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Preening, in general, is bird grooming. Birds need to preen just as we need to shower and comb our hair. It is an essential part of a birds everyday life and they will preen several times per day and for many different reasons.

Birds preen to remove possible parasites, dirt and dust from their feathers, to align feathers that are out of place, and during bonding and mating. Some wild birds use this time to "oil" their feathers which provides a waterproof barrier. Parrots do not have the gland that produces this oil.

Another reason birds preen is to remove keratin during molting. New feathers are covered with Keratin. These feathers can be itchy and cause discomfort for a bird. At times they can be painful for a bird if they are rubbed the wrong way. Some birds will let you rub their head to help the preening process. At this time you need to be very gentle and do not pull on the feathers. If you gently rub the feather between your thumb and finger the keratin will eventually break off and turn into dust.

If you watch your bird while he/she is preening you will see how they groom different areas of their body and different feathers. They use their beaks and feet and preen each feather separately. They start at the base of the feather and gently clean all the way to the tip. It is very interesting to watch and see the different positions your bird will get into.

Birds also use toys and objects to aid in the preening process. There are certain area of a birds body they may not be able to reach and therefore need assistance. The back of the head and the neck area are two of these spots.

Preening toys and preening aids are two different things and have two totally different uses.

Preening toys are toys that have long strands of cotton or other safe fibers that a bird can pick and pull at. Preening toys are given to birds that have issues with feather plucking. They are also used as a comfort for birds and you will find some birds will snuggle up to a preening toy just as they would a mate. This is therapeutic for a bird. Birds will also pull at a preening toy for simple enjoyment.

A preening aid is something that a bird uses to help him/her preen areas that cannot be easily reached. Toys that have hanging parts that have some weight are a great preening aid for a bird. They will rub themselves against it to relieve the itchiness and to help break off the keratin covering new feathers. A bird can use almost anything as a preening aid, from a toy to a swing or ladder to the side of the cage or a perch.

Preening is a very important part of a birds life.