Veterinary Viewpoints


Question #1: What is the best way to handle blood feathers that are bleeding in pet birds? I assume that in the jungle it just stops and does OK.

T Saur, California

ANSWER#l: In my experience, most blood feather trauma is related to an inappropriate wing clip. The best way to deal with the immediate bleeding problem is to safely restrain the bird, grasp the blood feather at the base with one hand while holding the wing with the other hand, then pull in an outward straight motion. Maintain pressure on the follicle for up to about one minute or until bleeding stops. This operation usually takes two people to perform safely. To learn how to perform this procedure, consult your avian veterinarian or an experienced aviculturist, otherwise you could injure your pet.

Make sure that the entire feather has been removed. The end should be rounded and blunt. If the feather is fractured midshaft, then bleeding may continue and further operation is needed to remove the embedded feather. Seek professional help if this occurs. If you cannot stop the bleeding, then seek veterinary assistance immediately.

To avoid blood feather trauma, do not perform a straight block clip removing all the primaries. When feathers start to molt and regrow, there are not mature feathers "protecting"


the growing shafts from trauma. See previous Watchbird articles on proper wing trims or consult a professional. In smaller birds, be advised that they may still maintain considerable flight capacity so a "slant" clip may work best for them.

Darrel K. Styles, DVM Dripping Springs, Texas

ANSWER #2: I suspect that in the wild there are fewer bleeding blood feathers than among caged pet birds. Wing dipping resulting in no protection to new soft blood feathers by the neighboring old feathers while the new feather grows, and small cages resulting in trauma to the wings when the bird flaps and strikes the bars of the cage are the usual causes of bleeding "blood feathers." When a blood feather is damaged and bleeds, pulling the blood feather out can stop the bleeding. Other methods can also be used such as using surgical glue to seal the broken end of the quill. Pulling feathers is not without risk as the follicle can be damaged. I would encourage you to seek the advice and expertise of your veterinarian. Consider not trimming your birds wings, and giving your bird a larger cage.

fames M. Harris, DVM Oakland, G4

ANSWER #3: Birds molt or replace all their feathers at least once a year. The old feather is pushed out of the


follicle and a new feather follows it out. This new feather is often called a blood feather, as its shaft is filled with blood. As the feather continues to grow, the inner blood filled area recedes and a new shaft and feather result. While the blood filled shaft is either dark blue or pink in color, the new shaft will often be clear or white in coloration. The newly emerging blood feather can be sensitive to the touch and may bleed when traumatized. The emerging blood feathers in the wings and occasionally in the tails, are the most common feathers to be traumatized and start bleeding. This often happens when the bird jumps or attempts to fly.

So, what do you do about a bleeding blood feather' Often times you don't need to do anything other than observe the bird. Just like when you or I fall down and skin our knee, the bleeding will stop assuming that you (or the bird in this case scenario), have normal clotting factors that are being produced from the liver.