Flight is the one characteristic that birds have that distinguishes them from all other animals. A bird’s entire physiology is designed for flight. And its emotional health is tied into its ability to fly. It is something that we at Birdtricks are very passionate about.
Recently, a member of our community, Parker, posted on Facebook about a frustrating experience he had with his breeder: the lady weaning his young macaw clipped his bird’s wings after he had told her NOT to.
This made us all angry because Parker had expressed an interest in free flying this bird. We recommended that he demand a refund and look into another bird – and breeder. Unfortunately, Parker had begun the bonding process and had a natural reluctance to let go. It’s totally understandable and was a difficult decision for him because he had already invested his heart in this bird.
The breeder’s excuse for clipping the wings was that she “had to” because the bird was flying around. Wow. That must have been tough on her. Imagine being a BIRD breeder and having one that FLIES AROUND. Laziness is what it all comes down to. She didn’t want to put the effort into the behavior training of a young bird that would soon be someone else’s problem. Clipping made life easier for her. What a jerk.
There are two significant implications in the case of Parker’s bird: since it is his intention to give his bird the gift of free flight, it is imperative that the bird be allowed to fledge naturally. It is during fledging that a bird’s natural skills are developed. And perhaps more importantly, it is when a bird develops the confidence in flight that will carry it through its lifetime.
Young birds make mistakes in flight that are natural part of the learning process. They correct those mistakes, learn from the experience and carry on with self assurance. The bird that has flown and one day drops to the ground like a rock after clipping will carry THAT experience with him and might go on to mistrust his abilities. That is not a good place for a bird to be emotionally – especially one intended for free flight.
When you are getting a bird from a breeder, you are not without rights. This is YOUR bird. You have paid for it and it will be spending a lifetime with YOU. The breeder has a responsibility to deliver a physically AND mentally healthy bird into your care. Anything less than that shows disregard for you and your bird.
There is NO EXCUSE to ever clip the wings of a bird that is discovering flight. If behavioral problems crop up and present themselves in conjunction with flight, correct the behavior. Flight is not the problem. Clipping your bird’s wings because he gets into things is equivalent to binding your toddler’s legs because he keeps heading towards the street.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
I totally agree, birds deserve to fly, why would you ever want to take that away from them!
I have a 31/2 month macaw who is flying, I do not want to clip wings but I don’t want her to get hurt or accidently escape. Advice please.
So sad that people want beautiful BIRDS but don’t want them to fly? If you don’t want a bird that flies, get a chicken. My 3 yr old sun conure is free flighted and recently she took off from our front porch. This particular time she flew to the top of a 100 ft pine in my back yard and would not come down but did not venture any farther. She did come back after several hours and it dawned on me that she was probably afraid of the mockingbird residents who are nesting now. They were diving at me and my family as we tried to get my bird to come back. Mockingbirds fiercely defend their territories but I don’t begrudge them, they felt threatened. My bird didn’t get out of sight but she wasn’t coming down before they went away either. The next day though my husband clipped my bird’s wings while I was at work and did a terrible job of it but thankfully didn’t hurt her. Yes, I was livid. Jenga was clipped when I got her @ 3 months but has not been clipped since. She learned to fly anyway. And what a flier! She is as fast or faster than our native mourning doves and far more agile. When I asked my husband why he said it would slow her down. Wasn’t that helpful? She can still get to the top of that tree only “slower”. Now she is not near as confident about flying down which seems to be hard for her to do anyway. She never flies to the floor or ground. The few times she has ended up on the ground she just sits as if stunned. Not a good thing, makes her easy prey. Do I have grounds for divorce?
When I got my African grey they had clipped her wings too. I’ve gotten one to grow back in but she keeps breaking the feathers on the other. It’s been a frustrating two years waiting for them to grow back. She deserves to fly like she was born to do.
I have had Justice 5 months he is 8 monthis old. His wings were clipped back and have not grown yet. I intend to flight him as soon as they are grown they will not be clipped back. I hate it that they are clipped. I am sure he hates it more. One day they will grow one day I tell him one day.
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