When You Have a Bird That Won't Fly...

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Shown: Blue throated macaw "Jinx", Camelot macaws "Comet" & "Tusa"

  I received this question after the entry of mine No Excuses: Ideas for exercising your bird.  

Hey, I read your article on exercising bird by flying them. But my question is how do you get a bird to exercise by flying (even just in a single room) if she won't fly to you because she either does not want to or she does not trust you yet. Our cockatiel that we have had these past 5 months (found her outside) doesn't quite trust us yet. She will sit on us when she wants to, but other than that does not want much to do with us. If you have any suggestions as to how to get her to at least fly around the room to exercise that would be great (she will fly back home to her cage). Thanks! Ps. What is meant by flight skills? Are those what the wild birds would learn through instinct and practice? Is there something that I can do to help our cockatiel gain them (she was clipped by her previous owner). -Sheri Potts

  Here are some tips on why your bird might not be flying...  

Tip 1: No one likes to exercise on a full stomach.   My husband goes to the gym practically every morning, and he never eats breakfast before going. If he eats anything, it's hard boiled eggs or a light breakfast of oatmeal, followed by a protein shake AFTER his work out is done. He also gives himself an hour to digest that small meal, so it doesn't come back up during his work out! Flying is just like working out for our parrots, and they won't fly on a full stomach so take this into consideration when you're asking them to exercise.   Do your flights before meals, and offer small pieces of rewards for them for a job well done as an extra incentive if the gift of flying isn't enough for them. (Our birds often celebrate in flight and don't always require food rewards for flying.)  

Tip #2: If your bird doesn't like you, have it fly to something it does like.   If you don't have a good relationship with your bird, don't ask it to fly to you. It has no reason unless it wants to attack you. If it likes flying to its cage, place it away from its cage so it constantly gets rewarded with its flight of going to something it wants to be by. This can go for anything; whatever your bird likes to be by, move around so it goes to it. Just don't over-do it as you don't want your bird giving up and you always want your bird to feel rewarded. Hide and seek is a fun game for birds, they can play it with their favorite person or object. Often my parakeets will fly around just looking for one another if we start them in different rooms, this is a great way for us to get them moving around. By the time they find each other, they're worn out yet rewarded to be together again.  

Tip #3: Don't rush your bird.   No one likes to be rushed through anything, and don't get frustrated if your bird can't fly for very long. Every bird has its own stamina and it will get better with more flight time.   Flight skills are developed from flying often, so your bird can master landing, take offs, turning, stopping, slowing down, speeding up, etc... these are only going to be learned with more experience so have patience and be uplifting just like as if you were teaching a child to walk.  

Tip #4: Don't be afraid to join the fun!   Quite often, my birds don't want to fly until I join in! If I start running around having a great time, they are dying to keep up and get excited when I do so they often take off in their own excitement which gets the others into it as well. It's like a domino effect!

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.


Natasha Floyd

Hi. I have a 5 month old conure. She used to fly eat different stuff than one morning I noticed a change in her behaviour not squaky excited when I came in. So I took her to get he said sounded like she had a cold so put her on antibiotics he also said she was underweight sharp keel. So I’m trying feed her anything and everything get her weight up. She seems bit more like her old self except she hasn’t flown since!? When she does is more like a coasting to the ground? Any ideas? Thank you!!

Natasha Floyd
Sally Dillon

i couldn’t possibly be more impressed by the intelligent, caring, sensible advice you give. If only everyone online spoke with this skill in how to get a message across

Sally Dillon

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