QUESTION: I just had my macaw's wings clipped at the avian vets office.  Since then she's been picking at her (?) shoulder (?).  (the part of her wing closest to her face).  She has taken all the feathers off the tip.  She's very anxious if I mess with her wings.  She's just very cranky period.  Not normal for her.  I don't think her wing is hurt but I think she was traumatized at the vet's.  What can I do to help her.  I hate for her to start plucking.  She's aprrox 5 yrs old.  Could this be something to do with hormones?  Anxiously awaiting your advice.  Thank you so much!

ANSWER: --  You did a very good and highly responsible thing in having your bird's wings trimmed.  I'm deeply sorry it may have gone wrong.  Please don't let this stop you the next time.

It's possible that the vet was too aggressive  -  

Tell me, how long ago did all of this happen and was the vet an avian specific vet?  That is, are the only patients there birds?  Or do they see mostly dogs and cats?  

How is she acting at this time?   Are her droppings normal looking?

Let's do a full eval on her and her care:  Give me an idea of what you're feeding, what a day is like for her, how you provide a bedtime for her, any other animals in the home, children, etc?

What room is she in?  Is there a lot of a people in and out?  TV or computers on?

Do you use candles, air fresheners of any type or carpet fresheners/shampoos?

No detail is too small.   Then we'll proceed

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QUESTION: Follow up info:  Had her wings clipped about 1 mo ago.  Her droppings seems normal but doesn't seem to be eating as many pellets.  I have been feeding a few more nuts by foraging.  She scatters her pellets all over but doesn't eat seem to eat many.  She has access to pellets all the time and I feed her breakfast in the morning of fruit, eggs, cereal, oatmeal and veggies.  Combo of whatever I have handy.  Likes fruit, not big on veggies.  I have a cockatoo as well and they share a 200 sq ft room I built just for them when we built our house.  They have big tree branches(suspended),ropes, and pvc tubes, ladders and nets to play on.  I make a lot of my own toys but they have bells and talking baby toys as well.  Izzy is about 5 yrs old.  Doesn't play much with cockatoo but carries on when cockatoo leaves the bird room.  She tells on her!  I don't have much in the way of scented stuff.  I do use a disinfectant/deodorizer in the room after I hose it down in the morning but it says it's pet safe.  It's called odoban.  I have been misting her with the sprayer set on mist about everyday or so to see if that helps.  Normally just take them to shower every now and them because there is soooo  much humidity in their room from cleaning.  BTW their room also has an exhaust fan that runs constantly.  They have 3 big windows that look out onto our deck.  They don't get direct sun but a lot of natural light.  We do have 3 cats that run around on deck but this Mother cat has raised 3 litters of kittens on the deck so I don't think this is bothering the birds.  2 small dogs in house.    Pretty much ignore each other.  Cockatoo will get on floor and pilfer whatever she finds there but Izzy never comes down.  Neither have ever seemed to be bothered by the goings on in the house.  We have a lot of company but they seem to take it all in stride.  Also have a 7 yr old but he doesn't have anythg to do with the birds.  izzy has always been a talker or at least a noise maker.  After she had her wings clipped she kind of quit talking or making noise of any sort.  Wouldn't play with toys.  Just didn't do much of anything but seems to be getting over that a little.  She just acts grouchy.  Sometimes when I go to pick her up she'll squawk and bite at her legs like she's threatening me but bites her legs instead of me.  I have tried only trying to pick her up when I'm on the step stool which makes me higher than her.  Think this might help a little.  Just don't know why she's seems so grouchy.  Sometimes her playing amounts to getting on the net and just throwing all the toys off like she's disgusted.  Sometime when I hand her a toy or piece of food she does that same thing.  Squawk and throw it away like she's just being sassy.  I did take a vacation over Christmas and had a guy take care of them but they seem to like him ok.  Didn't really notice anything crazy when I got home like I have since this vet deal.  This vet does see other animals too but is the only avian vet w/in 100 miles of me but I'll never go back there again!  The birds don't have a lot of time out of their room.  I take them downstairs with me when I exercise but unfortunately that isn't always very regular but I usually have their door (sliding glass door that looks into my kitchen) open and chit chat with them throughout the day.  I don't really "put them to bed" but with a 7 yr old our house has usually wound down by 830p.  If it's a w/e with company or staying up late I pull the shades down on the door and they seem to be fine with that.  Can't really think of anythg else.  Thank you so much for your help!

--   Thank you for taking the time to explain these details.  I like everything about your set up AND the pellets.  I have one recommendation for a pellet diet that in the past year I've found works miracles with the absolutely worst seed addicts that come in to the rescue/rehab here (not that yours eat seeds).  It's called Brown's Zoo Vital (Google it and find the best deal for you) - if I could be a supplier, I'd consider it.  It's that good.  100% of the birds I've tried this on not only like it, they are thriving on it.  

 You can also go here for home made recipes and suggestions for fresh foods that these birds will find palatable.  Even if you've tried it all before, you might be surprised at how slightly different ways of offering it can change everything.  IE:  If a bird refuses sweet potatoes, try a jar of human baby food sweet potatoes (all natural of course) - the consistency seems to get most of them interested and once they learn the taste they often quickly graduate to the real deal.   That's just one idea - there are many more.


 My suspicion with your macaw right now though is that there may have been a stress trigger with this behavior (the boarding/birdy sitter perhaps) AND the possibility of a metal toxicity.

A simple blood test (a vet will trim a toenail to get a blood sample) can detect high amylase levels which indicates pancreatic problems - which are often the result of heavy metal toxicity.  And this VERY often leads to feather destruction, plucking or mowing.

The solution will depend on the lab results, but caught early this can often be very successfully treated (cured).  If allowed to continue you risk it becoming a 'habit' and lasting a lifetime, if of course the underlying cause doesn't shorten that lifetime significantly first.

I'm just saying that there's never anything wrong with seeing a vet to 'be sure' when it comes to these highly intelligent, sentient, dependents in our lives.


If you visit the web site mentioned earlier you'll also see how easy it is to provide a regular sleep schedule for them and how much of a difference it can make in their health and longevity.  Since we're talking about 12 hours of 'nighttime' for them, isn't it sounding good to be able to 'turn them off' for the day at 8 pm and know that you'll have peace and quiet 'til 8 a.m. - or even longer during winter months when they can have up to 14 hours of sleep time and be keeping with their most basic, natural instincts.


These are really intelligent creatures.  Ranked up there with Apes, Dolphins, Elephants and of course humans as self-aware.  This means that they understand they exist.  They understand that they can die and they know when one of their own passes.  

  A dog or cat can dream, right?  The thing is, they can only dream about something they've already done.  Playing with a ball, chasing a laser pointer, running in the park, etc..  No matter how bright a dog or cat is, they are not self aware.  When they look in a mirror they have no concept that the image they see is themselves.

A psittacine on the other hand, when THEY dream, they can dream about something they have never done, but want to do.  Like leave the house, or fly or walk in the grass.  

 When they look into a mirror, they see themselves.  They know it's them.


 And just to make you feel even more guilty - when you go to the website given above, click on the You Tube video (2 girls and 1 guy shower video) - oh, it's not what you think.  

 Good luck and let me know how you make out  


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Rev. Dr. S.August Abbott


Certified Avian Specialist; Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council member; Own animal rescue org; National Wildlife habitat #66378; bird care, nutrition & behavior consultant; International Assoc. of Animal Behavior Consultants Associate; National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club member; published bird care, info and behavior articles and guides. Ongoing education in exotic bird behavior and nutrition I can answer behavioral, nutritional, environmental, characteristic/personality questions as well as general health and health care. No animal emergency can ever be addressed on the internet. We cannot see your animal, perform an examination, provide necessary care or medication. Please value your companion for the priceless, living creature they are; not for what you might have paid for them.


Certified Avian Specialist. For more than 30 years I've worked with veterinarians, protective facilities, nature centers, preserves and on my own in providing care and education with regard to multiple animal species, including raptors (hawks, kestrals, owls, etc) and marsupials. In recent years I've focused on parrots, usually rescued from abusive or less than ideal situations and helping educate owners as to proper care. Expert in behavior studies and modification of problem behavior.

4AnimalCare is the organization I run as an animal ministry; World Wildlife Association, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club and more

Bird Talk Magazine articles about rescued and problem macaws.

Doctorate, Ordained Minister

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