Trimming parrot flight feathers has become a controversial subject in the past decade. Years ago practically all pet parrots had their flight feathers trimmed to keep them from flying. Most parrot owners are now realizing the importance of flight exercise for their pets.
In my experience a parrot who is allowed to fly in a safe environment benefits from the exercise. The general physical appearance of a bird who flies regularly is astonishing to me. Their bodies are more muscular and solid looking. They look like athletes compared to a perch potato bird who is not encouraged to fly. Their bodies and lungs were designed for flight and they are most healthy when allowed to fly. You will see the joy in your birds attitude when he is flying.
The confidence of a parrot who is able to fly in his environment is also very remarkable. For example, the biggest complaint owners have about their pet conures is their loud contact calling. Think about it as if you were in your conures "shoes". Little Sunny has spent 8-10 hours at home all alone while his family was at school and work. When his family comes home he just wants to say hi and interact with his family. The family is busy with homework, and dinner and so forth and cringe at the loudness of Sunny. What if Sunny didn't have to watch the family move about their home from his perch or his cage? What if he could fly to Brother's shoulder and help with his homework, then go to Mom for some smooching, then to Dad for a bit of wrestling? I am not saying that contact calling from a conure will not happen with a flighted bird, but it can greatly be decreased if Sunny is allowed to fly around his home to participate in his family's activity. Parrots are flock animals. Your family of humans and parrots are a flock. Allowing your parrot free flight in your home allows your parrot to feel more a part of the flock.
Many parrot owners have several pet parrots. Whether your parrots are all similar in size or if they get along, greatly affects the dynamics of having a flighted flock. When you are growing your family flock please consider the dangers of having large and small birds flocking together. I personally have two larger birds and several smaller birds. The way I handle this is by caging the small birds and covering their cages when my big girls are out of their cage flying, and when the littles are out flying I cage and cover the big birds. This works for me and all my birds actually seem to enjoy being covered when it is not their turn to fly. I will usually use the covered cage time as the time when they get their fresh foods, so they are so happy to have their yummy snack they wait patiently for their turn to fly. This routine works for me, but I must admit life would be easier for me if all my birds could flock together!!
The danger of escape or injury is of course a huge factor of having a parrot who is fully flighted. You must set up a fool proof system of how your family comes into and out of your home. A door or window must NEVER be opened when your parrot is not in it's cage or behind a closed door. Don't ever think that your parrot will not fly down the hall and around a corner and out the open door!! Every member of your family must understand this danger and exceptions to the rules must never be made. The day you think you can quickly slip out the front door could be the day you lose your parrot for ever!! Never forget that!!
While we are talking about escaping parrots I wanted to discuss what to do if your bird does escape. I have had 3 customers over the years who have called me to tell me their bird flew away. They usually tell me about it after they have spent hours looking for their bird and have pretty much given up on finding him or her. An escaped parrot will usually fly to a high tree branch and freeze. They are too scared to answer you when you call or to fly back down to you. They are frozen in fear and will often stay in the same spot for days. They are watching you as you franctically call to them and look for them. If there is another bird in the family that bird should be brought outside in their cage. Two birds are more likely to call to each other than a lost bird calling back to his human. Having your lost birds cage outside may also entice him to fly down from the trees. I also believe that introducing the outdoors to your parrot on a regular basis is very helpful if your bird should ever fly out an open door. The major reason a parrot does not fly back after escape is because they have never seen the outdoors. They are frozen in fear in a very high tree and since they have never been outside they are just too scared to fly down. If your pet feels comfortable with sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors and they do fly out by accident there is a very good chance that they will simply fly right back to your shoulder.
Please remember that a parrot who has his wings trimmed can just as easily fly out an open door as a bird who is fully flighted. All cautions I mentioned about a bird escaping an open door must be taken whether your bird's wings are trimmed or not. I am deeply saddened when I see pet parrots outside with their owners. So many parrot owners assume since their parrot's wings are trimmed it is safe to bring them outside. I wonder if these owners have actually looked at their parrots flight feathers today? Flight feathers often grow in with out anyone even noticing. Since these birds are not encouraged to fly the parrot and the owner just do not realize their bird has molted and grown flight feathers and he CAN fly!! When something startles this bird while outside he will fly away. The bird and the owner will be shocked. The bird who is not adept at flying will be too frightened to fly back down to its family. This bird instictually flew when startled, but he does not know how to fly because his wings have been clipped and he has no idea how to fly back to his family who is calling to him. I read stories about this type of situation happening all the time, and it makes me very sad for the bird and it's family!!
Besides escape there are also many dangers in a home for a flighted bird. You should never have your bird flying when you are cooking. Large bowls of water or liquid should also be considered. Toilets and sinks full of water are drowning hazards. You must also make sure that medication, cleaning chemicals, or any other substance that your bird may be in contact with are put away safely. Ceiling fans should be turned off. Conisder what would happen if your heavier bird landed on a heavy nick nack and caused that nick nack to tip over. The nick nack could be broken, or worse as it falls and your bird falls with it the bird could be seriously injured. I always worry about my bird being flying and missing a landing and ending up wedged behind the refrigerator or the television stand. Before you sit or walk make sure you are not going to sit on your bird or walk on him. In general, you must always supervise fly time with your parrot.
When purchasing a baby from me you will have 3 different choices about your parrot's flight feathers. I want you to know that although I do have a flock of flighted parrots, I do realize that not every family feels they can handle this type of flock dynamics. I support you which ever way you decide for your baby. While your baby is weaning I do encourage proper fledging. I teach your baby to fly to me and encourage longer flights around corners and in and out of doorways. All of this is pretty much instinct to a fledging baby. They fly to me because I am Momma. They follow me because I am going to feed them. Proper fledging is so important to a parrot's confidence and in finalizing the weaning stages.
Your three choices for your baby's flight feathers are:
-- I can send your baby home with you fully flighted.
-- I can trim the tips off 3 to 5 flight feathers. This type of wing trim allows your baby to fly freely around a room and around corners. However, this baby will not be able to fly to high places such as the top of the cabinets or the ceiling fan. With practice and exercise a bird with this wing clip will learn to fly higher and longer as he develops strength. With this clip your bird will have to work harder at flapping his wings to fly than if he weren't clipped at all.
-- I can trim your baby's flight feathers so that he can safely take off and glide to the ground without a crash landing. He may be able to fly across the room with this type of clip, but he will slowly glide down. With this clip your bird will have to work harder at flapping his wings to fly and after a few tries at flying will often give up flight all together since it is just too much work.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have as you are making your decision. Each family situation is different, and each bird is also different. I sometimes will specifically recommend one way or the other depending on you and the personality of your baby. Don't forget that this decision is reversible. Flight feathers do grow back within 3 to 12 months depending on the bird.