Dandruff in Birds – Do I Need to Worry?

Have you ever detected white flakes that fall off your bird? Is dandruff in birds even possible?

Does your bird have something that looks like dandruff after preening?

In this short Bird Bite I will discuss dandruff in birds, where it comes from and whether there is something to worry about when faced with parrot dandruff.

Dandruff in birds

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    Is dandruff in birds something to worry about?

    Dandruff in birds

    Do birds have dandruff?

    Most of the time the dandruff looking flakes are nothing to worry about. That is because they are part of our bird’s normal feathering process: they mold every year. That means that there will be new feathers growing in place of the fallen off ones.

    When a new feather grows, it looks like a pin at first. The new feather is wrapped in a keratin cover (same component that our nails are made of), giving them the look of a pin.

    The shell protects the feather until it’s grown out enough. That is when the bird will preen itself to remove the shell cover. It is that shell cover that falls off, looking like bird dandruff.

    When the shells are broken, meaning the keratin cover is pinched open, it leaves room for the new, soft feather to come out.

    It is then that the small bits of keratin covering the pin fall off the bird, leaving the impression of bird dandruff.

    How to deal with pin feathers?

    Dandruff in birds

    Why does my bird have dandruff?

    Usually the birds can preen (groom) their pins by themselves. They can easily reach the pins on their bodies, except for the ones on their head. We need to be careful when helping them with their head pins, as not all the birds like being preened by humans, nor do all humans know how to do it right (so it does not hurt the bird).




    As a rule of thumb, follow your bird’s behavior when you try to get the pins and be very gentle while you get them. When your bird lets you know that it hurts, i.e. you got your finger bitten, you know you need to stay away from that area. Also, attempt to rub or gently pinch the pins that are ready. A pin is ready when the feather is already poking out of the shell.

    It is sometimes better to rub the pin feathers rather than pinch them. Also, if you pull the pins or push them too hard into your parrot’s skin, it can be very painful for him/her.

    Another way of helping your feathered friend with the pins is giving regular baths. Water helps soothe the pins and ease itchiness.


    Dandruff in birds

    When there are multiple birds, they will preen each other’s heads. In that case, your bird does not need any help with the pins. However, you might still want to offer your birds head scratches, as part of your bonding moments.

    I hope you enjoyed this Bird Bite. Please let me know in the comments section below if your bird likes to be helped with the pins and whether it lets you do it. I would love to hear your story!

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    2 thoughts on “Dandruff in Birds – Do I Need to Worry?

    1. Thanks for this very useful information and explanation of how to care for my dear Senegal parrot.

      1. Dear Alice,

        Thank you for your comment.
        I hope your Mr. Senegal grows big and healthy as I am sure he will be very well cared for!

        All the best, Tatiana

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