Why Does My Cockatoo Pick At My Scabs? Tips and Advice

If you are a proud cockatoo owner, you might have noticed a rather peculiar and somewhat disturbing behavior: your feathered friend may be drawn to your scabs and try to pick at them. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this curious behavior, the potential dangers it poses, and some tips to prevent your cockatoo from engaging in this activity.

You may have wondered why cockatoos exhibit this behavior in the first place. The short answer is that it is likely related to their innate grooming habits and social bonding. But there’s more to it. Keep reading as we dive deeper into the fascinating world of cockatoos and their scab-picking tendencies.

Introduction: Cockatoos and Scab-Picking

The Grooming Instinct

Cockatoos, like many other birds, engage in grooming, or preening, as a vital part of their daily routine. This activity helps them maintain their feathers, remove dirt and debris, and distribute natural oils to keep their plumage in good condition. Preening is also a social behavior, as birds will often groom each other to form bonds and show affection.

A Sign of Bonding

In the wild, cockatoos live in large social groups, and mutual grooming is an essential aspect of their community living. When your cockatoo picks at your scabs, it might be attempting to groom you as if you were another member of its flock. This can be seen as a sign of affection and trust from your feathered friend.

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Curiosity and Exploration

Cockatoos are intelligent and curious creatures that love to explore and interact with their environment. Picking at your scabs may also be a way for your cockatoo to investigate and learn more about you, its beloved human companion.

Possible Health Concerns

Although it might seem like a harmless behavior at first, allowing your cockatoo to pick at your scabs can lead to a few potential health issues. Picking at scabs can reopen wounds and expose them to bacteria found in the bird’s beak. This could result in an infection and slow down the healing process.

Stress and Anxiety

Sometimes, a cockatoo may pick at your scabs when it is feeling stressed or anxious. Identifying the underlying cause of stress and working on addressing it can help reduce this behavior and ensure your pet’s well-being.

Preventing Scab-Picking Behavior

Positive Reinforcement

One way to discourage your cockatoo from picking at your scabs is to use positive reinforcement. Pay attention to when your bird is not engaging in this behavior and reward it with praise, attention, or a treat. This will help the cockatoo associate good behavior with rewards and reduce the scab-picking habit.

Distraction and Enrichment

Another effective method is to provide your cockatoo with adequate mental and physical stimulation to distract it from picking at your scabs. This can include toys, foraging activities, or training sessions.

Covering Scabs

If your cockatoo persists in picking at your scabs, you may consider covering them with a bandage or clothing to make them less accessible. Be sure to keep the wound clean and monitor it for any signs of infection.

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Cockatoos are intelligent and social birds, and their scab-picking behavior is likely a result of their grooming instincts, bonding attempts, and curiosity. While it might be a sign of affection and trust, it is essential to address this behavior to prevent potential health concerns. By using positive reinforcement, providing distractions and enrichment, and covering scabs when necessary, you can effectively discourage this habit and keep both you and your cockatoo happy and healthy.


Q: Why does my cockatoo pick at my scabs?
A: The main reasons are grooming instincts, social bonding, and curiosity. However, it can also be caused by stress and anxiety.

Q: Is scab-picking a sign of affection from my cockatoo?
A: Yes, it can be seen as a sign of affection as grooming is a social behavior for birds, including cockatoos.

Q: Can my cockatoo’s scab-picking habit cause health problems?
A: Yes, allowing your bird to pick at your scabs can potentially lead to bacterial infections and slow the healing process.

Q: How can I discourage my cockatoo from picking at my scabs?
A: Some methods include using positive reinforcement, providing mental and physical stimuli, and covering the scabs.

Q: What else can I do to minimize my cockatoo’s stress and anxiety?
A: Ensuring a consistent daily routine, providing a stable and comfortable living environment, and offering plenty of mental and physical enrichment can help reduce stress and anxiety in your cockatoo.

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