Stress bars are lines that run crosswise through a feather shaft illustrating that inadequate diet, high stress or illness (and subsequent medicating) was present during the time that the feather was being formed. They are areas of poor development that create flawed or weakened segments which make the feather vulnerable to breakage.
Stress bars are similar to what a geologist discovers as he studies the layers of the earth. Each layer tells a story about the conditions at the time the layer was forming. A geologist can tell if there was volcanic activity or flooding based on the observation of each layer. Stress bars also paint a picture, although less detailed, about your bird’s well being at the time the feathers were forming.
The bars can be either dark or light in color or depigmented and clear, but are always a sign that something has been, and perhaps still is, wrong in the bird’s environment.
In baby birds, feeding intervals that are too far apart and environment temperatures that are allowed to get too cool can lead to stress bars. It is not uncommon to find a few stress bars on baby birds that are newly feathered out. In adult birds, however, stress bars should be taken very seriously.
Given that stress bars can only happen during feather formation, you will have to look back to your parrot’s last molt to identify the period of time that produced poor quality feathers. If your bird molts once a year, it could mean that your bird has been suffering malnutrition or emotional termoil for some time.
In order to get to the root of the problem, you are going to have to carefully dig into your bird’s environment and make appropriate changes and critique your overall performance as caregiver with honesty and humility. More often than not, inadequate diet is responsible.
If you suspect that your bird is unwell as a result of the conditions that brought about the stress bars, you will want to involve your vet immediately. Otherwise, an improved diet will usually see that the trend doesn’t continue into the next molt.
We have to feed our parrots an optimum diet 365 days a year. With two feedings a day, that’s 730 meals every year – that’s a lot of feedings and a lot of stress if you don’t feel confident about what you are doing…
- Do you know for certain that the foods you select for your bird are safe?
- Do you know which ones must be cooked and which are best served raw?
- Do you know how much is too much, or too little?
If you are like so many that feel they just don’t understand parrot nutrition well enough to make changes to their bird’s diet, we have put together a parrot nutrition course, Cooking for Parrots, that is meant for people like you who want to do better, but just don’t know how.
Cooking For Parrots answers all your questions about nutrition, provides you with a seasonal feeding system that lasts an entire year and offers over 100 additional recipes that your birds will love.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.