All birds have blood feathers, so it's important for pet bird owners to be familiar with them and to know what to do in the event that one gets broken. They can be seen in young birds and in mature birds after molting or when they are replacing a wing or tail feather.
What Is a Blood Feather?
Also known as pin feathers, blood feathers are new feathers on a bird that are actively growing and therefore have a blood supply flowing in the shaft.
Broken Blood Feather Emergency
A broken blood feather can be an emergency for a pet bird. A broken blood feather that remains in a bird's skin essentially acts as an open faucet, allowing blood to pour out of the bird's body. Because birds cannot tolerate much blood loss, broken blood feathers that are left untreated can be fatal in some cases.
If you notice blood on your bird or in his cage, the first thing to do is determine if it is indeed the result of a broken blood feather. Most broken blood feathers are fairly easy to identify, as you will be able to see the blood coming directly out of the feather shaft. If you are unable to determine whether or not a broken blood feather is the source of your bird's bleeding, take your bird to an avian vet as quickly as possible for an examination and treatment.
Treating Your Bird's Broken Blood Feather
If you are able to identify a broken blood feather, the feather shaft must be removed from the bird's skin to stop the bleeding. To remove the broken blood feather, the first thing to do is to wrap the bird in a towel. This will not only allow you to restrain your pet safely as you work to remove the feather, but it will also reduce the amount of stress to your bird as a result of the procedure.
The supplies you will need are a plucking instrument (strong tweezers, hemostat, or needlenose pliers), cornstarch, and sterile gauze.
Once your bird is restrained, locate the broken blood feather. Using the tweezers, grasp the blood feather firmly at the base of the shaft, close to the bird's skin. Working as quickly as possible, pull on the base of the feather until the shaft is freed from the feather follicle. Ideally pull it out with one quick movement to reduce the bleeding quickly and permanently.
After you have plucked the blood feather, place a pinch of cornstarch on the affected area to help aid clotting, and use a piece of sterile gauze to apply pressure to the feather follicle until the bleeding has stopped.
A new blood feather should start to grow to replace the one that had to be pulled in a few days.
See Your Veterinarian
It's a good idea to schedule a visit with your avian vet as soon as possible after removing a broken blood feather, just to make sure that there are no complications and your bird is recovering successfully. If you haven't yet encountered the problem, ask your vet what you should do if your bird experiences a broken blood feather. Keep sturdy tweezers or clean pliers and gauze in your avian first aid kit.