What Causes a Cockatoo to Pluck?

Lonliness is a common cause of feather plucking in cockatoos.
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One of the most common reasons cockatoos see avian veterinarians is due to excessive plucking. If you have a cockatoo that plucks, you should pay careful attention to your bird's skin to ensure it does not have open sores or infections. Always see an avian veterinarian to rule out any health-related causes if your cockatoo is plucking.


As all cockatoo owners know, they are very intelligent birds. Because of this, they become bored easily. What begins as normal preening can turn quickly into a plucking problem. Preening is the cleaning of the feathers by pulling them through the beak. Plucking is when the feathers are pulled from the skin. If you start to notice feathers on the bottom of your cockatoo's cage, and she is not molting, it may be time to change the toys in her cage with new ones. Rotating toys every week or two is a great way to prevent boredom. Also, spending as much time as possible interacting with your cockatoo will help.


In the wild, cockatoos live in large family-based flocks. Because they are very social birds, cockatoos are prone to suffer from severe depression if left alone for long periods of time each day. This loneliness is unnatural to cockatoos, which causes stress. Other possible sources of stress that may induce plucking are the addition of a new baby or person into the household, new pets and changes in cage location or household routines.

Health Issues

There may be a health-related reason behind your feathered friend's plucking habits. A host of health problems, including mites, bacterial infections, fungal infections, polyomavirus, psittacine beak and feather disease, renal disease, heart disease, cancer and toxins all are possible medical causes for your cockatoo to pluck out feathers. Because some of these diseases are fatal if untreated, it is important to take any cockatoo that begins plucking to an avian veterinarian to rule out medical causes.

Improper Care

Environmental issues are a common cause of feather plucking in cockatoos and other parrots. Vitamin A and calcium deficiencies are common in seed-based diets, and both are needed for proper feather growth and skin health. Cockatoos also require humidity or regular bathing to keep the skin moist. If the environment is too dry, the skin will become dry and itchy, and may lead to plucking problems. Unclean housing or being handled with unwashed hands also can cause skin irritation. In short, keep your cage clean and let your parrot shower regularly to help prevent unwanted plucking.

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