Yes, I know that I am an extremely handsome fellow but do you have any idea the amount of time and effort involved in making myself look so suave?
While I don’t really keep count, I believe I probably spend a good couple of hours a day preening. Okay, maybe an hour but that is still a great deal of time when I have so much to do each day!
Preening involves rubbing my head against my preen gland (a sort of oil) at the base of my rump and distributing it all over my feathers. Of course, being that I am a very active bird — spending time wood chipping to make my box just right — my tail feathers get really messed up. In order to keep them looking great, I have to run these feathers through my finger-like tongue and basically “zip” my feathers back up.
I can only do a partial preen though. I rely on mom to do the rest. I can only reach my head feathers with my foot. While I am quite dexterous, I can’t quite pinch the pin feathers as well as mom does.
She rubs my head and feels for the pin feathers but sometimes, she has a hard time differentiating between pin feathers and blood feathers. Boy, is there a difference!!!
The blood feathers are still live growing feathers and hurt when squeezed. When mom makes a mistake, she sure has to remove her hands quick or else….she’ll get to share in the blood…by getting a nasty bite from me. What? It is only a defense! What would you do if someone punched or stabbed you? Wouldn’t you retaliate!
The pin feathers, on the other hand are fully formed feathers. They are “dead” so to speak. It only hurts if someone tries to pluck the feather, not if they grab the sheath between their fingers, crack it open and rub it away. It feels so much nicer have a fully formed, useable feather rather than one encased in a sheath. They aren’t too useful that way.
Dad usually complains about the mess. Our preening session usually creates a lot of white dust.
Sometimes, I do the “reverse preen”. Usually to dad. Here I am putting the strands of hair on his head in place. They do need to be strategically placed!
I usually take a shower (mist bath) whenever I get the chance to help with looking clean. Being a dirty bird isn’t so bad though, it shows than I am being cuddled and loved. Just what us cockatoos need!