Is It Better To Clip Your Parrot’s Wings Or Not?

Black Cockatoo flying left to right
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Why is humankind so focused on lopping off body parts?

We “bob” dog’s ears and tails.

We castrate bulls.

We lop off the foreskin of infant males.

And now we wanna chop off the wings of animals that have been flying for 99 million years.

“Earn the right to fly”? Preposterous.

Flight is what birds are all about.

Flight was granted to birds long before, way long before humans could cook food with fire.

 

 

Let’s jump into the original Quora question here.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about wing clipping.

Everyone says you have to learn how to do it right.

It’s not about how to use a scissors and where to make the cuts.

Even a veterinarian who looks at say a Congo African grey and says “I’m going to take three inches off the birds wings” then doesn’t test for lift is not doing it right.

Birds have to be able to turn and slow down, “stall” like an aircraft, so they don’t fly into things head first.

4 cockatoo landing composite blog header Is It Better To Clip Your Parrot’s Wings Or Not?

Wing clipping is all about providing controlled flight for the bird.

Here is a diagram of a typical bird’s wing feathers.

wing anatomy blog Is It Better To Clip Your Parrot’s Wings Or Not?

We want to stick with the “Primary remiges” aka “Primary flight feathers”.

Start by clipping perhaps an inch or so off in a neat, straight line, perpendicular to the birds body.

Some purists will leave the outer feather intact which in fact does help bird navigate better but is very dangerous because a single feather can get caught between the birdcage bars and cause severe wing damage.

With a smaller bird like a cockatiel you can toss the bird to someone else standing within your home (great flight training technique too).

A larger bird, say a blue fronted Amazon would be held two to four feet above the ground, then push your hand forward, which urges the parrot to fly.

If the bird gains lift while flapping, trim off another inch of primary flight feathers.

Repeat this process until the bird can gently glide  (with some reactive wing flapping from 4 feet high (typical bird cage height) to the ground without injuring itself.

Besides landing which we will talk about in a moment, think about feather pluckers.

An Eclectus parrot can have as many as 8000 feathers.

When you clip a bird’s primary flight feathers you are clipping 11 or 12 of the largest and most important feathers on their body.

When the bird preens, which they do about a third of their day, their beak and tongue will encounter roughness on the trimmed feathers (regardless of scissor quality).

Over preening may occur.

This is one of many feather plucking triggers.

It’s another wing clipping issue having nothing to do with flight.

There were many comments in this Quora thread about teaching birds how to fly.

Judging from the six answers (so far) here on Quora I can see that nowhere near enough thought is put into this question as to should we or should we not clip a bird’s wings?


Also published on Medium.

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Author:

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.