| Flight is a Bird's Greatest Gift - Are You a Gift Giver or Taker?
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Disclaimer. I fully understand if you clip you bird's wings. Large birds especially in homes with 8 foot ceilings and lots of windows open themselves up to injury from flight. I like flighted birds but what's right for me in is not necessarily right for you.
For those of you who have not followed Popcorn's Big Adventure allow me bring you up to speed. When you do a search for anything bird or parrot related we have high Google search rankings. Rankings are even higher if you do a search from a computer in the Chicago metropolitan area.
On a regular basis we get called by strangers, the police and fire departments to rescue anything the appears to to be an exotic bird. So it was with great interest I responded to a call for a white bird in the bushes not two blocks from the Birdie Boutique. It was a warm day, I grabbed a backpack birdcage and strolled 2 blocks north on Western Ave where al woman was waiting on the steps of her brownstone a few feet away from a small white bird who was more or less stuck in the front yard hedges. She was was clearly flighted (her escape MO) and scared. I grabbed her taking the anticipated the bite, felt the rush:-), grabbed her around the neck dropped the towel over her (which I had brought), stuffed her little but into the cage and hiked back to the shop. (Note: Parrots have a pharynx unlike humans that have a larynx, thus a thumb and forefinger around a birds neck is a safe and easy way to restrain them. Conversely squeezing a bird around its chest can suffocate them)
We put her in a small 18 x 18 cage in the corner of the shop and Paid our due diligence by filing reports with Parrot Alert 911. and posting around Facebook. We've been bird free for the past three years and not even thinking about leaving the bird and little cage at work we brought a cage home and now were shuttling little Princess daily. So it was no stretch when Catherine asked me "do we want to think about keeping this bird?" I said yes with no hesitation. So here we are about five months later. Popcorn has a beautiful Cockatiel Palace at work and an HQ 702 that was sitting in the corner of the warehouse. But I'm getting ahead of myself. That said when we brought Popcorn home we knew she was flighted. My first morning trying to get out of the house with her to go to work she took off while trying to get her into her travel cage I lost sight of her as she flew about the apartment frantically. I couldn't find her for 10 or 15 minutes. She'd fallen behind a large cabinet in the bedroom. Fortunately she sustained no injury. When I got to the shop we clipped her.
In the ensuing weeks her primary flight feathers started growing back while at the same time she was molting. Week by week as her wings grew she gained confidence. A jump off the cage door to a soft landing on an area rug led to flight across a room to see what mom was eating. Within a couple of months we all knew she was capable of sustained flight from an elevated surface and after about three months she could provide enough lift to get to a cage even the shower rod from the floor. (Have you ever thought about enormous amount of energy it takes for bird to instantly gain altitude from being quite still on the ground?)
It wasn't without great debate that Catherine relented with my assurances safety would be my utmost priority with our new sky pilot. We live long wide 80-year-old apartment in Chicago with nine and a half foot ceilings. All the windows have shutters with drapes and shades. Were we do have open glass we placed flower arrangements in front of it. We let her fly into the kitchen as long as nothing is cooking and she has her own play stand atop the dishwasher. She knows if she comes in the bathroom she has her own towel across shower rod. Although in the bedroom she always picks the floor or the bed 7 just refuses to land on a stand anywhere in the room. She's a BIG help when comes time to making the bed - not. Her home cage (like her work cage) has a landing door and even though there is a Capital shade with a full spectrum light on top, there's enough room to land. She has been getting better at landing on the horizontal faces of the cage too which is a great development and a testament to her control. Once I saw her horizontal flight Getting more consistent in less erratic, II made sure of it coming home every day, taking her out of her travel cage and gently tossing her the direction of her home cage from a foot or 2 away. Each day the toss would be a little farther. She has learned this is where it's always safe to land.
Sometimes she becomes a sticky bird. She'll be on my fingers and I'll try to toss her towards the cage and feel her little feet get tighter like she was velcored to me. What's really cool now is when I'm at my desk which is about 10 feet away from her cage, knowing she not going to let gow of my fingers willingly, we're now both so confident that I just gently grab her around her wings and body the do an underhand toss in the direction of her cage. She'll keep her wings tucked, dip for a millisecond then flap flap flap land. I can't get enough of that!
Sometimes she'll just leave her cage and start doing figure eights at home and at the store (which has 10 and a half foot ceilings) but always landing on a "known" landing the zone or one of us. I've gotten a shoulder landing a couple of times but she'll usually land on the top of one of our heads. Popcorn's flight gives me enormous joy. While reviewing some links and a new video that had been added recently- the Hagen How to Groom Flight Feathers. One of the tips mentioned - birds should learn to fly and land before the first wing clipping. Another was not to trim a young bird's nails AND wings at the same time because it may reduce their confidence. What I really like about the video is the close ups of precisely where to cut the feathers on the bird's wings.Should you keep your bird flighted? I think it's an argument that will last forever. Greg Glendell is a strong advocate for keeping birds flighted. He lays out his case and starts with "So, ALL birds are subject to risks in the home, whether they are flighted or not: clipped birds are just subjected to *different* risks than those of flighted birds. Generally, wing-clipping is done for owner-convenience, rather than bird 'welfare' Read the rest of Keeping birds flighted here.
Does this make it right for you and your bird? Not necessarily. You may be in a small house or apartment with lots of (confusing) windows. You may have other animals you don't want riled up. If that's the case, clip the wings. It's not as hard as you think.
Squawk at you next week
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written by Mitch Rezman CMO
Windy City Parrot, Inc
Simply Everything for Exotic Birds - Since 1993
Michael S Stomiany Date 10/6/2013
We are givers to our flock of keets and his highness Elbee the love bird in our little apartment. They return their joy to us in endless hours of amusement. Playing fetch with cat toys they wrangle and maneuver from cage to cage. I'm doing the fetching of course. Landing on me and singing along while I noodle on guitar. The swarm at the kitchen sink when they decide it's birdie bath time. Though our ceiling fans are now just larger perches and daily cleaning is more intense I could not imagine robbing these clowns of this natural instinct. Cheers
Barbara Date 10/6/2013
When I got my first bird, a Timneh African Grey, I let him fly around the house. He was a great little flyer and I was very careful about doors and windows. One day while he was out he flew into something, I didn't see what, and landed on the floor. Later I noticed that his eye was red and swollen. That began a long stretch of taking him to 5 local vets and ultimately to Angel Memorial animal hospital in Boston MA. There was vet there who was, at the time, one of the only vets in the country who was an expert on birds. This was in 1983. The other vets I had gone to tried different treatments; ointments, eye drops, using a syringe to shoot a saline solution through his nostrils that also came out of his eyes and ears. None were effective. After the vet in Boston couldn't do anything for him, I had to give up for the time being. I moved to GA for 6 years and a vet there who was fairly knowledgeable regarding parrots, did his best to help my bird, but there was still no improvement. I moved to Las Vegas in 1991 and found a wonderful exotic bird, and other exotics, opthamologist. After many visits to clear up the ulcerations on his eye (that no-one had picked up on before, including me) He fashioned a tiny lens and put it on the eye and stitched the lids closed. It finally cleared up and was no longer an irritant for my bird. Unfortunately, he is almost completely blind in that eye. My bird had to go through that years-long ordeal because I thought it was cruel to clip their wings. Because of me, he doesn't fly at all now because he knows he can't navigate with only one eye. I don't have to clip his wings now. I feel guilty about the years that his eye was painful to him, but I couldn't tell. I've seen small birds, such as my mother's cockatiel, fly into windows and mirrors thinking they are doorways. When I moved close to my Mom, I kept the cockatiels wings clipped. I now have a vet who is also an animal opthamologist and Smokey gets his eye checked regularly to make sure he has no discomfort. I don't believe it's a good idea to let birds fly indoors unless they have very large areas to fly in. My house is small and I have 4 birds and will not risk injury to them by not clipping their wings. I don't consider myself a "gift taker". My other birds have partially clipped wings because I don't want them to be injured. If you look on Craig's List and lost parrot sites and rescue sites, there are always postings for birds who have flown out of a door, window, porch, shoulder, and their owners are always very distraught. I don't clip for my convenience, I do it to keep my birds safe.
John Ruglass Date 10/7/2013
I would like to mention how well I liked your story about finding and caring for Popcorn the cockatiel. We had 2 male cockatiels, one only reached 8 years(Baby Beaker) due to health issues and the other lived about 16 years (Nicky). What great pets. Baby Beaker was purchased from a mall pet store and as mentioned had health issues with his liver. When we brought him home we were novice bird people and unaware of how hard an unflighted bird had it. One of the first things we learned was when he would leave you shoulder it was a drop to the floor. We actually could hear the air being knocked out of his body. After that we never trimmed his or Nicky’s wings again. The reason we had Nicky is because he escaped his original owner because he was flighted. So I can see the advantages of both conditions. Both Nicky and Beaker live in our memories and they effect many of our decisions we make with our Solomon Island Eclectus’. They are both full flighted, male(Tiki) and female (Mia), because of the experience with our cockatiels. Tiki being a lighter bird (372gms) then Mia (425gms) can fly quite well and lands well unless he finds a slick surface and goes farther than he expected. It is really funny to see the surprise in his body movements when he ends up in your lap and not on the table where he was headed. Mia’s flights are usually from her cage to the floor to go and hide under a piece of furniture she feels is a great place to nest. Her and I got off to a difficult start as she would bite the Hxxx out of my hands for seemingly not reason. This never changed my feeling for my beautiful little girl. After some reading about aggression I realized that since I was paying so much attention to Tiki, he is a real lover and so adorable, that I may be getting in between the male a female. Well, once I started to give Mia a lot of attention she became the bird that I read others speak about when the talk of how loving and sweet female S. I. Eclectus can be. She can still be a bit aggressive to me more than my wife, just the nature of the female in the wild, but what great pets!
MR Date 10/7/2013
I love your accounts of Popcorn's adventures. I remember first reading of your finding her. It sounds like she has an extremely happy and healthy home. What a lucky 'tiel to be rescued by you!
I agree with you. I do understand that some people feel the need to clip for whatever reasons.
We have nine, all flighted. They range in size from two CAGs to a budgie. Of course they all have different 'out' times. We just bought a new home with almost two acres and plans to buy some adjoining land in the near future and hope to build a zoo-class aviary outside for them. They formerly had a 10'x10'x6' aviary where we used to stay but the weather there limited its use (along with a serious outbreak of West Nile in our area). I hope to apply screening over the aviary when we build it to mitigate that risk. My plans are for a carport-type structure, the tall kind that people build to cover class A RVs. I want to cover it in wire cloth, possibly in panels, will a block or concrete knee wall to discourage predators, and a concrete floor with outdoor carpet and a center drain for ease of cleaning. (Our old aviary had outdoor carpet over ground and was a breeze to hose out).
I firmly believe keeping a bird's wings clipped is tantamount to amputating a child's legs at the knees to keep them out of trouble. That said, there is a time for clipping. During training and bonding, clipping wings is probably a necessary tactic, to save time and behaviour issues. Most people do not have the time to interact with birds enough to convince a bird that can fly away when it wants to interact the way they expect it to. We have three never-clipped Green Cheek Conures who were hatched with us after a birth control accident. They were not hand-fed. Mama conure and daddy conure (sadly no longer with us after what we believe was an accidental fall onto a perch while hanging from the top of the cage) fed them and raised them. I took them out daily and handled them and cleaned the nest box. One remains sweet and will step up for me. The was very sweet until he became mature and had to be separated from the girls. Now he is more aggressive and bitey but still a darling. They all, even the mom, step up on a stick for return to cages. Sometimes just requesting "Get up on your boing" will get them to return to their cages. Are they as human-dependant as the clipped birds? No way. Do I love them any less? No way. Aunalese (the mom) was a special needs bird. She'd lived well over the first year and a half of her life in a tiny cage in a Petco. I saw her there for several months and realized she was being passed over as the normal Yellow-sided birds sold. She is a Cinnamon mutation. We bought her (along with a bird to be a 'friend' to her - BIG mistake, he was MORE than a friend!) and brought her home. At the store they told tales of her escaping in the store and being caught. She had NO tail feathers. I suspect some well-meaning employee grabbed her by the tail to try to catch her. She appeared very traumatized. We asked them to clip her wings. They SAID they did. Not only did they make her bleed, but when I got her home and opened the carrier box, she flew out like a JET. Whatever they clipped, it was not her flights. It's taken a lot of time and patience to work with her. She is still very cautious, but has come to the point where she will sit on a stick and allow neck scritches and give very cautious kisses. (THAT took a lot of trust both ways, as a GCC can inflict a pretty serious bite).
I don't regret never clipping those babies. I truly enjoy having fully flighted birds. We are most cautious with open doors and the aviary will have safety cages at the doors. We have a 'buffer room' in the house and make sure when the door opens to the birds room no outside doors are opened.
None of our feathered children perform on cue. They pretty much do what they want, and are encouraged to do so as long as their behaviours do not cause harm to others or themselves. I love that they can fly. We have had one cracked beak (very small crack) that self-healed from a missed landing and knocking it in to the pillar between two windows behind the cage. Yes, flying is a risk. So is walking. I've broken two toes in my lifetime, and severely sprained a knee. Does this mean my right to walk should be limited for my safety? We had more near-injuries with our poor clipped-before-he-flew Sun Conure (BOO to Petsmart!). This poor bird was weaned too early, and never learned to fly. I had to teach him to flap his wings. He didn't know he was a bird, I think. When he'd fall, he'd drop without flapping - very dangerous. He had the worst time learning to land. At first he would fly by a perch, preferring thin metal like the 'toy hanging bars' on the play stands, and GRAB with his beak, then do a 'chin-up' on the bar with his feet. It was hilarious, but sad at the same time. He eventually learned all about flying and now is quite the expert.
Keep up the great newsletters! I really enjoy reading each one.Thanks!
Marylinda Date 10/7/2013
Really find your squawks useful.
Our bird family has grown from four parakeets to include 12 chickens.
We have a five foot fence around the chicken yard, but they are learning to fly.
Doug H Date 10/7/2013
thanks for all the tips my greys wings were clipped when i got him at 3 months old he flew a couple times before that i want them to grow back but dont no how long it takes some times he tryes to fly off his cage he is 18 mo now i put him back where he was to teach him to stay where i put him he has a harness for when he goes outside how long does it take for wings to grow back and i have another question how old are the affrican greys when they are fully grown
Steve Date 10/7/2013
Our Harlequin macaw is fully flighted. We’ve put a deposit on a baby greenwing macaw which we’ll keep flighted as well. I think we’re heading towards macaw mayhem. My wife thinks it’s going to be macaw madness. :)
Thanks for the newsletters.