While browsing parrot videos on youtube, I inevitably end up coming across videos pertaining to wing clipping. Believe me, I don't go looking for them, they just seem to find me themselves. I am always surprised by how common and taken for granted wing clipping of companion parrots is. Even more so I am shocked by the ridiculous myths that are circulating regarding it.
I compiled the following video from some of the horrific clips I've seen on youtube (pun intended). I didn't go out of my way looking for the most brutal ones. I think people who have posted them see nothing wrong with it and from the sample I've seen, I think this is pretty representative of how brutally most people clip their parrots.
I have always been a major proponent of keeping companion parrots flighted, however, I have not put all the reasons into a single article until now. I would like to not only demonstrate why it is bad to clip your parrots' wings but also why it's good to keep them flighted. To be fair, I'll also cover some of the challenges owners of flighted parrots should expect. Nonetheless, I think the reasons for keeping parrots flighted far outweigh reasons for clipping.
My personal experience of living with and training parrots spans a clipped parrot, refledged parrot, and a never clipped parrot so I think I am equally qualified to discus any of these stages. So onto the main topic, how to properly trim parrot wings? There is much discussion about whether to clip the primary or secondary feathers. How many feathers should be clipped? Will my parrot hate me if I clip its wings? And many other similar questions. My answer is that the right thing to do is not to clip a parrot's wings in the first place but instead analyze the motives for clipping and then achieve them in less intrusive ways than clipping the wings that are specifically directed at those issues.
Kili was clipped when I first got her. Like most parrot owners, I didn't know any better.
On the other hand Truman was never clipped. It took a great effort to find a breeder capable of this.
Parrots, like virtually all birds, have feathered wings that are used for flight. Millions of years of evolution of the avian and psittacine biology have led to these highly effective flighted bodies. Birds are evolved for flight in many different ways beyond just the wings that are apparent to the uneducated eye. Birds, like their dinosaur ancestors, possess hollow bones, air sacks, and higher metabolisms. These anatomical systems allow for the balance of weight and energy required for flight.
I think most people would agree that it would be cruel to always keep a cat or dog locked up in a small kennel without the chance to walk and run around for exercise. Likewise, even if a parrot isn't always caged but has its wings clipped, it is unable to attain the level of exercise necessary for its physiology. The health of the clipped parrot is as much jeopardized as a human or animal entirely denied of physical exercise. Obesity, cardiological, respiratory, and muscular problems are just some of the issues associated with parrots denied of flight. This is a good time to point out that a clipped parrot and an unclipped, but always caged parrot that has no room to fly, are in practically the same predicament. I will use clipped and unflighted interchangeably to mean parrots that are entirely denied flight whether by clipping, caging, or other means.
In flight, a parrot not only has to perform strenuous contractions of its pectoral muscles for flapping, but also many peripheral muscles for balance and direction. In order to keep up with the intense aerobic respiration necessary to keep those muscles moving, the bird needs to make full use of its heart, lungs, and air sacs. Thus many muscles and organs are used and exercised by a parrot in flight.
The problems of clipping are not only physical but also psychological. Without the rigorous mental stimulation of flight, clipped parrots are more likely to develop behavioral problems such as feather plucking, screaming, and biting. Think about it, an animal with the anatomy and metabolism evolved for flight has way more energy than can be consumed by any means other than flight. In a clipped parrot this unconsumed energy leads to obesity and/or behavioral issues associated with restlessness.
Feather plucking is often (but not exclusively) associated with insufficient mental stimulation, aka boredom. Flying is no less mentally challenging than physically. Believe me on this. Even without being physically strenuous, piloting gliders and airplanes is a mental exercise like no other. After a few hours of flying, I feel like my brain was reinserted after being bounced around in a game of badminton. Flying not only involves thinking about a lot of things quickly but also planning ahead. Our feathered friends have to think where they are going, how to get there, how to navigate obstacles, avoid predators, prepare for landing, calculate the landing, and have backup options in case it doesn't work as planned. That bird brain has to work harder in a few minutes of flight than spending all day with toys, feeding, and tricks. So you see, clipping wings not only causes a physical but also a mental handicap to a parrot.
Clipping a parrot's wings immobilizes a parrot which causes it to depend on humans for transport. People think that's a good thing. They believe that this makes a parrot tamer, more manageable, and like people better. Wrong. Just because the parrot cannot get away from things it dislikes does not make it not dislike them. Screaming and biting can be largely associated to the clipping problem. Parrots have a fight or flight reflex. Really it should be called flight or fight because they will typically opt to fly away than fight. The clipped parrot learns to bite the owner to avoid handling or things it dislikes. A flighted parrot flies away instead. To the lay parrot owner, biting may seem preferable over flight. Hey, at least the biting parrot remains within reach while the flighted parrot can get away. However, with training, flight is more manageable than biting. A parrot will fly where it wants, so if you can just change things such that the parrot wants to fly to you, problem solved. Biting on the other hand is very difficult to undo once it is learned. Once a parrot learns that biting will get it what it wants (to be left alone, not to be put into cage, etc), it is very very difficult and painful to eliminate this. To eliminate learned biting, it is necessary to accept hundreds or thousands of bites to convince the parrot that this will not affect your behavior when it is already convinced that it can.
Screaming is yet another problem that clipping is partly to blame for. The screaming parrot in the cage is a different issue, however, out of cage clipped parrots learn to scream to get the owner's attention. In the case of a flighted parrot that wants to go some place else, it will simply fly over there. However, a clipped parrot placed on a high stand is helpless and cannot go back to its cage for a drink or over to the owner without human attention. Thus the clipped parrot can learn to scream to get the owner to come over to take care of its needs rather than attending to them on its own. Also, to me it seems that parrots are more prone to screaming when they have a lot of energy. After a good flying session they get tired and tend to be a lot quieter.
I am going to present many reasons I have come across for clipping wings and present alternatives.
Clip the parrots wings so that the parrot will love you.
The parrot has no reason to love you whether you clip its wings or not. It probably has even more reason not to if you're so selfish that you want to cause such an atrocious physical and mental handicap. The best way to achieve a parrot's love is to do things that it likes (or train it to like things it may not naturally like) and treat it with respect. By treating a parrot in ways that it likes ensures that it will want to fly to you and be around you. You cannot force your pet to like you, you have to earn it. Not clipping the wings provides the most genuine feedback. If your parrot regularly comes to you, you know it really wants to be with you and not because it is forced.
Clipping wings is necessary for the parrots own safety.
This is the biggest load of bull I have to listen to from all over the place experts and beginners alike! First of all, I don't think anyone truly believes this and that it's just a cover up for other selfish reasons. But I will for the moment assume that people really think this and go line by line dispelling this fundamental myth of parrot ownership. Rather than addressing this classic line, I'm going to break it down to specific safety concerns that clipping is purported to address.
I clip my parrot's wings so that it doesn't fly away when I take it outside.
Many people who have never once seen their parrot fly indoors have been shocked to see their clipped parrot flying away outside. There are several reasons why clipped parrots magically seem to be able to takeoff outdoors. Wing clipping normally involves cutting the tips of several primary feathers. The primary feathers are a bird's means of propulsion moreso than lift. Primary feathers are more akin to a propeller than a wing on an airplane. Without thrust, a parrot cannot fly up or straight. However, it can still glide on its remaining secondaries and wing surface area. While the clipped parrot cannot glide or control its flight as well as an unclipped one, it is still able to do this to an extent. Indoors this usually means that a parrot can only fly a limited distance. Outdoors, there are three elements that can cause a clipped parrot to fly beyond any capability observed indoors. The adenaline rush of a major startle could give the parrot strength to flap harder than usual and overcome some clipping. Wind is the biggest cause of clipped parrots becoming able to fly outdoors. Wind replaces thrust as the source of air moving over the wing surface initially for a clipped parrot becoming airborne. By taking off into a headwind gradient, dynamic soaring occurs where additional lift is gained by increasing winds. Also winds can be deflected upward by trees and buildings, creating even more of an upward push. Worse yet, the wind drifts the parrot across a large distance, but being clipped it lacks experience or control to solve this. The parrot could end up in a tree, fall into water and drown, or get hit by a car. Don't be complacent and think that this is only a problem on windy days. Thermals can form without wind and suck the helpless parrot upward should it take flight. People have been shocked by how high or far their clipped parrot has ended up when it unexpectedly took flight outside. Whether clipped or not, companion parrots should be properly caged or restrained when taken outdoors.
It is necessary to clip parrot wings so they cannot fly out of doors and windows.
Once again, even a clipped parrot has some flight and gliding capability. Sometimes it is just enough for something terrible to happen. This is why rather than using clipping (which isn't foolproof for preventing fly outs), it is important to solve this by keeping windows/doors closed while the parrot is out. Whenever doors or windows need to be opened, the parrot should be away in its cage. This is the only way to guarantee its safety.
Parrots should be clipped to prevent them from falling into toilets, sinks, and other sources of water.
I hear this all the time, yet it makes absolutely no sense. A clipped parrot is more likely to "fall in" by accident without escape than a flighted parrot. A flighted parrot can control its flight so most likely would not be in danger of this situation. I can tell you from personal experience that my parrots have never gone into sinks/toilets even when possible. They are scared and uninterested in them. They are less likely to fall into them than a scared clipped parrot without control of its flight. There still exists the possibility of doing it out of curiosity which really can apply to any parrot. Clipping wings is no guarantee that the parrot doesn't end up in the bathroom. Keeping toilet seats closed or better yet bathroom doors closed solves this danger without clipping parrot's wings.
Parrots need to be clipped or they can fall into a boiling pot of water while cooking.
I see absolutely no good reason for a parrot (or any pet) to be out during cooking. Besides boiling water, cooking usually involves knives, fumes, and other things that can be dangerous to any any parrot. The one and only case I have heard of a parrot falling into a boiling pot of water was a clipped parrot though. Parrots should be put away and attention given toward cooking. But if we're going to talk about theoretically who is safer, it's probably the flighted parrot as it can fly away. A clipped parrot fell off someone's shoulder once and landed right in the pot. Once again, clipping is not a solution at all (and possibly a greater threat). Common sense and safety precautions must prevail.
Parrots must have their wings clipped or they will fly into walls/windows and break their neck.
This myth I have only ever heard professed by people who have always clipped their parrot's wings. My parrots fly around the house and I don't have this problem and nor does anyone else I know with flighted parrots. If anything, it's the clipped parrots that end up crashing into things when they gain a few feathers without practice or experience using them. I guess owners take this as proof that parrots can't be trusted to fly and go right back to clipping them without even giving them a chance to get better. My parrots did take some harmless bumps while learning to fly but have practically never crashed again since then. Once a parrot is a capable flier, it can think on the fly and avoid walls and windows. As an extra precaution it is good to keep windows shaded, however, once parrots learn about windows they can fly in such rooms without knocking into them.
Parrots can become victims of other pets (cats/dogs) if they aren't clipped.
Parrots are at risk around other animals whether clipped or not, period. Despite people's hopes and desires of keeping both in harmony, parrots just are not compatible with carnivorous pets who instinctively see them as prey. Clipping may actually put a parrot at greater risk of not being able to fly away but keeping them flighted does not save them either. I have heard of more cases of parrots being killed by cats/dogs than most other kinds of accidents combined. Don't look for excuses, don't think if it hasn't happened that it can't, don't add a parrot to a household with a cat/dog/ferret, don't add a cat/dog/ferret to a household with a parrot. This really is a case of choosing one or the other (or keeping them entirely apart, like dog outside).
If I don't clip my parrot, it won't stay on its perch.
Well duh! Neither would you. Naturally a parrot wants to move around, explore, and do different things. No matter how much food, toys, and exciting things you put on the perch, it's not enough to keep a parrot sufficiently mentally stimulated. Of course when it is unsafe or impractical for the parrot to roam your home, it should be in the cage. However, for the time it is out, it deserves to have some freedom getting around. I don't know why people think it is fair for a cat/dog to roam a house all day long but that a parrot should be clipped and sit on/in it's cage 24/7. If clipping is the only thing that it is keeping it in one place, then you can imagine mentally how much it is missing out on when it can't go anywhere.
I don't want my parrot pooping all over the place so it is best to clip the wings.
This practically is not an issue for a potty trained flighted parrot. Almost all of the time my parrots fly back to their perch to poop. In fact this may be cleaner than a clipped parrot that just goes wherever it is because it doesn't have the option to fly to its designated pooping location (such as when it is on the owner).
If my parrot could fly, it won't want me to put it back in its cage and fly away.
The root of the problem would exist regardless if the parrot is clipped or not if it does not want to go back into the cage. The flighted parrot would fly away, the clipped parrot would bite. Either way, something is not right and you would be hurting your relationship with the parrot by forcing it. Instead of clipping (or forcing), use training and feeding schedules to make it such that your parrot wants to go back into the cage and it's like you're doing it a favor.
If my parrot could fly, I wouldn't be able to put it away in the cage as punishment.
Sure shows what a bad idea it is to use the cage as punishment? Most likely it just encourages more biting anyway so it's for the better not to do this in the first place.
Clipping parrots' wings does not hurt them
It is true that the actual scissor to feather aspect of clipping wings does not hurt them. Many times parrots are hurt in the grooming process but even that can be done gently enough (or even trained to participate in) that this may not hurt. However, the parrot is likely hurt in other physical and psychological ways. Its health is hurt by the lack of exercise, it's mind is hurt by helplessness, and it's body is actually hurt when it falls down. Often times clipping is done severely on purpose not only so that the parrot couldn't fly but also so it would be self-punishing to even try. This can lead to bruised or fractured legs and sternums.
Flighted parrots can get killed flying into ceiling fans.
Yes, they can. I don't know what parrot owner in their right mind keeps those things around. If not entirely remove it, I would at least suggest disabling the wiring so it can't be turned on by accident. There are plenty of alternatives like closed box fans, air conditioners, and those new bladeless fans. It's a reasonable enough sacrifice to make for the safety of your pet and not a good excuse for keeping them grounded. I hate to think anyone is choosing a fan over their pet and if they are I really pity the way they must treat it in other regards.
Flighted parrots just end up in the cage all day.
This isn't true or at least doesn't have to be. Or rather it should be the same as with clipped parrots. Even clipped parrots require supervision when they are out of the cage. After some time they will get bored of staying on the same perch (as would a flighted parrot that might just fly over to another) and begin to scream for attention, hop off, or find other ways of driving the owner nuts. I think it is just in the parrot's nature to get bored of things and want to explore so clipped or not, the amount of time the owner can tolerate them being out shouldn't change too much when going from clipped to flighted. Some just have more patience for these things than others. However, during the transition stage things can fall out of balance which usually encourages people to go back to clipping. The time when a parrot is figuring out what it can do with its wings isn't necessarily representative and you have to move past it to get to a truly flighted parrot. My parrots get about the same amount of time out of the cage as they did when they were clipped (some of them). It is limited moreso by my schedule than anything else but when I do spend all day at home, I still keep their out of cage schedule similar to what they should normally expect.
Clip a parrot in the beginning and let it fly later.
Some folks on the edge of encouraging flighted parrots still suggest an early clip (including breeders that fledge and have flighted parrots). The most popular time to clip (weenling coming home) is probably the worst time to do it. Developing parrots need to learn flight and how to appropriately use it in the human environment during this stage more than ever. They learn quickly and get hurt less because their bones are still flexible. This is like a toddler learning to walk. Not being able to fly in this critical stage may cause some permanent physical and mental abnormalities. The parrot that got to fly throughout its first year will have an advantage over the one that didn't down the line. Most importantly, this is the most pointless time to clip a parrot because the just hand raised fledgling is eager to go to people and eager to learn. This is the best opportunity to teach it life in the human household while still having its unquestioned trust.
A partial trim is a good intermediate compromise.
Some people suggest cutting just 2-4 primaries so that the parrot retains a level of flight but flies less. I don't like this idea because it seems the parrot would have to flap disproportionately hard to stay airborne and cause stress to its wings and system. It is definitely more natural to be flying with full feathers. If the owner is ok enough with the parrot to be mostly flighted, then clearly flight safety precautions have been made so there really isn't much reason not to just go all the way. Parrots will get into mischief no matter what so you may as well accept that there is no magic solution and it's part of who they are and what we like about them.
I know people are going to come up with some specific exceptions and try to argue that it's ok to clip all parrots on the basis of these rare ones so I'll just bring up some cases where clipping may be inevitable. Some parrots will be born with deformities or develop certain injuries throughout their life that may prevent them from safe flight so these cases should be left up to the vet. Parrot rescues are overwhelmed with other people's unwanted parrots and it is often impossible or dangerous to keep them flighted. Under the circumstances those parrots are already getting the best they can expect considering the situations they are coming from. Still, rescues should strive to home out those parrots to friendly homes where they can be kept in their natural flighted state. However, with such an overwhelming number of birds being displaced, they often have to do whatever they can for minimal survival for these unfortunately unwanted animals. I cannot blame the rescues. It's the people who screwed up the parrots to begin with that are at fault.
Then there will be animal hoarders who just want to collect as many different parrots or animals as possible. They can't keep parrots flighted amidst a household zoo of animals. The problems here lie far deeper than just clipping vs flight so I'm not going to get into them. The only point I have to make is that people shouldn't mix parrots with incompatible animals and shouldn't acquire more animals than they can provide outstanding living conditions for. Likewise there are circumstances of children owning parrots that want to keep them flighted but the parents do not allow them. I don't know what the parents were thinking allowing them to get a bird in the first place then but another reason why I don't recommend parrots for children until they are in complete control of their circumstances.
There will also be some circumstances where people bought and kept a parrot clipped for a long time and are considering flight. Yet their household and circumstances truly prevent them from keeping them flighted no matter how much they would like to. Again, it is still worthwhile to try to go as far as possible in preparation for having the parrot flighted, brainstorm with other people what can be done, etc. But, there will be times that it is still not possible to go that final step. However, this is not justification for most people not to try or make excuses. Everyone thinks they can't do it but most often it is because they haven't tried or haven't tried long enough. I simply cannot believe that such a vast number of parrots have to be clipped by extreme household circumstances. Just because exceptions may exist does not mean we shouldn't all strive not to have to be them.
Now I'd like to go over some of the challenges. Flighted parrots do require some training, vigilance, and bird proofing. However, none of these concepts should be unfamiliar to owners that clip. If they are, they are probably going about parrot ownership in the wrong way. The vast majority of bird proofing should already be in place regardless if the parrot can fly or not (such as avoiding teflon, closing doors, closing windows, not cooking with parrot out, etc). Just the finishing touches and supervision are all that's needed beyond that. Even clipped parrots can end up on the floor and electrocuted while chewing a cord so owner vigilance is required either way. And finally training. Even clipped parrots must be taught basics like step up, targeting, and being held. Adding flight recall is just once further step and really the culmination of the other skills. It should almost come naturally if you can provide the parrot the necessary motivation to be around you. There are plenty of minute details and perfections to flighted ownership that I won't get into here because I have discussed them before and throughout. Accepting these challenges should just be a natural part of bird ownership. If owners genuinely care about their companion parrots, the benefit of knowing how much better off your parrot is far outweighs the extra effort in keeping them flighted.
Many people resist keeping flighted parrots. I'm not completely sure why but my guess is that they mainly fall in two categories: people who simply don't know/realize that keeping parrots flighted is safe and possible, and people who just don't care about their parrot. I think the sad reality is that most people who clip their parrots fall into the second category. Whether it's because they prize their possessions more than their pets or because they just selfishly want a decorative talking animal that doesn't get in the way... I really pity their parrots and find it a total shame that they acquire them in the first place. These people will resist, make excuses, distract, and ignore good reasoning. But they won't have the guts to admit that it's their fault and they are to blame and not the parrot. I cannot change their minds. But for everyone else who clips their parrots and is reading this article, please take these reasons into consideration. Don't take this decision lightly. Think it trough and seek help of others. Please feel free to discuss this and your specific case on the parrot forum. Think it over. Work in little steps toward making your parrot flighted. Even if you don't think you can achieve it 100%, just taking the steps to bird proof as much as possible, use harnesses outside, using flighted precautions, etc will at least ensure more safety for even the clipped parrot. Then all that will be left is figuring out the last few unique issues to getting your parrot safely flighted. There is always a solution. The only question is if it's worth it to you?
Finally I would like to end this article by expressing just how truly remarkable it is to have flighted parrots. This is a large part of the reason I chose to have birds. It is just absolutely thrilling to watch them effortlessly get around on their wings or feel the breeze as they swoop right over my head. We should appreciate, marvel, and envy their flight and not take it into our hands to be taking it away from them. Here's a video of my parrots in flight.
Note all the flights in the video are trained/cued flights and it may seem like that's the only kind of flying my parrots do. This isn't true. They do fly at will or on cue to me outside of training sessions or just where they want to go. It's just very difficult to capture because it is spontaneous. The only way to reliably demonstrate their flight to an audience is when it is on cue. But rest assured they do fly as they wish at other times.
if that doesn't get at least one bird it's right to fly back i have really given up on human's, and mya and penny just flew over me watching them being clipped made me sick to my stomach how can anyone think that's o.k.
That is sickening.
Myrtle does loops through rooms to check on everything all day. Poor Rambo has to climb down from his cage and walk everywhere.
If everyone could see the difference in my two they would never think of clipping.
Honestly, living with five flighted parrots, I was surprised at the emotional, visceral reaction I got from just watching that clipping video. There was a time when I clipped, but I would never, ever consider doing it today with any bird. It's kindof like, once you live with flighted parrots, you can't go back. It just is who and what they are. You take away flight, you change the bird and I don't believe it's for the better.
One aspect of flight that you didn't touch on that I think needs to be discussed more, is flighted aggression. Birds can become aggressive towards a person or animal and if they can fly, it's tough to contain. I don't think it's a reason to clip. I do think that the aggression has to be modified. I also think that a lot of people just can't or won't do it. I think it's a very important and ongoing discussion and in my mind, one of the most important and BIGGEST issue with keeping a lot of parrots. (not so much budgies or cockatiels because they aren't typically aggressive)
I think the default has been if "aggresssion"...then "clip"....
I know because there once was a time when I thought about it. Don't we all think about it at one time or another?
Today, I'm more inclined to consider it to be more of a flock dynamics issue and if all birds are physically fit and mentally healthy, the flock dynamics often work themselves out....but not always...and not with all species and especially, not with mixed flocks with species that would normally not be compatible or especially aggressive species. For example: Cockatoo males tend to kill the hens in compativity so clearly, we are doing something wrong here with these birds. What? I'm not a cockatoo expert so don't konw.
Anyway, I have to go...but just throwing out some thoughts. Thx!
Thanks Mona. I don't think flighted aggression is really an aspect of flight. It's just the expression of existing aggressive tendencies expressed in flight. I guess where it becomes a problem is when a parrot is normally accustomed to stepping up for one family member but not [url=http://TrainedParrot.com/Socialization:263ixa1o]socialized[/url:263ixa1o] to the others. While clipped, people who don't like the bird got away with just not asking it to step up. Given the chance to fly, the bird attacks them. They are flock animals so it's important that they be properly introduced, trained, and respected by all members of the flock (family). When a family acquires a dog, the entire family participates and accepts this decision because everyone is affected. Everyone has to at least be on good terms with the dog (not necessarily involved but on good terms). But with birds people seem to think a single household member can be involved while not the others. I don't see why it should be this way though. Like the family dog, the family parrot should be flighted and everyone must work on being on safe terms with the bird. [url=http://TrainedParrot.com/Taming:263ixa1o]Training[/url:263ixa1o] and [url=http://TrainedParrot.com/Socialization:263ixa1o]socialization[/url:263ixa1o] are the way to go here. Flighted or not, it should be done. Just people who clip grow complacent and turn birds into solitary monsters who jump on aggression opportunities when returned to flight.
Michael, this is a very well-done blog entry on the clipping 'controversy'. Thank you so much for the time you put into writing this!!!!
As Mona mentioned, once you go over to the flight camp, you tend to never go back, though I too have dealt with aggression issues in my large mixed flock and thought more than once 'maybe I should just consider clipping THIS one'. But when It came down to it, instead I chose other approaches. I do own birds who are too aggressive to be out at the same time together. For example, my Iris Lorikeet and my two small conures are simply not birds who can be in rooms together for fear of injury/death to the Half Moon and Aztec conures. Along with training, I believe that simple physical and temporal separation are important tools...installing doors to kitchens, multiple barriers to the main door to the outside, and alternating time when certain birds are out. Not to say mistakes never happen, but training yourself plus adding multiple safety lavers and rules and sticking to them has helped me tremendously.
As you said with Truman, it takes considerable effort to find a breeder who will allow a baby parrot to go to a home without ever doing a wing clip. Out of my 14 birds, I have one who I purchased from a breeder unclipped...my lorikeet, and I would say that is because fewer lories go to pet homes even when handraised, most wind up either being breeder birds or sent to zoo exhibits, both of which prefer flighted birds. Most of my other guys are second-hand birds who were clipped, some for many many years and in general their flight skills are less than optimal once they regain full wings. Molly (my Meyer's), Giggidy (my Greater Jardine's) and Nigel (my Congo African Grey) are the three I would say that despite some early clips, were able to become excellent fliers within a year of indoor flying. Everyone else I own is either incapable or substandard in their skills comparatively. To me, it wound up being a true handicap that frustrates my other birds' desires to simply move or go to where they want to...hesitation, begging behaviors, fear of falling or a poor landing, panicking needlessly...that's what I see in my handicapped and poorly fledged parrots. But even poor skills seem to be better than handicapping them further.
My Aukie Jardine's came to me with a severe clip, bit out of fear as she would lose her balance, and had repetitive screaming issues. Ditto for Donald, my male Eclectus. Both I worked with as far as increasing their flight skills and those issues diminished significantly with the comfort level being able to fly to the floor or beeline to me if startled. Neither ever have done joyful purposeful exploratory flights around a room like Molly, Giggy and Nigel do without thinking. BUT, remaining flighted I believe really MATTERS to their mental health.
Thanks Jean! You're absolutely right, clipping does nothing more than mask real issues (while creating new ones). Even having two clipped parrots out on separate stands doesn't guarantee safety. One could end up on the floor and the other jumps down just to fight.
I kind of wish Oasis could keep at least one aviary unoccupied and let out some of the caged birds for a few hours of exercise each day (on whatever kind of rotation that would keep them with like parrots, safe, and healthy). I was also talking to Ginger (you know Ginger from Phoenix?) about how Zuzu is still in the same exact cage. I wonder how come you guys don't rotate the birds around to a different cage once in a while? For example I switch my parrot's cages places and rearrange things just to keep them accustomed to changes (also gives them something new to ponder and keep busy a bit).
Do you have any more tips for my readers about keeping parrots flighted? Any other myths you come across?
As someone who grew up around parrots (my grandmother bred and raised cockatiels), I never really formed my own opinion on wing clipping. I was simply told as a child 'clip the wings or your parrot will die'. I was told stories of birds whacked to death by ceiling fans and of birds who flew through an open door, never to be seen again.
I never really thought about it until my husband and I were in a pet store the other day and saw a young conure. I just thought it was a cute bird, but my husband's immediate reaction was 'OMG, they cut his wings! The poor bird!'
His reaction was so horrified, it finally made me think hard about WHY we clip parrots. In searching the web for reasonings behind both clipped and flighted, I found this blog. After seeing your parrots flying around your home, I was in awe... And horrified that I had ever denied a bird of that experience. As for the safety concerns, I see there's always ways of preventing danger. I currently have no birds at the moment, but I am thinking of getting some soon. They will definitely be allowed to keep their wings.
My cockatoo's feathers were almost fully grown out, and I was working on recall training. Last weekend I saw a bunch of "lost parrot" posters and I freaked out and clipped my bird's wings. I knew already that clipped birds can still be carried away by wind, but I worried anyway. I also wanted to harness train my bird before allowing flight, because she spends a lot of time with me, even outdoors.
Watching that clipping video broke my heart. It even looks barbaric. My cockatoo is trained to "assist" with her grooming so it wasn't as traumatic looking but still, this article has convinced me to not clip her wings again, and avoid any accidents through training and being a responsible bird owner, rather than simply clipping and feeling a false sense of security.
As a side note, my cockatoo is TERRIFIED of your training perches, but my Ringnecks love them! Little by little I am getting my cockatoo comfortable with sitting on them. Thanks for making such a handy product
Hey, well I have a rainbow Lorikeet and she's about two months and she's flying now, I don't want to get her wings cut, but I'm going away now for a week and my sister is looking after her while I'm gone and they have this light that's hanging out and I'm scared that if she lands on it she will die, so what I am asking is should I cut them this time only or leave them and hope and pray she doesn't land on it. She does come to me, she will come out of her cage and fly on my hand or head or shoulder. Please help me thank u so much
Whatever you do, DON'T CLIP NOW! Cancel the trip if you have to. Not that I support clipping pretty much ever, but if it was done at a later age, it would be far less critical. However, at this young age it would lead to a permanent mental handicap. It's like a toddler being unable to learn to walk at the right time or learning to talk at the right time. They can get better later but never the same. It is critical that the bird continue being able to fly now. I would say your 3 solutions are:
A) Cancel trip
B) Disable/replace the light
C) Leave the bird caged this entire time
I think leaving the bird caged for a week while you are gone the entire time but flighted when you get back is less harmful than not letting it fly it's entire first year of life. The other thing to consider is to not use that light for now. Buy the caretaker a nice lamp or something else that is safe to use for now. You may even be able to get away with just changing the light bulbs in the lamp to cooler burning ones (like CFL or LED). Those light bulbs might cost a little extra but well worth it.
couldn't they block the room with the hanging light off from your ? it can't be their only room.if there are no doors hang up some sheets. i've had to do this when we had people coming in to install or repair things in our home to keep our curious birds from bothering people while they are working.
Great post Michael. For the flying into window myth, what I did was put my budgie forest on his play stand right next to the window so he can touch it and know what it is. And till this day he flies from his cage to the play stand by the window with no problem. Even if I didn't show him where the window was, I am sure that after the first bump, he would learn about it.
Side question Michael, is it necessary to use a clicker every time you recall. Or do you not use a clicker other times aside from training. Wouldn't just giving him a treat or scratch or other forms of positive reinforcement be enough?
Also I didn't think about the agressiveness part from flighted birds. Mona can you please discuss on what you would do to fix aggression towards the SO. My gf has bird phobia so an attack by the bird would hurt the progress she is making. She is ok with my budgie now through training her with him lol. And the progress will continue but if I do get another bird in future who might become flight agressive to her, how should I deal with it ? Or should I do the same things I did to bond such as feed him with hand and so on....
[quote="Malissa23":156e2m9g]Hey, well I have a rainbow Lorikeet and she's about two months and she's flying now, I don't want to get her wings cut, but I'm going away now for a week and my sister is looking after her while I'm gone and they have this light that's hanging out and I'm scared that if she lands on it she will die, so what I am asking is should I cut them this time only or leave them and hope and pray she doesn't land on it. She does come to me, she will come out of her cage and fly on my hand or head or shoulder. Please help me thank u so much[/quote:156e2m9g]
Can't you tell them, to put the cage in a different room?
[quote="Nir":3b2d49qi]Side question Michael, is it necessary to use a clicker every time you recall. Or do you not use a clicker other times aside from training. Wouldn't just giving him a treat or scratch or other forms of positive reinforcement be enough?[/quote:3b2d49qi]
Yes, I can recall my parrots without a clicker but usually I don't. Why? Because I employ high variable ratio reinforcement schedules and I conditioned the clicker as secondary reinforcement. I fly the birds as much for exercise as training so I want them to fly a lot and eat a little. They are not getting a treat for every flight. Sometimes they'll do as many as 10-20 flights till they see food. I don't want them to get disappointed by not getting anything and give up. As they continue getting clicks, they know that if they keep trying or try harder, something really good is on its way.
I just got my baby quaker parrot and she/he is 3 months old. All she does is fly around the room. I sure hope she settles down real soon as I don't want to clip her wings. Is there anything I should be doing at this point as far as training goes?
Hi, I have a beautiful little green-cheeked conure, named Keyla. She is about 4 years old and fully flighted. When she was 2 years old, we moved to a new house and had our grandchildren visiting for the summer. I decided that it would be safer to get her wings clipped at this time, but I regreted it. She became so depressed afterwards. I felt that I had deliberately disabled her and felt really bad about it. Birds are clearly meant to fly. Eventually, her feathers grew back and all was well again.
But now, 2 years later, I'm having a serious problem with her. She seems to think that I am her partner and she sees my husband as competition. She constantly attacks and bullies him. Now I am considering getting her wings clipped again to solve this problem. Do you have any other suggestions? I strongly disagee with keeping her locked up in a cage all the time.
After several close calls with clipped birds, everything from getting outside to flying into walls and almost flying into a cieling fan (the fan provided enough air movement to give my Sun the lift he wasnt usually able to get), i was very lucky not to lose any of them, I thought about it and realized that having clipped birds gave me a false sense of security, and did nothing for the safety of the birds. [color=#FF4000:2bde0wqy]Clipped birds can get a lot further (and faster) than most people realize and usually just far enough to get themselves into a lot of trouble.[/color:2bde0wqy] I havent clipped for 2 years now and have only had one incident. while outside in their cages to get some sun, one of my Hahns macaws opened a food hatch and got out, which my dogs immediately noticed, had he been clipped he probably would have ended up on the ground and would have been dead before i knew he was out. Instead he flew to a nearby tree and called to me to come get him, and with a little coaxing flew back to me. with a little common sense and preparation it is easy to make a house safe, i have even put aviary mesh on the security gate on one door so i can leave the door open when the birds are out.
I havealways had a clipped bird. The reason for this is ignorance....but I thought it was safety. I did own two flighted cocketiels and one died when it was startled and jumped up flying into the celing and breaking her neck. The other consumed paint....I didn t even realize she was doing this until she fell ill.....lead poison. When we got my amazon my husband insisted she remain clipped and she has been....now we are divorced and he has custody of her she will likely suffer a loss to the wild because he takes no other precautions when he brings her outside. I have two parrots I recently brought home from a horrific environment....and the first thing I did was clip them so I can handle them. The ironic thing is I still cant handle them because they are afraid to fall.it never dawned on me that I may have ruined their ballance. I plan to not clip again but in the meantime while their wings grow it is hard and i am sad that I have harmed my babies. I havent had much help figuring this out. MICHEAL since Kili was clipped in the begining....was she also handfed? If not, you had to convince her to step without that advantage. I am now thinking how can I teach my birds to step up when they are scared of falling. I have them trusting me to pet but not to pick them up. How can i teach them to trust my moving stick or hand ....now that they bite only wnen scared I guess I have to be more vigilant in watching for clues. Anyone else who has rehabilitated parrots please chime in.Thanks.
all mine came from neglect or abuse backrounds. what i do to make them accept my hands is allow them to explore on their own. i pull the cages next to a comfortable seat and lay my hand out palm up. holding them still they get curious and come to play with them. when they approach my hand without hesitating i will try to pet their head if they get nervous i back off. once you build trust then you can work on stepping up and anything else you want to teach.
I have a question, I just got an indian ringneck he is about 5 year old, and I don't know if his wings were clipped. He will try to fly, but after a few seconds he will fall on the floor and I am afraid that he could hurt himself . how do I teaching him to fly? thank you.
Great to read your thoughts and reasons for flighted birds.
Bloody shame there are so many closed minds out there and no matter how much we state the truth it still does not get past the solid brick wall. Closed shop.
I am in total agreement with you, and I have 7 flighted cage free birds and one clipped that one day I hope will be flighted, but he needs to learn about a harness, as he comes everywhere with me, including work.
i try to push flighted, as we both know birds need to fly and any form of clipping is handicapping and that is never going to be a good practice with a bird you truly want to have a strong bond with.
I have meet Barbara Heidenreich and enjoy her workshops. She has a true talent for communicating with the birds she comes into contact with.
Can I quote some of your stuff on any of the forums I hang out on? Needless to say I will always give you the credits.
Clawinnz on youtube and photobucket. or just clawnz other places.
[color=#8000FF:1lavues7]Michael. I used to be a strong proponent of keeping all my birds fully flighted during all circumstances too, though there was an occasional circumstance where I would put one or the other into a partial clip. (Vivi caught some bug and it disoriented her, she kept hurting herself) and I have something I think you should add to your list of exceptions.
My budgie, Peeper, is convinced that my cockatiel, Vivi, is an incredibly attractive female budgie. He constantly follows her around, bothers her, tries to feed her, tries to preen her, and tries to mount her. Occasionally Vivi allows his attention, particularly the feeding, but for the most part tries to fly away. This leads to ridiculous chase scenes that progress all over the house, with the end result that poor Vivi is exhausted and comes to me for support. The two land on my shoulders and proceed to fight. I was terrified one of them would lose a toe while on my shoulder. For a while I'd tried to restrict them to not being out of their cages at the same time, but my mother had this lovely idea that nothing was wrong with it and found Vivi's constant hounding rather funny, and kept letting them both out while I was sleeping or away. I finally put Peeper into a partial wing clip. He can still fly clear across the room and go anywhere he pleases, but he gets tired somewhat more quickly and he can't fly in circles without losing height. I only clipped a small number of feathers to achieve this. Now that Peeper knows that Vivi can get away from him if she needs or wants to, he's considerably backed off and the two interact without Peeper constantly putting pressure on Vivi to mate with him. I still won't allow the two to be together in the same cage for obvious reasons and shut both cage doors when either or both of them are out, because they tend to gravitate towards the same cage (Or rather, Peeper follows Vivi when she wants a drink of water) and I don't know how to foresee how circumstances could change in an enclosed space, open door or not. My mother still doesn't see the danger and lets them both out at the same time with access to both cages. I'm still working on her.
Michael, I'm very curious what you would do if Truman suddenly became passionately attracted to Kili to the point of driving her insane and creating a similar situation. My solution worked for my situation, but how would you deal with it? And would your solution change if you had a relative who kept taking the birds out without taking the situation seriously?[/color:1lavues7]
[quote="Nokota":1g90mj82]Michael. I used to be a strong proponent of keeping all my birds fully flighted during all circumstances too, though there was an occasional circumstance where I would put one or the other into a partial clip. (Vivi caught some bug and it disoriented her, she kept hurting herself) and I have something I think you should add to your list of exceptions.
No, I hardly believe in exceptions any more. Most issues can be resolved or prevented through alternating out of cage times without clipping wings rather than disabling the bird for something it doesn't understand.
[quote="Nokota":1g90mj82]Occasionally Vivi allows his attention, particularly the feeding, but for the most part tries to fly away. This leads to ridiculous chase scenes that progress all over the house, with the end result that poor Vivi is exhausted and comes to me for support.[/quote:1g90mj82]
At least they're getting exercise
Kili used to chase Truman around trying to attack him. In the aviary they could go on an hour flying end to end. But eventually they run out of energy and with time became more lazy and gave up doing this.
The other thing is to find other things for the birds to do to keep them from flying and doing what they shouldn't do.
[quote="Nokota":1g90mj82]The two land on my shoulders and proceed to fight. I was terrified one of them would lose a toe while on my shoulder.[/quote:1g90mj82]
Same problem can happen with clipped birds.
[quote="Nokota":1g90mj82]Now that Peeper knows that Vivi can get away from him if she needs or wants to, he's considerably backed off and the two interact without Peeper constantly putting pressure on Vivi to mate with him.[/quote:1g90mj82]
Ok, it's the easiest way to try to change behavior and I'm glad it's working. Hopefully he will stop wanting to do that but I'm afraid that when his wings grow back out he'll revert back to that because the real lesson has not been learned. All he has learned is not to fly as much when it's hard to.
[quote="Nokota":1g90mj82]Michael, I'm very curious what you would do if Truman suddenly became passionately attracted to Kili to the point of driving her insane and creating a similar situation. My solution worked for my situation, but how would you deal with it?[/quote:1g90mj82]
Kili would rip Truman a new one so I think that would be over in no time and he wouldn't try that again. But in theory, like I said, the main thing is to teach birds good behavior when out and put more of their emphasis toward that. If they are busy flying recalls to you for example, they are too focused and too tired to do stuff with each other. This is essentially how I taught Kili & Truman to stop getting in fights all the time (opposite problem). Since they both keep having to fly to me, they are pretty wiped out and pay less attention to each other and more to me. Keep practicing this until they also learn how to be around each other better but that takes a long time.
Thanks for responding, Michael!
There are a couple of issues with your suggestion.
First of all, while Peeper's OTHER advances are met with a violent reaction, Vivi allows him to preen the top of her head and sometimes feed her. I think this is because she's barely a year old and sees it as parental behavior. But Peeper takes this as encouragement. It's prevented Vivi's rejections from having any impact. I am worried that when she gets older, things may get more violent because she unknowingly encouraged him in the past.
Second is the sheer fact that Peeper hates people. I've had him far longer than Vivi and did manage, at one point, to recall train him. But I can only get him to do anything at all for me if I hide his cage, hide his food for a full day (he won't do a thing unless he's half starved, hence I no longer bother. I think it's mean.) and put him in a partial wing clip. That's not to say he isn't tame. He's never bitten anyone and steps up just fine. But good luck getting him to stay there. I do know what I'm doing, and I've had wonderful, people-oriented budgies in the past. And if I recall Vivi in front of him, he either lands on my hand immediately after her and chases her away from the millet, or lands on her back, which is NOT ok with Vivi. Fighting ensues.
Peeper has never been interested in people at all. I spent the better part of three years focusing my full attention on him, but despite getting some basic commands down he would always, even if all his toys were taken away, choose to socialize with his food bowl rather than give me the time of day.
I had been rushed into buying him by my mother; 'If you're getting a bird, you pick one from this store, and in the next five minutes"
I strongly believe Peeper would be much happier in a different home with other budgies, but my mother refuses to let me try to re-home him. She says it would be cruel. What I think is cruel is forcing him to stay here when he'd be far, far happier in an aviary.
Sorry for the rant.
Yeah, waiting for Peeper to take a hint isn't going to work. Vivi sends mixed messages, see.
Also, some of those clips in the video are REALLY brutal, man! And most of them are doing it wrong to begin with! You never clip from the base of the feather, never clip secondary flight feathers, and always leave the bird with SOME flight capability so that they can be safe in the event of a fall. Preferably enough flight to navigate the house, even without full freedom. Yeesh! Those are some nasty clips.
To be outside with clipped wings is unbelievable dangerous!
You know it is a false sense of security and not really safe to have a bird outside that is clipped if the bird gets spooked it can and will fly and fly far enough to get lost and have a terrible and often tragic disadvantage . Everyone should teach their bird to come for safety . Most people already know their bird is smarter than most other pets and so why not teach them to come when called ? Your bird has a much better chance if lost if it is flighted and trained than if it is clipped and untrained.
Have read all the terrible cases of wing clipping. All our birds are free to fly when they are in their averies or in the house. Are the birds perminently damaged or will they recover if they are not clipped any more. If so how long do they have to suffer. I wish we could educate the cruel owners a lot of them sould not own bird or animals. Robin.
Muscle atrophy may be overcome but is sometimes permanent. The bird grows back feathers but is too weak to fly. Out of habit it doesn't fly so the muscles remain weak and it can't fly. Cycle keeps it flightless. At other times the mental retardation of not having developed properly by fledging young can be permanent. Some birds rehabilitate/recover better than others. But the damage is permanent to a lesser or greater extent.