Bleeding Feathers – Is This an Emergency?

You look in on your bird one day and notice a large patch of blood on his side and under his wing. After briefly examining your bird, you find that the bleeding is coming from a broken wing feather. This is a potentially serious problem.

Bleeding feathers are usually pin feathers on the wing (a "pin" feather is a young, new feather that is still developing). As the pin feathers develop, the shaft of the feather fills with blood. Trauma or viral infections can cause cracks or fractures in the sheath and bleeding occurs. A feather is similar to a fingernail. If a crack occurs, it will not heal. The injured feather needs to be removed. If not removed, the bird may pick at the injured feather, dislodging a clot and causing additional bleeding. In serious cases, severe blood loss can occur from a blood feather, resulting in significant illness and even possibly death.

Wing feathers are most commonly affected with blood feathers. To stop the bleeding, the feather needs to be completely removed. With the wing fully extended, grasp the quill of the feather as high as possible above the crack with forceps or a tweezers. Since the feather is attached to the covering of the wing bone, firmly grasp the bone of the wing and gently pull the feather out of the follicle. If some hemorrhage occurs, apply pressure to the follicle. Do not use clotting powders in the feather follicles. The blood on the bird can be removed with warm water.

After removal of the cracked feather, place your bird in a dark quiet location. Contact your veterinarian for further advice. If you do not feel comfortable removing the broken feather, veterinary care is recommended.