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How can you tell if a feather is a blood feather?
"Blood" feathers are immature feathers that still have a blood supply
to the shaft. You can spot them by the dark- colored shaft, as opposed
to the white or clear shaft of a mature feather. Also, they will usually
be shorter than surrounding feathers and not completely "spread out." If
you cut one or it breaks, it will bleed profusely and not really heal,
so over a period of days as the feather constantly gets knocked around
and moved, it will bleed again and again, and the bird can actually die
of blood loss.
If you pluck the broken feather out of the follicle, though, there
are muscles in the follicle that will cut off the
blood flow. It is helpful to grasp the feather with tweezers or
pliers as close to the skin as you can and "twist" it
in the socket before you pull - this usually results in the complete
shaft coming cleanly out of the follicle. When
you do pull it, pull straight out and smoothly rather than "yanking"
it. This procedure, while absolutely necessary, DOES hurt, so make
sure the bird is properly restrained (preferably by another person) when
you do it.
Once a blood feather is pulled, the feather-growth process begins
all over again, and a new blood feather will
soon replace the pulled one. Once a feather reaches matuity, the
blood supply degenerates, the pulp dries up
and the calamus develops into a hard shaft. However,
ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have a good "Blood
Stop" on hand. This can be purchased from any good pet supply.
In a pinch you can use corn starch.
Blood feathers are located on different areas of a bird's body, depending
on what molting stage he is in. Baby birds growing their first
set of feathers have all their blood feathers at one time, all over their
bodies. The large
'Toos do not have a molt like most birds however, as they are constantly
When you clip your bird's wings, make sure you examine each quill
(or calamus), and identify each shaft as not being a blood feather before
you cut. If you do this each time, you will minimize your chances of having
a broken blood feather, although it still seems to happen to all birds
at one time or another.