This is excellent, giving practical advice! My rescue has never flown, is just getting started now I have new tips to try thank you!Re-Fledging an Adult Parrot
Author: EB Cravens — 2006
Provided by: Steven (SailBoat) with permission of the Author.
Re-fledging: The How’s and Why’s of Teaching Adult Parrots to Fly
For years in the World of Parrot keeping, there have been numerous unimaginative Parrot Breeders who insisted upon clipping the wings of their new Fledgling Parrots before the Parrots could develop true flight skills. Many of us own or have owned such Psittacines; and it is not difficult to observe the affects of such naïve treatment. Mentally and physically, these Parrots are forced to live under a handicap, some for the whole of their lives.
The re-fledging of adult Parrots is desirable in order that they may recoup at least a portion of the confidence, savvy, and athleticism denied them by a premature wing trim. Parrots that have satisfactory flying skill are safer, fitter, and happier than their untrained, grounded cohorts. Here then, is how we go about the challenging process of re-fledging…
An older Parrot that was never properly fledged will often be seen begging to be picked up by an Owner from a mere 12” (305 mm) away from the hand. He or she maybe terrified of taking flight because of a series of crash landing mishaps that caused bumps or bruises or other unnoticeable pains. It will most likely be overweight, under exercised, and weak of the strength in feet, legs, hips that is required to make abrupt, sure landings. In order to calm its fears, the Parrot must be taught the proper way to flap its wings and brake with all its bulk, throw-out its feet, look down to a precise spot, and touch down gently enough to avoid discomfort or hurt. Re-fledging Adult Parrots is all about Landing Training!
We begin by exercising the Parrot twice or thrice daily with a series of up and down motions while the Parrot is perched on the hand or a stick. Object here is to get the Psittacine to begin serious flapping with wings both to build-up chest muscles and to accustom it to feeling it’s own weight supported by wing flapping (uplift). Obviously a full set, or near full set of primary flight feathers is necessary for lengthy and powerful flight, but even when the Parrot is partially clipped (4 to 6 primary feathers on each wing) this flap training can begin. Make sure that the Parrot does not let go and take off in a flight that ends in a crash, as this will be a setback to confident progress.
Once a Parrot begins to recognize the moments when its wings start taking the weight of its bulk, we can move on to Landing Training. For this, we choose a very soft surface free from injury possibilities–the master bed is a good spot. The Psittacine is picked up gently and briskly from the surface of the bed with two hands on either side of its body, and dropped onto the bed from a height of about six to eight inches (150 - 205 mm). We shout ‘WHEEE’ to give the semblance of a fun game and to signal the Parrot when it is going to be released.
This procedure can be done from the finger or hand perch, but many Parrots tend to hold on tightly and will not attempt to fly the short inches (mm) to the bed. Larger Parrots or those reticent to throw-out their wings in proper landing technique will have to be Flap-Exercised on the finger even dropping the hand all the way to the bed surface to get them used to Wing Braking Form. Then pick them up and drop them from slightly higher, say 10 to 12 inches (255 — 305 mm) -- just enough to get them to throw out their wings, extend their feet and brake to a soft plop on the bed. Once they realize that there is no danger of bumps or bruises, it should become facile to get them to play the Landing Game. Proper form is the key here, not flying forward at all. Further practice leads to 24” (610 mm) drops, then three feet (1 meter), etc. When they get the hang of it, we are ready to move on to a more solid landing site.
At this point we do not try to fly to a perch or a hard object, as the Parrot is still clumsy and could miss and injure it self. A large soft blanket or towel on top of its cage, a soft couch back, or a large weighted basket with a handle, which can easily be grasped by toenails when landing are three possible choices. Baskets also have the advantage of being easily recognizable and can be placed around the room. (This is what we use with devil-may-care natural fledglings that have little fear of anything while learning to fly around!) Let the Parrot perch on them and explore them first. Then again cry ‘WHEEE’ and gently force the Parrot to fly to the new perch site.
After some weeks (or months with bulkier, out-of-shape Parrots) of experience, the Adult Psittacine should begin learning to make instantaneous airborne decisions about where it wishes to land, choosing the spot, braking and thrusting out its feet and coming to rest exactly where it wishes. Voila, we are on our way to changing the Parrot’s life forever. Full flying skill comes with the ability to change direction sharply, turn right and left, fly up from the floor, drop down from a high perch to the ground, come to the Owner’s hand on call, fly when bath wet or in the brisk wind of an outdoor aviary, and land amidst leafy branches and smaller bouncier twigs and ropes.
Owners will normally see a dramatic increase in the agility, confidence, stance and build of their Adult Parrots after six months or so of Re-fledging Training. Serious feather pickers have been known to give up the habit and regain their ‘youthful fledgling’ trust and self-assurance in their captive environments.