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Discussion Starter #1
One of my cockatiels is 22 years old. His last vet checkup was in October. Before I take him to a vet, I wanted to see if anyone had experienced something like what I'm about to describe...

He's been molting recently, but I've been noticing a few unusual feathers in the bottom of his cage. They look like down feathers, but the tips are thick and clumpy. Today he was preening on my shoulder and one came out. I noticed that the tip of the feather was kind of gooey. At first I thought it was blood, but I rubbed the tip on a piece of white paper and it left gray streaks.

I don't recall seeing feathers like this from him before. Does this sound or look familiar to anyone? Any suggestions on what it might be? Thank you in advance.
 

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My older tiel (also 22) sometimes loses feathers like that. We don't really know what it is, but my vet's theory is that some of the feather follicles have been damaged over the years, so now they grow malformed. One of the issues with having a senior 'tiel now is that vets don't really know that much about what aging looks like for them, since not even 10 years ago, they weren't living anywhere near this long. I would still get a vet check just to be sure, though.
 

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Thank you. It's reassuring to know that someone has seen it before. I plan on taking him in, but I recently moved and still need to find an avian vet here. I haven't been as urgent about it because his behavior is completely normal in all other aspects.
 

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My older tiel (also 22) sometimes loses feathers like that. We don't really know what it is, but my vet's theory is that some of the feather follicles have been damaged over the years, so now they grow malformed. One of the issues with having a senior 'tiel now is that vets don't really know that much about what aging looks like for them, since not even 10 years ago, they weren't living anywhere near this long. I would still get a vet check just to be sure, though.
I was able to get him in to my new avian vet, who offered a similar theory. He suggested that they may be from feather follicle cysts, and perhaps it's something genetic that hasn't manifested until now. His ultimate message was that it's not something to be concerned with, primarily because there's not really anything to do about it at this point.

I stopped seeing the weird feathers for about 7-10 days, but they're coming back now. It's saddening because they seem to stress out my little pal. I'll keep doing what I can to keep him happy and comfortable.
 

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Does your guy take baths? If he has discomfort from the weird feathers, you might try getting a bathing spray with aloe in it, like AviRX Rain or AviVera. Those seem to help my flock with itchy pin feathers during molts. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Does your guy take baths? If he has discomfort from the weird feathers, you might try getting a bathing spray with aloe in it, like AviRX Rain or AviVera. Those seem to help my flock with itchy pin feathers during molts. :)
That's a good idea - thank you! He won't bathe on his own, but he loves getting a shower with a spray bottle occasionally. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Update: Shortly after I posted this, my tiel started behaving unusually. It was very brief, but he kind of zoned out and tucked the upper part of his beak into his lower part. It lasted about a minute. Long story short, the avian vet diagnosed him with a respiratory infection and gave him a week of antibiotics. Fortunately, we caught it early and the infection cleared.

I asked the vet about the feathers, and he had two theories: (1) the physical stress of the infection was causing the deformed feathers, and (2) he may have some sort of cyst or tumor on some feather follicles. The second theory sounded very similar to what enigma's vet proposed. He suggested waiting until a full molt had completed (around 6 months) before pursuing the issue.

For a while it seemed like the odd feathers had plateaued, but they are appearing in his cage more frequently now. I almost wonder if he's also started plucking regular feathers before they can develop. (He has never ever plucked before.) We've started the aloe showers (which the vet said couldn't hurt to try as long as we don't spray his nose or eyes). I'm also occasionally running a humidifier in his room, since we moved a few months ago, and it's the first place he's lived that's had central A/C.

Sorry for the long tale, but I'm always curious when I come across an old forum post and wonder what the outcome was, so I wanted to provide an update for my own.
 

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I'm glad you updated, I was wondering about this the other day!

Sorry to hear he had a respiratory infection, but glad you got it taken care of promptly.

Ironically, I also have a chronic plucker (although she's only about 3) who gets chronic feather cysts and now plucks all new pin feathers as they grow in. We think in her case it's a combination of anxiety and a hyper-sensitivity of her nerves (she's a rescue and she appears to have some other odd traits that make us suspect some kind of genetic disorder). I think it's very possible that your guy could be plucking preemptively if the odd feathers cause him discomfort.

I know it's risky in an old guy, but if it gets to the point where you really want to pursue this, I think probably your next step would be bloodwork to look at organ function and possible immune response. (I had a workup done on my guy about 4 years ago and it was all normal, although he also doesn't have the unusual feathers with the frequency that I think you're describing.)

ETA: I just moved across the country and will be taking my flock to a new clinic that's very well known in avian medicine, so I'll let you know if they have any more insights!
 

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Expressing my thanks for the update as well - I was wondering how things turned out and am glad that there's been improvement. I don't have any experience with malformed feathers in any of my tiels, so I'm unable to add any useful insight. Hoping it goes well and the feathering condition improves or is resolved.
 

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I'm glad you updated, I was wondering about this the other day!

Sorry to hear he had a respiratory infection, but glad you got it taken care of promptly.

Ironically, I also have a chronic plucker (although she's only about 3) who gets chronic feather cysts and now plucks all new pin feathers as they grow in. We think in her case it's a combination of anxiety and a hyper-sensitivity of her nerves (she's a rescue and she appears to have some other odd traits that make us suspect some kind of genetic disorder). I think it's very possible that your guy could be plucking preemptively if the odd feathers cause him discomfort.

I know it's risky in an old guy, but if it gets to the point where you really want to pursue this, I think probably your next step would be bloodwork to look at organ function and possible immune response. (I had a workup done on my guy about 4 years ago and it was all normal, although he also doesn't have the unusual feathers with the frequency that I think you're describing.)

ETA: I just moved across the country and will be taking my flock to a new clinic that's very well known in avian medicine, so I'll let you know if they have any more insights!
Thank you! The vet kind of alluded that bloodwork would be the next step. My poor guy was so stressed from the examination alone; I can only imagine how upset he would be at having blood drawn. If it gets to that point I'll have to talk to the vet about the pros and cons (e.g., if something is detected, would it even be treatable?). It may be my imagination, but I think he's been looking less scruffy the past few days. Hopefully a good sign.

I'm glad your plucker has you to care for her. :) I love hearing about rescues in loving homes.
 
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