The fact that the last two of my Freestyle Flyer students trained birds that were clipped at the fledging age to be their outdoor flyers (and fantastic ones at that! Check out Tango and Sunshine, two blue and gold macaws that were both clipped during the fledging age who still learned to fly!) inspired me to express this message even further:
CLIPPED PARROTS CAN BE FLIGHT TRAINED!
They can be trained while clipped, of course within their limitations of what type of clip they have, and they can be trained throughout being clipped as the molting process occurs and their new feathers come in. Sometimes even fully flighted birds, birds that were never clipped, lose multiple flight feathers giving a sort of "toothless" look when they're in flight.
Here is an example of my own bird missing flight feathers through a natural molt:
And another from a 45 year old amazon who was fully flighted:
It's easiest to flight train a clipped bird when it's at the fledging age because it naturally wants to keep trying. An older, clipped bird will give up much faster from past bad experiences failing. Which is why it can be so important not to let the process become negative in any way, or harmful to the bird. It's going to try really hard to fly because that's what it's meant to do, and it is not going to understand why its wings are not working the way they should. So keeping the encouragement up throughout the first molt is paramount.
Here are some stories and timelines of people who have trained their clipped birds for indoor or outdoor flight:
Neo, Scarlet Macaw.
From his owner, Meagan Ramsay: He was clipped as soon as he got all of his feathers in, the breeder I got him from always clipped her babies before they started flying. He could fly 5-10 feet when he only had 2 of his wing feathers, then when he got more of them he was able to fly from my front door to my back door. He's almost 2 years old now, and I've been training him for a little over a year. He's able to ascend and descend, turn corners and do really tight circles.
Here is Neo's transformation from a year of training. Remember, molts take longer the larger the bird.
From his owner, Ailis Stynes: I'm currently training my clipped galah for free flight. At 8 weeks old he was clipped because he was crashing and the breeder was afraid he'd hurt himself and he said he was aggressive. 5 days later I picked him up and he was a sweetheart so no clue where the breeder got that from! I taught him how to fly and now I'm teaching him free flight. I need to wait for his flight feathers to molt before I can continue training but he's got recall down and ascending and descending isn't going too bad. He struggles with turning a lot I can't do out of sight recall yet with him.
This is while clipped, trying to fly anyway and only making it to the floor:
And his progression in clipped flight:
Flora Maple shared this story of her blue and gold macaw: My macaw was clipped by a vet when he was a baby without my consent. He’s now started his free flight journey.
The training of this macaw took 8 months for harness-trained flight. By the time he was 2 years old, he was successfully freeflight trained for outdoors!
Monika Clarke shares this story of her amazon parrot, Blue: I got Blue at 13 weeks old with one wing clipped. He never attempted to fly indoors unless spooked. Sat on the java tree all day long.
18 months of daily outdoor line training to keep muscles in use while feathers grow back resulted in free flight. And more attitude of course! This is Blue now:
Paige May shares the story of two of her birds' journeys: Boo the more severe clip was an unknown age - fully mature rescue. He was especially fully trained the same day I took him outside. He lived in a outdoor aviary and was very bonded to me so I wouldn’t even call it training. Although it took 1-1.5 years before he could fly after his clip. He was free flighted for a year perfectly before passing away from unrelated causes.
Kavi is 18 months old and I hand raised and sold him already free flight trained. He was trained for about 6 months before the owner decided she couldn’t cater for Kavis lifestyle, clipped him and kept him permanently in a cage for 8 months. After developing a screaming problem he was surrendered back to me and I’ve been able to re-train him and it took about a week before he was completely reliable outside.
Anne Cooper shares Bella's story: I've never shared the videos of Bella learning to fly, I've always been self conscious about them. I believe the way we trained Bella to fly and Freefly suited Bella's personality and situation. But I know the way we trained Bella isn't the standard way.
Bella's previous owner only had her for 5-6 months and said she was probably between 5-7 years old. And I have no idea how long she had been clipped. 3 months of daily flight practice once fully-flighted or mostly flighted.
The above image is Bella now!
These two hyacinths (belonging to Bill Brown) were hatched two weeks apart in 2013, and clipped when they came home around 7-8 months old. All 12 primaries were clipped, and it took over a year for all the feathers to naturally fall out and grow back in.
They were 2 years old when they started training and were flight trained in 1 year for one of them, and 2 years for the other in outdoor flight.
Elizabeth Nicole Comai shares her story: Our Green Wing Macaw is 24 years old. I was given him from my Aunt who raised and hand fed him. She was pro-clipper, and clipped him before he could fledge, until the time we got him when he was about 21 years old. We let his wings grow in, as we didn’t agree with clipping. Just recently, however, we have started working really hard with him and flying (since last November). This is a bird who has never had flight feathers for 21 years of his life; and spent it in a cage. For the 3 years we had him, not once did he ever open his wings on his own, to flap them or even stretch.
(pictured clipped with one long primary)
The first day he took flight from my arm he only flew maybe 6 feet; but it was beautiful. He now flaps his wings when just sitting on his cage or a stand, which makes me so happy. He can fly about 10-12 feet now, and now fully understands that he can, and enjoys just flapping his wings on his own. We’ve been working real hard on starting recall training now:
If you would like to submit your story to be featured here about training a currently clipped or previously clipped bird for indoor or outdoor flight, please email your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.