Lovebird's Family Couldn't Figure Out Why He Was Losing His Feathers
“To us, Blondie is a warrior.”
When a little lovebird named Blondie first came to live with the Escobar family in Venezuela, his name seemed perfectly fitting. Covered in bright yellow feathers, the curious bird would light up every room he entered.
But as Blondie grew, his namesake plumage began to fall out in clumps. His family couldn’t figure out why such a happy little bird was slowly going bald.
“He wasn’t flying like he used to, leading him to fall a lot,” Isabella Escobar, Blondie’s sister, told The Dodo. “I thought it was odd, but my parents said that he was just going through a phase.”
When Blondie’s feather loss spread from his legs and wings to his head, the Escobar family decided it was time to visit a vet. The doctor ruled out molting, diet and possible skin infections — settling on the explanation that Blondie was plucking out his own feathers.
“The doctor told us that he was stressed and that’s why he was losing a lot of feathers, but my mom and I didn’t believe it,” Escobar said. “He was losing feathers on his head and it is impossible for a bird to take feathers from his own head.”
Blondie’s family wanted to help him, but they were unsure of how. Then, one day, Escobar was scrolling through Instagram and spotted a bird who could have been Blondie’s twin: Rhea the naked bird.
Rhea had lost her feathers due to psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), a virus that can lead to permanent feather loss, an overgrown beak and a weak immune system.
While Rhea lived halfway across the globe, she helped the Escobars feel like Blondie was a little less alone. She also provided some much-need insight for how to care for their special needs bird and make him comfortable.
“We read every single article we could find about the disease on the internet because none of the veterinarians knew about the disease and didn’t know how to treat Blondie,” Escobar said. “Thanks to Rhea, we had an idea of how to properly take care of him. As his skin is really dry we use coconut oil or Vaseline to moisturize it, and we give him a lot of vitamins in his food.”
Watching Blondie lose his ability to fly was especially difficult for the Escobars. But they’ve worked to give the curious bird plenty of ways to entertain himself. “I feel like the worst thing that a bird can go through is to lose their feathers and for them not to realize it,” Escobar said. “It was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve had to see. So I tried to entertain Blondie by showing him toys and other places around the house that he could go without using his wings and he totally loved them.”
Blondie occasionally gets cold, even in a warmer climate, but unlike Rhea, he refuses to wear clothes. After some trial and error, his family found an adorable work-around — stuffed animals. Now whenever the little bird is ready for a nap, he snuggles up inside one of his special stuffed toys.
Now over 3 years old, Blondie has grown accustomed to not having the same mobility he used to. He loves to be in the kitchen while his mom cooks, or sit with his sister while she does her homework. His family is using his social media presence to spread the word about PBFD, just like Rhea saved Blondie.
“To us, Blondie is a warrior who always lights our day every time we see him,” Escobar said. “He showed us that you should love with all of your heart every animal no matter their appearance.”