What is a Blood Feather?

Every bird owner should know about blood feathers: what they are, how to identify one and what to do if it starts to bleed! A broken blood feather can be a life-threatening situation for the bird, so it’s vital that avian lovers understand how they work and what to do in an emergency!

So what is a blood feather? These features are immature, “young” feathers that have recently grown through the skin during the molting process. Since every bird has feathers and every bird molts, every bird has blood feathers.
These feathers are still growing, so they still have a blood supply in the form of an artery that runs down the center quill core. It’s similar to the “quick” that’s situated at the core of a dog’s nail. As the feather grows and matures, the blood supply gradually slows down and ultimately, the artery closes off.

Blood feathers are fairly easy to identify in most cases, as they are short and thick (since the feather has not “unfolded” entirely.) The quill portion of the feather has a purple or blue tone from the blood that runs inside. They appear on virtually every portion of the bird’s body, since the bird has feathers on nearly every portion of its body. Every feather starts out as a blood feather.

If a blood feather is severely bent or even broken, this will sever the artery that runs through its core, resulting in profuse bleeding. In fact, the bleeding can be life-threatening if a large feather is damaged. The smaller the feather, the smaller its blood supply and the less risk it poses for the bird in the event that it’s damaged.

It’s important to treat the bird immediately if you observe a bleeding feather. The simplest treatment for a broken blood feather: pluck it. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this will stop the bleeding. Since there is no skin or tissue surrounding the artery inside the feather, the clotting process is very inefficient and this is what results in prolonged, profuse bleeding. The body clots more efficiently when the bleeding is situated within the tissue, as is the case for the blood supply in the skin, at the base of the feather.

Large feathers can be plucked using your fingers. Smaller, shorter feathers may be plucked using tweezers.

Another remedy involves using styptic powder to stem the flow of blood. Slightly less effective alternatives are corn starch or flour. Several applications may be required to stop the flow of blood. Generally speaking, it’s much faster and more efficient to pluck the damaged feather.

If your bird has broken a significant number of blood feathers and/or he has lost a significant amount of blood, consider this an emergency situation and seek out immediate veterinary attention.

Visit our archives for additional pet care tips.

Photo Source: Michaela Kobyakov on Sxc.hu

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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