Clipping And Trimming

Re: Wing clipping??

Conventional wisdom is that a flying parrot can get into too much trouble. The bird might fly onto a hot cook top, into an open toilet, into a window, or escape and starve to death. However, another school of thought believes that parrots were made to fly. They believe it is cruel to clip a parrot's wings and equate the practice to cutting a dog's legs off to keep him from running.

Check these sites out.

Flighted Parrots by The Parrot University

The Fitness Factor of Flight by Bob and Liz Johnson

The Shayne Foundation
Promoting free flight for parrots.

Free Flight USA
Articles about flight and training to inspire you.

Shades of Red & Green
Video page.

Otis flying free in New York City



Hello Steve,

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I participate on the Tooz Talk chat site where many believe it is essential for these birds to learn to fly.

I have a 17 month old Goffins Cockatoo who I've had since he was 5 months old. When I got him his wings were already clipped. From that point on, I let his flight feathers grow in. Mojo has now mastered flying! He is such a joy to watch. His landings are now on target and he can maneuver down the hall and back all by himself! He is a little mischievous since he can leave the cage anytime he wants, but over all, he is enjoying this new experience.

The problem I have is convincing my husband to keep him flighted. We also have a 28 year old Double Yellow Head. He learned to fly as a baby but later in life his wings were clipped for safety reasons, and lately for aggression problems. 

I have 3 kids, an 11 year old boy and twin 5 year old girls. The concern my husband has is that if the bird is out of his cage he will fly out the door if one of us forgets to close the door behind us. This would be devastating for us and especially the kids who have come to love Mojo so much. The guilt they would feel would be unbearable. I have 2 locks on his cage and the kids know not to open the cage without me. However, accidents happen and one day they may not follow directions and out he will come.

  I am resisting the wing clip for a number of reasons. Winter is coming and the doors will not be open as often, and therefore, he won't have as many opportunities to fly out the door. Also my girls will be in school two days a week and those days I can have him out and not worry about losing him.

Lastly, and most importantly, I know he loves to fly. He is so proud of himself when he lands or comes to me when I call him. Am I being selfish or naive in thinking there is no danger here? If I were to have his wings clipped that allowed him to fly but not gain height, would it be the same for him? Would he still benefit from the experience? If I were to clip him now how would that affect him?

  I am so torn, yet my husband is insistent. I would appreciate any advice or ideas you can give me to help Mojo enjoy flying and yet be safe. Thank you again for your time.

 Mary Hayes


Hello Mary,

NO! Do not clip his wings, birds NEED to fly. You are already aware of how important flight is to your baby, you yourself wrote, “and most importantly, I know he loves to fly. He is so proud of himself when he lands or comes to me when I call him.” You can find out just how vital flight is to the development and well-being of a bird in my article at Flighted Parrots.

Yes, there are areas of concern when flighted birds are in a home. A parrot that can fly might accidentally get out of the door. However, birds that can't fly face more hazards. They get stepped on, drown, land on the stove, get bit by the dog or cat and die of a thousand other hazards. Fortunately there are very few hazards for a well educated, flighted pet bird. The best we can do is to provide education and training so the bird has the best combination of freedom, mental and physical health and safety.

I am currently working on a paper called 'Teaching Your Parrot the Eight Natural Commands Using the Life Experience Method' These commands are: Step, Come, No, OK, Stay, Potty, Too hard, and Cage. I use the term 'Life Experience Method' because these are the basic social skills that your pet should naturally learn as they grow up. No training session is necessary. The command that is most applicable to flight is 'Come'. Properly teaching this command requires a bird to navigate and fly well.

A bird that navigates well and comes on command will not get lost and can return on his own. The birds that you hear about flying away are mostly birds with clipped wings that get airborne after a frightening experience or as the feathers start to grow back. A few babies in training also get lost but it is very rare for a bird that has been allowed to learn to fly to become lost. There is a lot more to this part of the story than can be written here, but the most important thing is that the bird knows what the neighborhood looks like so he knows where to come back to. You will need to put on a safe harness and take him for a walk several times a week.

Parrots and other birds are perhaps the one animal that is the most highly regarded for traveling long distances without getting lost. While most parrots do not migrate more than a few hundred miles each year, they go as far as 25 miles a day to get lunch. Shouldn't we be asking; what are we doing to pet birds that cripple them to the point that we are constantly worried about them getting lost?

How is it that we are able to raise our children, who have little sense of direction, without cutting off their feet to keep them safe?

There is a safe way to 'trim' a juvenile parrot. I use the word trim because it denotes getting the most out of something. 'Clipping' is a term commonly used to indicate something bad has happened like having your wallet stolen, or when your car is the victim of a hit and run. Baby parrots in training are very determined and can fly faster than the teacher can go. Because of this we usually need to trim some or all of the secondary feathers to limit the lift a bird can get. He can still fly and learn to navigate, just not as fast, and the teacher can catch him for the necessary time outs that all babies need. Never trim the outer 5 primaries, they are important for steering and clipping will make every flight attempt terrifying. Usually by the time the baby molts a year later he is fairly well educated, controllable, and will never need his wings trimmed again.

Properly educated birds over one year should not be trimmed or clipped. They are old enough to be trained through reasoning. Clipping will compromise their ability to reason and slow the learning process.

Parrots that have not been taught the basic commands are like uneducated, problem children that need to be protected from themselves and life itself for as long as they are alive.

I am constantly amazed to hear that someone has chosen a parrot as a pet because they are so much more intelligent than other pets. Yet, these same individuals will then tell you that the bird is too stupid to be potty trained, come on command, or be friendly to everyone. Virtually every pet dog that behaves like the average parrot is euthanized. Parrots are more intelligent than other pets, and can be easily trained to behave properly in a very few months IF the owner takes their responsibility seriously.

I have worked with about 500 flighted adult birds, and a few thousand babies, in the last 20 years. A good harness is necessary for optimal training. This tool will allow your bird to fly freely outside while learning and gaining life experience. Unfortunately, most of the harnesses available are difficult to use. The many problems they share include, too complicated to install, they are not escape proof and they can cause the bird to overheat if they cover too much of the body. Some are just dangerous and all of them have detachable leashes that many birds can undo faster than you.

Frustrated with the harnesses which have been designed by companies that have little or no experience with flighted birds, I have designed The AVIATOR Harness and The AVIATOR Flight Line. Both are escape proof and have several patentable safety features that will not be found on any other harness. The harness will be on the market in November 2005. These tools will allow you to safely take your birds outside to get some exercise, education and life experience. You can check out The AVIATOR Harness at The Parrot University

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