Preening vs. Plucking vs. Molting: What’s the Difference?

When owning a pet bird, such as a parrot, cockatiel, cockatoo, or any other bird, the health of its feathers is essential. Bird feathers are often very hard to deal with because there are many different kinds of issues that could occur with them. Typically there are three types of bird-induced feather issues. They are preening, plucking, and molting. But they all sound similar, and all involve the removal and damage of bird feathers. Are they the same? No, they are very different.

Here are some differences between them and how each issue should be handled, so you can keep your bird healthy. 


Preening is when a bird grooms and takes care of its feathers. Normal bird feathers must be preened often. When they preen, they spread oil from their preening gland onto their feathers, which helps to keep their feathers waterproof and strong. If they are not preening, it could be very dangerous for their health.

Preening is also very good for keeping feathers clean. Dust and other unmentionable matter can end up on your bird’s feathers, making preening an essential process for your bird.

It’s important to note that preening can become excessive and even dangerous. When this happens, your bird’s feathers can fall out more than they should. If your bird is over-preening, such as every ten minutes or all the time, you should check your bird’s health and possibly take it to a vet. 


Plucking is a common bird feather-related issue that is also the most dangerous. Plucking is when a bird pulls out their feathers on purpose, usually to release endorphins, and it often can become very addicting. Plucking can result from stress, lack of sleep, or another health issue, such as environmental issues or boredom. It can result in:

It should be taken seriously, and if you notice any of these issues, bring your bird to a vet for an examination immediately. And if you are thinking of using pet bird boarding services soon, you should ensure that the plucking issue is taken care of because it could increase the problem if your bird is suddenly in a different environment. Often if you help your bird right away, a quick fix such as a change of environment or attention can help a bird who is plucking.  


Molting is when a bird loses its feathers so new ones can grow. Bird feathers are meant to fall out on their own, not be pulled out forcefully. So depending on the bird, it can happen a few times a year or even more. Molting is perfectly healthy when occurring regularly. Signs of molting are: 

It’s important to remember that molting is normal and actually healthy for your bird. However, if your feathery friend starts molting continuously, you will want to take them to the vet right away. There may be an underlying health issue.

Find a New Bird Friend

At Todd Marcus Birds Exotic, we have many birds that would be beautiful additions to your home. Our exotic creatures are cared for lovingly, and we strive to give them the best homes possible. We are happy to help you find the perfect bird, as well as make sure you have all the information and equipment you need to keep your new bird happy. We have everything from Amazon parrots to cockatiels for sale at our shop. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have!