Meet “Cash”. He is a 5 year old military macaw who was clipped before properly learning to fledge (fly at a young age). When we got him 4.5 years ago, he came to us at just 6 months old and we immediately let his wings grow out in the hopes to teach him to fly properly.
Letting wings grow out on a bird can take a long time, and usually takes almost an entire molt so that the feathers fall out naturally and re-grow back in. This can be anywhere from 6 months to a year long, and usually that time frame goes down the smaller the bird.
Cash stayed with a friend of ours who was interested in getting a military macaw herself. I offered to let her bird sit Cash for free instead – to see what a military macaw is really like. After 5 months, Cash came back to me from Missi’s house and Missi got over wanting a military macaw… hehe… however, he also came back clipped from Missi. She had clipped 5 primary feathers on each wing to make it so that Cash couldn’t get to her smaller birds faster than she could.
Although we joke that Cash “flies like a rock” because he can’t get any lift under his wings from lack of feathers being there, with a little help from some outside wind, Cash CAN fly!
Most people take their clipped birds outside because they THINK they can’t fly because they’re clipped. They may not be able to get very far inside the house, but outside with outside elements, they can go as far as the wind will take them.
It’s MUCH more dangerous to take a clipped bird outside (free of a harness or any restraint) than a fully flighted bird. The reason being, a clipped bird can’t maneuver as well and has an immediate handicap against predators in your area. A fully flighted bird can at least get away and have a better chance at using predator avoidance skills because it’s feathers are fully intact.
Most pet parrots have a problem going outside because they aren’t desensitized to outside things like noises, wind, people, cars, and everything else you encounter outside that could spook a bird unused to it. Once spooked, that pet bird will immediately ascend higher… and higher… and HIGHER. And because it never learned how to descend (the hardest skill to learn) and it knows nothing about flying in wind, it ends up far, far away from the owner which it probably never intended. It just didn’t know how to COME BACK TO YOU. It was never taught!
Check out this video of Zoey, a blue throated macaw, taking her very first exploratory flight and notice how high she goes!
Because Zoey was taught how to descend and all the other necessary skills for a good and solid recall, she was able to figure out the wind (it’s windier the higher you go up) and come back down to Jeanne, her owner. Think about the disadvantage an untrained, clipped bird is at in this situation.
If you want to take your bird outside untethered, you CAN, by joining the Freestyle Flyer’s Club and getting one on one personal coaching from professional bird trainer Dave Womach. To find out more about this elite club and how you can learn to train your own bird for freeflight, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Now I do want to point out that Cash was trained at this location among others when he was fully flighted. Here is a picture of him flying at this exact location months ago with us:
You can see more of his freeflight photos here.