To Clip or not to Clip, that is the Question!

I know that there has been a great deal of discussion on this matter, and among the avian community there is definitely a division as to how the caregivers feel on this subject.

I personally feel that if at all possible, parrots should be allowed to do what they were born to do….and that is to fly!!! I have watched my own Angels go through many emotional changes (and in a positive way) by being allowed to fly. For me the decision was easy, these magnificent creatures were born with wings to fly and I will not take that away from them. They have already had so much taken away by being born in captivity, it just wouldn’t seem fair to take away this one very important part of what makes them a bird.

Flight is an integral part of keeping your parrot healthy both physically and mentally. Vigorously flapping of the wings helps their bodies to cleanse of impurities, keeps their muscles and heart strong, it strengthens their lungs and respiratory system and it gives them mental confidence and security in knowing that they can fly if needed to escape danger. There have been studies done that showed parrots who were fully fledged and flighted as babies, showed less aggression and self-destructive behaviors when fully matured. Birds of prey have three ways to handle danger and that is to fight, flight or freeze. When one of these defense mechanisms is removed, it can literally damage the way they cope with fearful situations and make them more afraid and defensive. Flight allows parrots to fully negotiate and actualize their social relationships. It also stimulates their thinking process by deciding where they are going, how they will land etc. This forces them into making decisions and choices which is very empowering for their overall mental well-being, and their overall confidence in themselves.

As Jack Page and Eugene Morton write in Lords of the Air, “Flight means space, light, thought, imagination.” So I ask how could we possibly consider taking this away from them?

So while I know that there are those with companion parrots who will argue that flight is taken away for their own protection, shouldn’t it be our responsibility to provide them protection WITH flight. If we truly love and adore these magnificent creatures, why would we ever take away the one gift that has made them who they are. I would also like to add that by clipping, by no means insures the safety of a parrot not flying off. I have read countless stories on parrots who were fully clipped and a gust of wind took them off and they were never found again. This is so heartbreaking and can easily be prevented by using a harness or having an aviary. It really is not that difficult to keep a flighted parrot safe in our homes either. There are simple things one can do to insure that your parrot won’t escape through an open door or window. Yes it does take extra care and precautions, but if we truly love these Angels, then it is up to us to provide everything we can in order to give them a better life in captivity.

I also understand that many have the mindset that a clipped bird will not be able to get into things around our homes as easily and therefore there will be less destructive. Again I will have to say that as caregivers we need to make the needed changes in our homes to provide an atmosphere that is safe for them and for our possessions. First off my birds are far more important than anything I own. They are living breathing creatures and everything else in my home is far less valuable to me. Yes I do have things I don’t want destroyed and so I have found ways to protect those things that are needed for everyday existence. If you are going to share your home with parrots, you need to be willing to make the compromises needed to keep everyone happy and safe. If your possessions are more valuable than your parrots mental well-being, then you probably should not considering ever sharing your home with one. And honestly my birds can climb just about anywhere in my home, so even if they were clipped, this would not stop them from getting into mischief. As parrot caretakers, we must be ever diligent in providing a safe home for our parrots.

I will however acknowledge that there may be times that a clipping is needed. One example would be if you are dealing with a very aggressive bird that is flying and attacking. You may need to clip their wings until you can establish a better relationship with them. I would easily agree that it is better to be clipped, than to spend all day locked in a cage. If these are the choices than obviously a clipping would be in order. If you do have your parrots wings clipped it is also important to know which feathers are actually flight feathers and also how often these feathers need to be clipped. I have read that some parrot owners have been led to believe that wing clipping needs to be done monthly. Ask your Avian Vet to show you exactly which feathers need to be clipped and which do not. The primary flight feathers are on the outer part of the wing and only five to seven ever need to be clipped. Wing clippings only need to be done once or twice a year normally. However do not become complacent and believe that your parrot cannot fly since their wings are clipped. As I mentioned before many parrots have been lost this way. A parrot who suddenly becomes startled can and will fly off. They do not have the flight skills or knowledge to return to their owners. If you are going to have your parrots wings clipped, then make sure it is done by an experienced Avian Vet or groomer. Improper clipping can result in imbalance issues, fear or even pain if clipped to severely. Certain wing feathers need to remain in tact, so that a parrot can glide down to the ground rather than dropping like a rock. Severe clipping may also lead to their own feather destruction when these feathers begin to grow back in.

I watch my flighted Angels with such awe and wonder. They truly show such happiness in flying that I could never take that away from them. I also know that by being flighted (even though I take every precaution to prevent escape) it can still happen. I do however believe that by allowing them to be strong fliers, the possibility of getting them back home safely is stronger than if they were not skilled fliers. We work with recall training and having them fly downward to us. Many birds who are not skilled in this, will fly up in a tree and are afraid of flying down. So while there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides of this argument, I fully believe that the advantages to allowing our birds flight…far outweighs the advantages of clipping.

Deborah

Copyright © 2011 Deborah FeatheredAngels
All rights reserved
(My articles are free to repost, just do so in their entirety)

A Fantastic Article on this subject is
Feathers, Flight and Parrot Keeping by Pamela Clark

I highly encourage everyone to read it!

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4 thoughts on “To Clip or not to Clip, that is the Question!

  1. I’ve seen too many “Lost Bird” flyers to feel that everyone shouldn’t clip their bird’s wings. Of course to the extent of letting them glide gracefully to the ground.
    It has made me a little paranoid.

    I too believe birds have wings, they should fly free.
    However, as soon as we deprive them of their true nature by making them companion animals, I think an indoor-only situation should warrant clipped wings. I’d rather be safe than sorry…
    UNLESS, maybe there was a “Bird only” room, or something like that.
    If you have an outdoor, flight cage, type of set up, that too is a different story…! I err to the side of caution… if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.

    The story of my Elly bird: I turned off fans, closed windows, no stoves or ovens. She was flighted for a good while. One day, she took off into the kitchen, landed in a SOLE pan that was waiting to be washed… That pan had chicken grease left in it. Of all places…Well her feathers are ok now, but were rather fowl for awhile. Since then, I clip her.
    ((I had a thought, birdies may be tempted to smack into windows. Gotta close all the blinds…!))
    She was also rather young at the time. Boy did she have a chip on her shoulder. She was actually very nippy when she could fly. She thought she was hot stuff, but she was a hot mess. =P I clipped her, and her manners came back. She’s a cuddle bug, no feather plucking, no signs of a rowdy girl. When her feathers come back, I let he flutter around for a little bit. If she really wants to, she can go pretty far even with wings clipped..! (That being said, be cautions of birds that are clipped that go outside, they can get pretty far in some cases…! Also watch for hawks…)

    When I take my guys to the play perch, I hold their feet and let them flap. Louie will hold the top of his cage and flap his wings like he’s taking off. He’s not clipped, he’s just old and couldn’t fly if he wanted to. =P Pako has an old wing injury, so he’s never going to fly. They’re all well mannered though..! I spoil the fluff out of them in other ways.

    Girl I knew had cockatiels. She took all the precautions to keep them safe inside, but someone opened the door, and her baby flew away during a cold snap. =(

    Ever see the video of a guy being rescued from a tall tree with his cockatoo?

    I think it’s situational. I think if we want birds to fly free in the wild, we must adopt only and eliminate the need to create more captive birds (don’t buy from pet stores..!). =3

    On the flip side, bird shops will do free grooming on your birdy buddies..! I FINALLY got comfortable enough to clip my crew’s wings, but I’ve watched for a couple of years now. O_O so paranoid…!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. This is definitely a decision that needs to be well thought out and researched before each of us makes our own decision.

      Deborah

    • I was always a firm believer of wing clipping as I had a bird here and there that would fly on top of a macaw cage and get a toe
      taken off. Plus the fear of people coming in leaving the door open.
      anyhow I had several cockatiel that I let their wings grow and they would form a group and fly. they flew so beautifully they would get so close to the wall you would think they were going to hit it. they were also going high speed. It was a beautiful sight and I wanted to continue letting them fly. But having the macaws around I could not allow them full flight. I would have a groomer come in to do wings and nails. Nails had to be done more often. But I always had stands, toys hanging from the ceiling for them to climb up to and play. But then there was my Miss Eliot who was handicapped and was not able to fly. She does flap her wings around which is good, and the best exercise she gets is running around the house. reaching for her toys. I have toys everywhere that she can play with. Also all my wooden things that she likes so much are slowly being replaced. I now have a glass and metal entertainment center that she can’t chew and a glass kitchen table. She does not chew on my desk but she does chew on my microwave cart. so the microwave cart will be replaced pretty soon. I also have 3 plastic under chair pads where she can poop. Her cage door is always open so she comes and goes as she pleases. at night she sleeps in her cage with the door closed. If i go out she is in the cage with music playing

  2. I am in favor of clipping wings, **however** I always let my babies fledge before starting to clip. I progressively clip their wings, meaning that they fledge, learn to fly and land well and then I clip a couple of feathers on each wing. It begins again while they build those muscles and develop that coordination — until they are fully clipped so that they “glide” to the ground – clipped enough so they can’t get height when they try to fly, but safely glide to the ground.

    All my babies leave for new homes with wing clips and I show the new parents how to do it. If they keep them clipped, that is their choice. Some breeder birds, when pairing for the first time, I also like to clip – for example, ringneck hens. I leave the males flighted. this is because if they don’t get along, there is a decent chance that the hen may kill the male.

    There are so many dangers for flighted birds in the home, if one does not “think like a bird” (or like a mother — we see potential danger everywhere *before* it even has a chance to happen), then they should definitely not chance it and clip their birds’ wings.

    Just one aviculturist’s opinion — owner of pets and breeders!

    Michele

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