This cockatiel likes to perch on my shoulder to receive neck rubs. After a while of this, I notice quite a bit of white flakes, like dandruff, on the fabric of my shirt.

Is this normal? Or might this bird have some kind of issue that needs to be addressed?

She seems quite healthy and happy otherwise. Good looking, nice feathers, eating & pooping regularly. But I am not a bird expert.

  • I don’t know a ton about birds, but I do know dandruff is common on anything with skin. Is your house dry? Since many exotic birds live in naturally humid environments, that’s something you can check for.
    – Gwendolyn
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


The dandruff-like substance on your shirt is a naturally produced powder that is normal in cockatiels. Birds have two primary strategies for keeping their feathers water-resistant. Most birds have an oil gland on their rumps and use the oil when preening their feathers. Others, such as cockatiels and cockatoos, have special feathers (called 'powder feathers' or 'powder down feathers') that produce a talc-like powder that helps their feathers resist water. This is normal and healthy in cockatiels.


This may be pin feathers. Do you know if your bird is in a molting stage right now? Parrots have a molting stages that occur throughout the year. This causes them to have pin feathers. While molting, birds loose old feathers and grow new feathers. These new feathers, which are pin feathers, look like a pin sticking out of your bird. The feather has a very thin coat of a wax-like material that is around the feather helping it to grow. I could see how dandruff and pin feather wax coat could look alike. When you rub your bird the wax-like coat could just be falling from the new feather. Do not worry if this is the case. This is completely normal for pin feathers.

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