin feathers or sensitive areas are undergoing a molt. The good news is that the molting process will conclude within 2-3 few weeks.
What Causes Budgies To Lose Feathers?
Unfortunately, there are times when feather loss is a negative sign.
According to the European Journal of Companion Animal Practice, plumage issues are usually the first symptom vets look for to identify sickness.
If your budgie is shedding feathers rapidly, it could be caused by:
- Plucking by cage mates
- Sickness and disease
- Nutrient deficiencies
The best way to tell if your budgie’s lost feathers are normal is to note:
- Where your budgie is losing feathers
- How often feathers fall out
Feathers lost around the eyes can provide different clues than feathers lost around the chest.
Budgie Losing Feathers Around Eyes
Feather loss around the eyes is easy to see as you can’t hide these bare patches. Inside or outside a healthy molt, feather loss around the eyes can be accompanied by irritated eyes.
Rubbing Its Face During A Molt
New feathers growing in can be uncomfortable, so a budgie may rub its face to relieve the annoyance. It’ll do this to remove the protective sheath that covers any new feathers.
A budgie losing feathers around its eyes may have parrot fever or chlamydia psittacosis. This highly contagious disease results in swollen and irritated eyes, causing the budgie to rub at its face.
A budgie’s eyes are very sensitive, so irritation could come from debris in the eye or conjunctivitis.
Budgie Losing Tail Feathers
If your budgie loses one tail feather naturally, you shouldn’t notice a physical difference. If it appears that your budgie has a bald butt, that’s a more serious issue.
Plucking by Cage Mates
The tail is rarely one of the first places a budgie will self-pluck.
If tail feathers are being lost and the rest of the feathers are intact, a cage mate is likely harassing your budgie. Separating the two will resolve the issue.
It’s relatively easy to knock a tail feather loose through rough handling. Always pet, hold, and pick up your budgie gently, and supervise handling by those unfamiliar with budgies.
Constantly placing pressure on the tail feather can dislodge it. Ensure that the cage is large enough for the budgie to stretch and move around.
Budgie Losing Feathers On Head
Budgies naturally lose feathers on their head during a molt. Outside of this, it may be caused by:
A Viral Infection
Circovirus is a common virus in parrots, especially cockatoos and budgies. Alongside other symptoms, it can cause budgies to lose feathers on their heads.
Circovirus, also called psittacine beak and feather disease, causes the feather to become necrotic.
Feather loss on the head isn’t possible via self-plucking as a budgie cannot reach these feathers. However, it can rub its face against a rough surface to dislodge these feathers.
Overgrooming by Another Budgie
Budgies are social creatures that help each other groom. If one of the cage mates gets overzealous, it could groom a budgie so much that it has bare patches.
Over-grooming is usually a sign of stress or conflict, so separating them will usually resolve the issue.
Mites can cause a loss of plumage by damaging the feathers and surrounding skin. The budgie will be helpless to prevent this, especially if the mites are infesting its head or back of the neck.
Knemidokoptes are another parasite that can result in feather loss on the face and legs. Budgies are more susceptible to this parasite than other parrot breeds.
Keep up to date with anti-parasitic treatments, and quarantine any rescue animals or new pets.
Budgie Losing Feathers On Chest
The chest is often where self-plucking begins.
It’s an area easy to access without any strain on the budgie’s part. If your budgie has persistent bald patches on its chest, it may be over-preening and ripping its feathers out.
Feather follicles can only take so much damage before they stop producing feathers entirely. Self-plucking often evolves into mutilation, as a budgie can chew its skin bloody and raw.
Budgie Losing Flight Feathers
A budgie will lose and replace its flight feathers as a part of its normal molt. These feathers take longer than others to grow back in, so any gaps will be easier to see.
If you notice tail feather disappearing outside of a molt, check for the following:
A budgie with a nutritionally lacking diet will struggle to grow and maintain healthy plumage. The feathers it produces will be weak and more liable to breaking.
Vitamin A deficiencies are known to be responsible for numerous feather-related problems.
Isolated wounds and infections can damage the feather follicles, preventing new ones from growing in.
Fungal and bacterial infections may cause irritation that triggers a budgie to over-preen and self-mutilate. Aspergillus and candidiasis are two fungi that are commonly found in pet budgies.
Like with tail feathers, rough handling can cause flight feathers to become damaged or knocked loose. Of course, this isn’t likely unless the budgie is panicking and has its wings extended.
Budgie Plucking Feathers Under Wings
The under-wing area is another common place where budgies over-groom.
Like with the chest, it is an easy-to-access area for excessive preening. Also, it’s a spot where budgies discourage cage mates from touching, even closely bonded pairs.
If plucking is why the budgie’s wings are looking bald, it is likely self-inflicted. The most common causes are stress and boredom.
A budgie may over-groom a painful area. The source of the pain could be an infected feather follicle, a parasite, or a wound.
Closely inspect the underwings for wounds, swelling, or parasites. It’s not an area even trusting budgies will let you inspect closely.
Seek guidance from a vet if you suspect something is wrong.
Budgie Molting Or Sick?
According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, feather loss is common in psittacine birds. This can make it hard to differentiate healthy molting from illness or stress.
Molting shouldn’t result in obvious bald patches. Molting works by encouraging feathers to stay in place until the new feathers are ready to replace them. The plumage won’t fall out all at once.
A molt gradually progresses over the budgie’s body until all the old, worn feathers have been swapped out. Also, molting is symmetrical. For example, if a budgie’s left wing is molting, the right wing will be molting in the same location.
To tell if the budgie is just shedding its feathers to regrow them, consider:
- Does the budgie have obvious or large bald spots?
- Do its remaining feathers easily cover the area?
- Are there new feathers growing in?
There isn’t a concern as long as the skin is healthy and not irritated.
If there are clear signs of irritation, check if the budgie appears to groom one area too much. It may also be getting plucked by cage mates, so consider the following:
- Are there social or behavioral problems at play?
- Is one budgie trying to establish itself as the dominant bird?
- Is there enough room in the cage for them all?
- Is your budgie bored or anxious?
Separate the budgies to see if this resolves the issue. If it doesn’t, self-plucking may be the culprit.
The next thing to consider is the budgie’s overall health:
- Does it have parasites or an illness?
- Does it have allergies that cause stress?
- Is the air too dry, causing skin irritation?
- Is the air too damp, causing fungal growths?
- Is the bird injured or constantly rubbing against the cage walls?
Budgies lose their feathers naturally, which is normal, as long as any feather loss isn’t excessive. Monitor your budgie for any signs of illness, anxiety, or conflict with other birds.