|I'll start this by saying that I am
"pro-flight". That's actually a very controversial position right
now, as it seems that the majority of parrot keepers in the US today
clip their birds' wings.
I have had my birds trimmed from time to time -
but for the most part I try to keep them full-flighted. It's not
an easy decision to make or to live with - and there are plenty of folks
out there happy to shout at me for letting my birds keep their wings
Before you clip your bird, please consider a few
of these points:
- I won't present myself as an "authority" on
this, but in the nearly 30 years I've kept birds, I have noted that my
birds appear to be happier, friendlier, and overall healthier if they
are allowed flight. If you want scientific evidence for why this
is, it's out there (here's an excellent
science-based article on this subject). For me, it's just
enough seeing how my birds act. They aren't as fearful or shy as
birds who are clipped (I've known a few people who had clipped
parrots). Of course you can carry your clipped parrot around
with you - but it's just so much more charming to have them be able to
fly to you when they want. In my experience, fully-flighted
birds scream less, bite less, and are sick less often.
- Parrots are beautiful. Their wings are
beautiful - and all the more so if their feathers are full. Even
a very light trim makes the feathers less lovely.
- Trimming/clipping has to be done right, or the
bird can become uncomfortable and may even start chewing and plucking
it's own feathers out. That's because feathers that are cut
can have sharp edges that poke them on the back and sides. It
doesn't feel natural and the bird instinctively tries to preen and
correct it. They end up self-mutilating because the sensation
drives them bonkers. Once a bird starts to self-mutilate (overpreening)
it's very hard to stop them.
- Cutting feathers is also a bit risky because
you could hit a "blood feather". If that happens, you've got a
mess on your hands - and a potentially dangerous blood-loss situation
for the bird.
- Fully-flighted parrots can get into things that
a clipped parrot wouldn't, that's true. But I could not say that
the clipped bird is per-se "safe". A clipped bird isn't able to
care for himself as effectively. It can't fly from danger.
- Clipping a bird doesn't stop it from flying
(unless you pretty much rip out every feather). Bird bodies are
designed for flight - and it takes a surprisingly small amount of
feathers on their wings to allow them to lift. When you clip,
you are not stopping that (unless, again, you've really mutilated
them). What you ARE doing is preventing them from being able to
- Worried about having "polly poo" all over the
house? I guess that's a legitimate concern - but you can
potty train your bird. There
will still be the occasional accident, but bird droppings don't smell
(if the bird is healthy) are easy
to clean up (most of the time...).
And what kind of person would cut the legs off a dog because he poo'd
in the house?
you find you must reduce your bird's flight ability, please do be
aware that there is more than one way to do this. It's
possible to just "trim" the wing and slow the bird down.
"Clipping" often means a much more radical cut, and greatly reduced
(eliminated?) flying ability. Even if you don't want your bird
flying around the house, please leave enough there so that he/she
can glide safely to the floor.
Although I am very strongly "pro-flight", I have had almost
all of my birds trimmed at one point or another. It wasn't
an easy decision to make - but I considered it a temporary measure.
Here are my experiences with clipping:
is an excellent flier, and I'm very proud of him when he performs his
daring aerial acrobatics. But when he was about a year old, he
suddenly developed an "attitude problem" and started flying at my face
when he was angry with me. These "road rage" incidents seemed to
happen when he'd been allowed to look into a mirror or other shiny
surface for a while. He'd gaze at his reflection and become
quickly enamored - and violently jealous if anyone got too close.
Once he even flew right at me and nipped me on the lip (it bled a
bit). That was the point at which I knew I had to take action.
I did three things: I put him in a different cage, put the cage in a
different place, and had the vet give him a light wing trim
(just enough to slow him down a little).
This triple-whammy worked, and overnight Aussie became (again) the
sweet-spirited 'tiel that we have today. When his wing feathers
came back (in the next molt) he continued to behave well, and has been
a good bird ever since. Today he is fully-flighted again.
was about 2 years old when Pakshi came to live with us. Bubba's
natural curiousity and total lack of respect for other people's space
led him to be continually flying over to Pakshi's cage and climbing
all over it. Pakshi ignored it at first, but then started to
become enraged when the other birds were in his territory. When
Bubba flies, he makes a lot of noise (his wings
sound like a tiny little motor or a huge bumble bee),and
when he was out, I'd hear him lift off, but he was so fast I couldn't
catch him before he'd get to Pakshi's cage. I feared that Bubba
was going to lose a foot, a beak, or more if this didn't stop.
So, as a desperate measure, I had Bubba's wings trimmed to slow him
down a bit. This didn't actually stop him, but it slowed him
down enough so that I would have time to intervene. He
eventually lost interest in invading Pakshi's space - and he's been
fully-flighted for the last 18 months.
had been severely clipped before I adopted him. He came to me
never having known how to fly at all. As he came into his first
full molt and his flight feathers started coming in, I had quite a bad
time with him. He wanted so much to fly like the other birds.
You could just see the longing on his little face when Bubba or Aussie
were out moving freely from cages to couch and back again.
Finally Pakshi started trying to fly - but his way to do it was to
climb up on something and jump off (and then
crash to the ground in a heap). It was comical at
first, but it became scary quickly because it he seemed to form the
idea that if he just climbed high enough, he'd jump and have enough
time to get the flapping going. I started calling him "Evil
Kneival" - and had to keep him close by when he was out. Even
with close supervision, he still managed to climb up too high and do
heart-wrenching belly flops on the kitchen floor. Twice he broke
blood feathers in the process (but after crashing
would turn around and start climbing right back up again).
Poor little guy - he was so determined. Eventually, with enough
time for the feathers to grow in (plus frequent "flap flap" training
with me) he learned to fly. He's never been as confident as the
other birds, but he does well considering his bad start. I
believe the lesson here is that a bird should be allowed to learn to
fly before he's clipped or trimmed.
came to us as an unweaned baby, and thankfully had not been trimmed or
clipped. I was very determined that I would not cut those lovely
wings - and as Jesse grew stronger she began to experiment with
flying. It was amazing - it took her about 4 days to go from "no
flying at all" to jumping off whatever she was sitting on and
successfully navigating to sites as far as 40 feet away (even turning
a corner partway in flight). We were thrilled, of course, but
that newly learned flying ability wasn't accompanied with graceful
landing skills or the maturity to understand that certain surfaces are
verboten. We adjusted as best we could (all
breakables removed from the bookshelves), but when her
new confidence in flight led to an attitude problem
(she suddenly started refusing "step up" and was acting
generally "bratty") and when she began to develop the
habit of flying to the family room curtain rod every time she could
(forbidden territory for a host of reasons, not the
least of which is the fact that the curtain rods are made of pine...)
I knew we had to take action. We had the
vet give her a trim. Just like Aussie, she dropped the attitude
immediately, and became more cooperative. Now we're working on
teaching her how to have fun in the "parrot approved places"
(which actually includes most of the house).
She can still fly quite well, and can still get to the curtain rods,
but she doesn't go there as much, and I think she's starting to
understand that they are off-limits (the last
time she climbed up there, I heard her make a noise that sounded like
me saying "No, get off!"). Only time will tell,
but we're hopeful that when she molts in the spring of 2006, we'll be
able to leave her fully-flighted like the other birds.