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  Blood featherDuring the moult, the natural periodic replacement of a bird's plumage, the old feathers are shed while new ones are produced. These old feathers are "dead" and therefore there is no bleeding while birds lose the worn feathers. But the new feathers are different - at least in their early stage of development while they are called pin feathers. At first, they are minuscule, pen-like structures penetrating the skin. In this stadium, the new feathers are a stiff hull and there are tiny blood vessels inside their base (an artery and a vein). These blood vessels supply the tissue that produces the feather with blood and nutrients. So in the early stage of development, each feather is a living blood-filled part of a bird's body. In this stadium of growththerefore the pin feathers are also calles blood feathers. After the feathers have stopped growing, the shaft is hollow and no longer filled with blood vessels because there is no further need for a supply with nutrients. That's why blood feather injuries can only happen while a feather is still developing and this also explains why there is no bleeding in case an old feather is shed.

But let's return to the main subject of this chapter: If a blood feather is damaged due to mechanical stress, the bird suffers from an injury that can lead to a severe bleeding. Depending on the size of the injured blood feather the bird might even die due to the loss of blood! You should therefore keep in mind the following rule: The larger the fully developed feather will be in the future, the more dangerous is the injury during the blood feather stadium. You have to expect a severe bleeding if a young primary feather (located at the wings) respectively a young tail feather is injured.

Injured blood featherIf a blood feather breaks off and a part of it remains in the skin, it should soon be removed by a skilful person, e.g. an avian vet. Otherwise the bleeding can hardly be stopped. Please note that if the blood feather fragment is removed by an avian vet, the small skin lesion that will result from pulling the feather fragment from the bird's body can be treated far easier than the broken or injured blood feather.

Regrettably many bird owners don't live close to an avian vet or an injury of a blood feather can occur at night or on a Sunday. When there is no avian vet available, you have to stop the bleeding yourself in order to save your bird bird from a severe bleeding that could threaten its life. You should treat the bleeding by pressing the broken blood feather with a sterile tissue for about 10 minutes (e.g. a handkerchief without perfume). This can be seen similar to a pressure bandage known from human injuries. But please keep in mind that you should not press your bird's body but only the feather - at best between two fingers. Squeezing a bird's body could lead to breathing problems or even fractures. And please note that most common bloodstoppers aren't quite helpful. Only Iron(III) chloride is useful in some cases.

Broken blood feathers above the nose
Injuries of blood feathers often occur right above a bird's nose. In general, a bleeding like this isn't severe and will stop within seconds without being treated in any way. The left photo below this paragraph shows some intact blood feathers above the nose (cere) of a budgie. One can easily see the pink colour which shows that the blood feather is filled with blood. For example when budgies are involved in a harmless dispute with each other it may happen that one bird pecks a blood feather of another. The injured blood feather bleeds for a few seconds and afterwards a blood stain will remain in the plumage, see photo below on the right.

These feathers are supported with blood Broken blood feather above the nose

German version of this text: Gaby Schulemann-Maier,
translation of this chapter: Isolde Aufschläger external link.

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