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.