Generally I tend to avoid the topic of wing clipping, we all know how heated these discussions can get, however I personally can’t see myself ever clipping or allowing anyone near my birds’ wings! Birds fly, I accepted that way before I even set foot into parrot “ownership”. I think everyone would agree when I say that there are very few things as beautiful as a bird in flight. Those colorful flight feathers and skilled graceful movements are more than we crazy bird lovers can handle. Before any of my birds were actually flighted, I did a ton of research online to more appropriately explain my decision for choosing not to clip their wings again. There are quite a bit of information regarding the health benefits but I couldn’t find much regarding behavioral differences. This was quite the learning experience for me, a very fun one!
But first, this blog post will not be about wing clipping in general (check out this post by Patty ), this will just be me sharing my experiences with flighted birds.
Only half of my 6 birds came to me flighted, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of the behavioral benefits with flighted birds. The three birds that came here flighted are Sky and Neon, two male budgies, and one female, Smooches. (Will introduce them in the next post!) Even though Smooches and Neon aren’t as tame as Sky, they are the picture of confidence. The two other budgies, Snowball and Robin, both had cosmetic one wing clips (when one wing is left fully feathered but nearly all the feathers on the other wing are clipped except for the first primary flight feather), they are nervous and clumsy even though both are almost fully feathered. Wouldn’t take much to completely throw them off balance and short flights are all I can ever get out of them.
Zaza (my Senegal parrot) recently molted out his last clipped feathers and is now fully flighted but I tried to encourage flight even while he was still clipped. He’s been practicing his flight skills on his own these days and honestly, the nervous, overly phobic, clumsy bird I brought home last year has all but disappeared! Especially the clumsy part. I can’t even recall the amount of times Zaza fell to the ground unable to save himself from a potentially dangerous and painful fall. At one point I even had a stack of thick towels folded underneath his newspaper in his cage, naturally he ended up with a foot injury that took a long time to heal up. Hard to believe the same bird can now comfortable fly 10 feet to and from his cage multiple times with ease. Before every flight he says “come on, come on Zazi” (that’s like the cutest thing ever).
Also one thing I never thought flight would have any affect on is…their appetites! Zaza used to drive me insane with his picky attitude towards his food. Not just him not wanting to eat healthy food, but also him not eating more than a few bites at a time. Regardless of the food offered, a teaspoon amount was all I could get into him. Which made training and ‘bribing” very difficult, but after starting with the flight training and after becoming confident enough to take short flights on his own, he pretty much cleans out his bowl every day. Sky and Neon are also very excited about their fresh food and wouldn’t think twice about devouring a big piece of kale or swiss chard!
I think flight is especially important with rescued birds. When you think about it, MOST rescued birds have been poorly treated in one way or another. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve seen who complain about their bird’s biting yet can regularly be seen forcefully handling their bird who is desperately trying to get away from them. Of course, those are usually the same people who fall on their backs when they see my birds willingly flying to my hand. Even if that bird finds a loving and understanding home, flight would finally provide that bird with a choice and the confidence to put his past behind him! I can’t ever see myself taking away that type of freedom from my birds just because I don’t want to work harder to ensure their safety.