Can Older or Plucked Parrots Learn to Fly?

I saw a comment the other day that really struck me. Someone said that because they didn't teach their bird to fly as a baby, that it would simply never be able to learn. I don't want anyone believing that about their birds that didn't learn to fly at the fledging age. Yes, a bird learning to fly as a baby is ideal, it's how nature intended, HOWEVER, older birds are entirely capable of learning to fly (even free fly) as well, it just takes more understanding and patience. 

The video above shows a scarlet macaw who did not learn to fly until he was 10 years old! Now, this parrot is free flying outdoors daily. It took 10 months to flight train Percy, and by the time he was 11 years old he began free flying outdoors! 

Percy is just one of many older parrots whose owners saw beyond... and had the patience and understanding to worth through the obstacles that are sometimes saddening and frustrating and make you think maybe this will never happen. 

Credit for Percy: Thank you to Chris and Misty Armstrong for sharing Percy's story with the world. Chris Armstrong trained Percy and offers parrot consulting in Florida. His website is www.percywings.com.

Bella has been with her human companion, Anne, (not her first home, either) for over a year and not only was she "somewhere between 5-7 years old" (according to the first owner) but she came with a severely butchered wing clip job, too. 

Her chest actually started out bare and as she naturally molted out old feathers and the new ones came in, she underwent the flight training process with Anne. Something miraculous happened...

Bella let her feathers come in and stay. This is Bella now, a year after Anne adopted her:

Way to represent for the plucked, clipped AND older birds, Bella!  

Credit for Bella: Anne Cooper

Phoebe is a 6 year old, severely plucked (bare chested), green wing macaw who never learned to fly in her entire six years

Daniel spent a full week earning her trust before starting flight training. And as you can see from the above photo, Phoebe's feathers are coming in! 

Credit for Phoebe: Daniel Kor. 

Storm was an obese 35 year old blue fronted amazon parrot who changed his life around in just 45 days. A complete healthy diet change and exercise to which he literally rose to the challenge! 

You can read about Storm's entire transformation process here

Credit: Jeanne Harrington (owner). Trainer: Jamie Womach. Photographer: Dave Womach.  

Ruby was a clipped (just one wing) wild caught green wing macaw who was guessed to be around 2 years old. 

Due to her extreme affection to an already-free-flight trained blue and gold macaw, she was free flying successfully after one year. 

Credit: Home Areewatanasombat

This is King Arthur. Now almost 18 years old! He's an amazon parrot that Sarah adopted 5 years ago.

He was clipped since he was a baby and didn’t know how to fly nor did he have any desire to. He has not been clipped since! He's has thyroid issues, weak grip, and needed help to get on a proper (healthy) diet and incorporate more exercise into his life through flight. Just look at him now!

Credit: Sarah Zippel.

This was Bella at 7 months old as a clipped bird. Once her flight feathers came in her owners worked with her 3-4 times a day to build her confidence to even attempt to fly.

This is Bella now at 1 year, 8 months only and free flying for a total of 7 months:

Credit: Elena Cabrera Wisch

Yara came clipped as shown in this video.

Once fully feathered it was only 4 months later that she was outside doing this!

Credit: Ryan Birke.

Related Resources for working with older parrots:

1 comment

Misty Armstrong

Jamie, One thing that really upsets me about the whole thought process that older birds either can’t or won’t fly is that some free flight enthusiasts miss the whole point. One enthusiast, after hearing Percy’s story, that “he will never be ably to fly as fast or as well a baby raised by an owner to fly.” Since when did flying become a contest??? Percy’s vet said his heart and lungs are so much healthier than a non-flighted bird. There are many, many birds stuck in sanctuaries that can fly to some extent. It just takes a devoted adoptive owner to work with that bird on recall. I’ve seen cases where an adopted bird actually recalls faster and stronger to it’s new owner. The bird remembers any past abuse or neglect by a human and seems to really appreciate finding a person who treats them well. A strong bond forms.

Misty Armstrong

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