Broken blood feathers in juvenile birds
Blood feather injuries pose a hazard to birds of all ages and affect both young and adult individuals. However, they are often particularly risky for young animals, as adolescent birds are more prone to this type of injury than adult birds at a certain stage in their life. The reason for this is easy to explain.
Young birds – often referred to as chicks – grow to the size of adult birds within a few days or weeks (depending on the species); at least in terms of their body length which is measured from the beak to their vent and which does not take the tail feathers into account. At first, young birds of many species are naked and after a few days, all feathers start developing almost simultaneously. This means that there are many blood feathers at once within this period of the chick’s life. Any kind of accident in which the young bird is being hit hard could injure more than one blood feather at the same time. In the worst case, the resulting bleeding can be so severe that the young bird suffers a fatal shock.
Even if the young ones have just fledged (left the nest), some of them are still more prone to accidents and injuries than adult adults. The plumage of some recently fledged birds is still growing for at least some days or even weeks. In some cases, even some large feathers on the wings or tail are not yet fully grown. This affects their ability to fly and they’re prone to crashing into obstacles. During such accidents, they can break their remaining blood feathers.
A while later, young birds pass their so-called post-juvenile moult. While they’re moulting, several blood feathers can be injured. The reason for this is that regarding their ability to fly, many juvenile birds are not as experienced as older ones and therefore they’re still prone to accidents.
Sometimes it happens that bird owners witness the moment when a blood feather injury in a young bird is caused by an accident. If multiple feathers are affected, massive bleeding can occur, which can be a major physical burden for the bird. If just one feather is injured or has broken off, the bleeding sometimes stops on its own. Nevertheless, first aid should also be provided in such a case. But be careful: The bleeding often starts again later when the blood crust breaks open. Certain measures are therefore required.
What should you do if you notice bleeding from a blood feather? In contrast to skin bruises, there is usually no hemostatic agent that can be applied selectively with a cotton swab, for example (apart from liquid bandage in case of small injured feathers). It makes more sense to stop the bleeding of large feathers by applying pressure for a few minutes with a clean cloth – however, you should not press so hard that you break the bones of the affected bird. And of course, you can use a hemostatic agent in addition. How to stop bleeding with such agents is described in detail in the corresponding chapter (coming soon).
To be on the safe side, contact an experienced avian vet since many broken blood feathers have to be pulled. If they remain in the skin, bleeding can occur again and again later when the blood crusts tear open. The repeated loss of blood would severely affect the bird.