My bird’s head is bald, why?

Solving the Mystery of a Bald Bird

Part 1

I answer this question at least once a week, so I thought I would post a little information. My answer is mainly for finches and canaries, as I don’t have (many) bigger birds.

There are several components to baldness, and they aren’t all readily apparent. So we have to do a bit of detective work to solve the problem. But don’t worry, it is all fairly straightforward.

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When a bird is bald, my first question is: What are you feeding him?

If  you are still in the dark ages feeding seed only, there’s the problem. He is deficient in certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals that help feathers to grow.  Finches and canaries do need some seed, but they need vegetables, a little fruit, and protein too.

Feathers are composed of a protein, beta-keratin. The area around a feather utilizes protein too, when growing a new feather. So protein is one need. Check the pellets you’re providing for the protein content. You can also feed a little boiled egg or dry egg food (I use Higgins) for more protein.

Another component of the diet that is often missing when birds’ diets are incomplete is Vitamin A. This vitamin has said to be the #1 missing component for captive birds. This vitamin is utilized in feather production as well as eyes, skin, and respiratory health. Some foods that provide vitamin A are: parsley, broccoli, carrots, spinach, and my bird-room favorite, sweet potatoes.

In general, even if your bird is eating a lot of varied vegetables, if he’s missing feathers it is a good idea to supplement with a good multi-vitamin. I’m currently using Nekton-S with good results, although I have also used other brands as well.

The Power of the Sun

Does your bird have access to sunlight? If not, he may have a shortage of vitamin D3. I’ll give just the short explanation at this time, sunlight enables his body to produce D3 which is in turn used to metabolize calcium and phosphorus. If he’s not getting sunlight, that could well contribute to  his lack of head feathers. In fact, I have had a Gouldian that became bald — not my own, but one I’d purchased as an adult — and when I took her outdoors every day for a week, her head feathers grew back! This in spite of the fact that I had artificial lighting in the bird room.

You can use artificial lights (like these) to mimic the sun’s activity. You can also supplement with a good Vitamin D3/Calcium supplement. Here’s one that is easy to use; it’s a liquid you add to the drinking water.

(to be continued)

Gouldian Finch Quarantine Protocol

I have so many questions about quarantine practices, I decided to make a post to refer you to. Quarantine is necessary at 2  times: when a bird is ill/injured or suspected to be ill, and when a new one comes into your aviary.

Bringing a new bird into the aviary is what we are going to discuss today. Whether you have 2 or 200 Gouldian finches, it’s simply not worth it to expose them to illness. You could end up losing the entire aviary! So when bringing one in it is necessary to quarantine.

Quarantine to Prevent Illness in the Flock

In a perfect world, we would put the bird on a different air system than our current birds. However, that’s often impossible for various reasons. I keep my Gouldians in a bird room in my home (no more guest room! :D). I do live in Florida, so at some times of the year I could house new finches outdoors in the pool’s screen cage. I have a nifty countertop there that’s about 8 feet long and sheltered on 3 sides and is under roof. So if the temperatures are between 60-80, which truthfully only happens in March and maybe April, they can stay there. Otherwise it is too hot or too cold.

So usually mine are quarantined in a separate room of the house. I have never had problems with this. One must understand that there are risks involved – illness could potentially spread inside the home. But hand washing and using clean dishes goes a long way. So does keeping food bins separate to avoid cross-contamination.

In other words, don’t feel guilty if you must quarantine within the same air system. Just be smart about it.

That’s the why and the initial how of the matter, but there is one more issue:

WHAT are we trying to accomplish by quarantining the bird?

We’re trying to prevent bringing disease into our flock, and we are also trying to eradicate any disease or parasites the new bird(s) may have. To that end, I’ve developed a quarantine protocol that is 60 days long. 90 days would be even better. My quarantine procedure will remove external and internal parasites and give the owner plenty of time to observe the bird(s) and get them to the vet if needed.  Continue reading Gouldian Finch Quarantine Protocol