What Happens When a Bird Loses its Tail Feathers?

If a bird loses its tail feathers naturally (through a process called molting), the feathers will quickly grow back and the bird will not be affected. However, if a bird unnaturally loses its tail feathers, it will suffer from imbalance and may have difficulty flying.

Seeing your bird lose its beautiful plumage can be worrisome. Aside from the fact that it is not aesthetically pleasing, it also calls your pet’s health to question.

Without tail feathers, can a bird regulate its body temperature? And how would it keep its balance while moving around?

Why Your Bird is Losing its Tail Feathers

There are several reasons your bird may lose its tail feathers. These include natural molting, malnutrition, constant pecking from your bird or its mate, or the more concerning Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).

Natural Shedding/Molting

This is a periodical process in which your bird loses its old feathers and grows new ones in their place. Just like humans replenish dead skin, hair, and nails, birds also replenish their plumage.

This process, also known as molting, occurs at varying seasons in different birds. Molting occurs when a new feather is getting ready to sprout from the follicles as a replacement.

Consistent Pecking

Naturally, your birds use their beak to remove dirt, ants, or scratch itchy skin. When this becomes excessive on the tail, it could lead to loss of feathers. When your bird plucks constantly, the follicles are damaged and the regrowth of the feathers is slowed.

Other Pets

Cats are especially notorious for trying to grab onto birds. Whenever a bird tries to escape, there’s a good chance the cat will grab at the tail feathers, tearing some off in the process.

If your cat or other animal is constantly chasing your bird, It’s important to limit contact between the two.

Your bird can also lose its tail feathers if it shares a cage with an aggressive roommate. The fight for space and food could lead to the birds pecking each other and yanking off their feathers.

The difference between a feather fallen off from molting and one lost from aggressive handling can be differentiated by looking at the state of the removed feather. The former will show a natural stem while the latter will be uneven, broken, or show other signs of trauma or force.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

This disease attacks the feather follicles, the beak, and the bird’s claws. PBFD left untreated will kill the cells responsible for the growth of feathers, resulting in malformation. If your bird loses its tail feathers, it could be due to PBFD. If that’s the case, the bird must receive medical attention promptly.


A major part of human skin care is the diet. Likewise, a bird’s plumage also depends on its nutrition. Vitamins (especially biotin), minerals, and proteins are essential for a bird’s feather growth.

If your bird’s tail feathers constantly fall out, it could be because its diet is deficient in required nutrients.

What Happens When a Bird Loses Its Tail Feathers?

Loss of Balance

Birds’ ability to move depends not only on their limbs, but also on their body’s feather mass. The plumage is naturally designed evenly to assist birds in achieving balance.

Loss of tail feathers could cause your bird to wobble or stagger while walking, lean to one side while standing, or have difficulty performing a perfect take-off and landing.

Difficulty in Flight

When birds lose their balance, their ability to fly suffers. This difficulty becomes more apparent when they attempt to land after flying. The tail operates as a natural break, and losing the feathers on this side of their bodies makes breaking their landing difficult.

Inability to Attract Mates

The feathers of a bird contribute significantly to its attractiveness to mates. This is most evident in birds such as peacocks and turkeys, where males rely on their vibrant tail feathers to impress females. When this is lost, the birds may find it difficult to find a mate.

Body Temperature

A bird is kept warm by its plumage. The loss of feathers at its tail can impede its ability to keep the entire body warm.

How to Prevent a Loss of Tail Feathers

Keep Birds Away From Predators

It is important to keep your bird away from other animals that can damage its plumage. This includes other birds themselves. If constant pecking continues, the follicles of the feathers might suffer damage. This will stunt or stop the growth of replenishing feathers.

Ensure Cage is in Good Condition

This is especially important if there is more than one bird. Birds need space. If this is not provided, it could lead to conflicts inside the cage. Conflict leads to pecking and loss of feathers. The cage must also be kept clean to prevent an insect infestation or the breeding bacteria that will end up causing skin irritation.


Your bird’s diet has to be balanced and well fortified with minerals, proteins, and vitamins to ensure its feathers retain shine and volume.

Can Birds Regrow Lost Tail Feathers?

Yes, birds will almost always regrow lost tail feathers. If the loss of feathers was because of molting, sit back, feed your bird more vitamins, and allow nature to take its course.

However, if tail feathers are lost because of pets or children manhandling the bird, it may take longer for the feathers to grow back.

If your bird is losing its tail feathers because of malnutrition or illness, visit your vet to treat the illness. Be sure to incorporate more vitamins as recommended into your bird’s diet.

It’s Important to Determine The Root Cause

If your bird is losing tail feathers, determine the root cause promptly. Tail feathers are just as important as other feathers because they all work together to keep your bird balanced, regulate body temperature, and aid in flight and landing. It is even more important if your bird is relatively free range and flies beyond the house. To quickly flee predators such as snakes and hawks, they must be able to maintain their balance.

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