To Clip or Not?


New member
Jan 24, 2006
Pennsylvania, USA
Australian King Parrots
Lesser Jardines
Red Bellied
Moustache Parakeets
Green Cheek Conure Mutations
Peachface Lovebirds
Scarlet Chested Parakeet
Painted Conures
Military Macaw
Since this has come up indirectly in another posting, I thought now might be a good time to have a discussion concerning the practice of clipping, or not clipping, the wings of our birds.
I realize that this is a sensitive topic that will bring varying opinions and theories, and for the most part we'll be preaching to the choir.
Personally, I do not believe that there is only one answer nor a right or wrong decision when it comes to clipping. The primary concern is that we provide out birds with a safe and secure environment and whatever works the best for your personal situation should weigh the most important when making the choice.
I have both clipped and fully flighted birds. I have lost fully flighted birds and, surprisingly recovered all but one of them.
My breeding pairs are all fully flighted as well as my pet lovebird. My Military Macaw is clipped as she is both an indoor and outdoor bird. Outdoor in the fact that she goes outside to a large flight for sunshine in the nice weather and she is allowed to be loose when I'm working in the garden or yard.
I have a pet lovebird that is out of her cage a great deal of time, but is fully flighted. She has been both clipped and natural and natural seems to work the best as far as her being most content. She can also maneuver my home with dexterity and precision and seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to anything that might be a potential hazard. That might be wishful thinking on my part, but I have witnessed her in action and she appears to know what might harm her.
I clip young birds that will be going to new homes as I find it makes them much easier to work with and helps in the training process. I also feel that it gives them a safe start in life in their new homes and encourage the new families to continue with the practice for safety's sake.
I do realize that birds were intended to fly, but that is when they are in their natural environment living with their own kind. Unfortunately, when we brought them into our homes as pets, we had to alter some of the natural abilities in order to ensure their safety.
Well, that's my take on the matter and I look forward to hearing what the others might have to say.

Given the sheer number of dangers in our homes, I have to say I am a believer in clipping and/or trimming. My home is of average ranch style size and could never accomodate a flighted Macaw, or even a CAG. There is just simply not enough room for such wing spans, and definitely not enough room for them to maneuver, or gain any benefit what so ever from having the ability to fly. I trim my birds wings enough so that they can fly straight briefly and land softly, but cannot gain altitude and they cannot attain speeds that are fast enough to do any damage to themselves if they do crash. I have been called to peoples homes on too many occasions to help with a full flight bird that was injured by flying into a wall, or window, or had some other kind of accident as a result of being full flight. The average bird owner lives in an average home and there is just no way to fully bird proof an entire home. Even a 'bird proof' room has walls and windows that a startled bird could easily crash into and die. A "Bird proofed home" only means that a bird in that home has been lucky enough not to have been killed.....yet. It's a false sense of security that is bound to prove itself as such. Unfortunately the bird is the one who will pay the price. My friend lost a young Cockatiel when it crashed into a wall and did fatal damage to himself. He didn't die instantly though, he suffered and eventually drowned on his own blood on the way to the vets. Just last week a woman, I know only from trimming her birds wings at the monthly clinic, bought a Quaker from a pet store in Worcester. The bird was not clipped and when the store owner went to get the bird out of the cage for her after she bought it, the bird flew and hit the window. It hit hard enough to crack it's beak, but the store told her it would be fine and sent her home with it. The next day she brought it to the vets because it was still bleeding, they stopped the bleeding and sent it home on medication, the bird died the next day. Mrs. Kao had a neocropsy done when the store owner tried to deny responsibility for the dead bird. The neocropsy of course, revealed that the bird did in fact die from the blunt force trauma to the head when the bird hit the window. Aside from birds hitting windows and walls, there are many other dangers in our homes that can injure, or kill our birds. As some of you know, I did have a full flight Cockatoo that over shot his landing and hit a sliding screen door, knocking it off the runner. The Too and the door ended up out on the deck. The Too flew into a tree and try as I might, I couldn't get him down. He was scared and flew every time I came near the tree he was in with the ladder. 10 days later he was found half dead by the side of the road. I feel that a clipped bird would not have ended up in that situation in the first place, and would have been much easier to retrieve if it did get out. When I was young I had a Keet named Chip, he was my best buddy and I spent hours with him every day playing with him and training him and teaching him cute tricks. He would come directly to me the moment I called for him. He was full flight. One day he flew out the door. A hawk snatched him from the air before I even had the opportunity to try and call him back. Then there is my CAG, but for the story on his near death, you can go to the Grey board, I'm not going to reiterate the story again on this thread. It only takes one accident to kill our beloved birds. With a flighted bird, it only takes once for someone to leave the toilet cover open and have a bird drown. Once for someone to accidentally leave a bucket of water and/or cleaning chemicals in the wrong place. (A friends Lovebird drowned in a bucket of water). Once for the bird to land in the frying pan, or pot of boiling water. Once for someone to hold the door open just a couple seconds too long when coming in, or going out. Once for the bird to be crushed when someone closes a door without realizing that the bird has flown up and is sitting on top of the door (I know 2 people that had that happen). Once for something to startle the bird and send it into a panic flight that usually ends when the bird crashed into something and falls like a rock to the floor. I have seen that happen too many times. Sometimes it results in an injured, or broken leg, wing, or foot. Sometimes it results in a head injury, cracked chestbone, or broken beak. The list goes on and on. I know that there are plenty of arguments being made for keeping a bird flighted, the most over used one is "birds were intended to fly". Well yes they were, but lets not forget that they were intended to fly in the wild, in their own environments, not in out homes. The dangers that exist for them in our homes are just not present in the wild. Therefore, that argument holds no logic what so ever. Speaking of our homes, bird were intended to be wild, but that doesn't stop us from caging them in our homes. Therefore it is my opinion that since we choose to cage them and keep them in an unnatural environment, thereby depriving them of their freedom altogether, the least we can do is make them as safe as we possibly can. Compared to freedom, flight is a minor loss, because when freedom is lost, little else matters. That is my personal opinion on the whole clipping issue.
I love fully flighted birds, I love to see them flying about the house. Bucc is fully flighted, but saying that he has become a bit of a BRAT just lately. If he doesn't get his own way he has been known to bite, you put him on his playstand and tell him to stay, he used to stay there until you told him Bucc free, now he just flies off, if he doesn't want to go in he flies off and you can't get near him as he just flies off again.

I have now made the decision to have him clipped, for training and behaviour purposes. The BRATISH behaviour cannot be allowed to continue or he will rule us and then we have real trouble. This has only started in the last few weeks (maybe its an age thing, maybe he knows he can get away with it by flying away) I didn't have a second thought about doing this.

My take on to clip or not to clip is this, only the owner of the bird can make that decision, It has to be for the benefit of the birds. We took them out of the wild and brought them into our homes so it is our responsibility to make them as safe as possible, as well as comfortable well behaved members of our families.

One other thing I think I really must say is this is a very controversial subject and it is so nice that everyone can have their own opinions without resorting to name calling and nastyness. We really do have a great bunch of people here.:)
We took them out of the wild and brought them into our homes so it is our responsibility to make them as safe as possible,

That is exactly the point I was making. :)

I love fully flighted birds

Yes, a flighted parrot is definitely an awesome sight. I can't argue with that, but a flighted bird in a home is a scary sight for me, because I've seen first hand what happens all too often. I cringe every time I go to an elderly ladies home to trim her Parrotlets beak, because she has a flighted Cockatiel who literally flies in to a frenzie when ever people come in. She said that when she is alone, the bird does fine, but when company comes, or the phone rings, or any other startling event happens, the bird ends up so freaked out that it usually crashes into things. A scared, flighted bird is an even bigger recipe for disaster. She is a very sweet old lady and I pray for both their sakes that one of those 'crashes' never ends in the birds untimely demise. It would break her heart.
Alison, I totaly see what you are saying, not having ever witnessed any thing like that I can only try to imagine, and I'm sure that I couldn't really imagine the real damage a bird could do. If Bucc was skittish like that whenever anyone came in then I would have NO hesitation it would be a definate clip. It must be heartbreaking to witness these things.

Oh on a lighter note, I've just had a thought, it seems that I'll win the battle over the harness, I mean if hes clipped he can't fly away from me everytime I get the thing out can he!!:D Might end up with a few of those bites we've been talking about!
Oh on a lighter note, I've just had a thought, it seems that I'll win the battle over the harness, I mean if hes clipped he can't fly away from me everytime I get the thing out can he!! Might end up with a few of those bites we've been talking about!

He may not be able to fly away, but I think those bites are highly likely! :D Let me know how it goes.....and how many stitches it takes :p ;) .
Had another thought Alison............................................................... Falconery Gloves!!!!:D
Now thats a good idea, if you can find some. I tried before, just to protect my arm from Kiwi's claws when I have her out at the park on my arm for hours, but I couldn't find any. Good luck.
If you can't find falconry gloves, try welder's gloves. They work great, that is if the bird isn't afraid of them.

Have you trimmed Bucc's wings yet? You will be amazed at the kind of attitude adjustment a simple wing trim does. It's not permanent and they will grow back. If he turns into a little brat when his wings have regrown, then you can trim them again. But if he has learned his lesson, he won't need trimmed again.
Karen, no at the moment Bucc is still fully flighted, but he is going to have a wing clip.
Alliee's wings are beigning to grow in and I can say she has become a bit of a brat too! But it is great, bc she isn't as lazy as she can be. I make her fly around a bit more. She usualy doesn't go downstairs unless she is inbetween her two bird shirts and won't come out. So I dont mind her fully flighted bc she stays upstairs inbetween my room and the game room. I guess it depends on the place your birds are in comparison of where the danger in the house is.
This is an old thread and I know I'm committing necromancy here, but it came up on a search and had some good points.

Last night I got into a fairly lively discussion with a friend (who is coincidentally not a bird owner) about clipping. My intention is (was?) to allow my GCC to be flighted come the next molt, but my friend brought up a lot of good points pro-clipping (several of which were pointed out in the responses to this thread) and now I'm no longer sure. My intent is to get her used to a harness, but now I worry about accidents like getting loose, crashing into walls/windows etc and other household dangers.

Any more advice? Maybe something to alleviate (or reinforce?) my concerns about flight or the lack thereof.
Being that you have a green cheek as well, I can let you know that even clipped, they are VERY strong fliers still. I have 5 primaries clipped on Panini and even without a strong gust of wind he has no problems reaching the ceiling fans. I also lost him this time last year (bird sitters) let him out by accident and it was the WORST night ever. So IMO, clipped is the way to go, simply because accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and if I would not have been lucky enough to find Panini the next day, he would not have made it much longer with the temperature drops at night here, let alone all the other possibilities. Even clipped with more than 5 primaries I've heard of these birds escaping and getting enough "wind" to still take off. Again, just my opinion from the experiences I've had, and he can still go anyway he wants so I dont feel like I'm keeping him from being a bird.
Good luck with your decision :)
I guess the only thing I can agree on about the subject is that we can all agree that we have the right to disagree, my preference is to clip, thats my choice, but I defend others decision not to...that being said, if members have been paying attention to the forum lately they will have read a number of threads of both lost and hurt birds being left flighted :(, one near loss was enough for me, I know I would be devistated as others have been with a loss of any of my fids, not only just missing them, but always being torn on what had become of them in the wild, it is and will always be a highly debated topic, but one that is, and should remain a personal decision based on ones own cercumstances, not much help I know, just my personal take on it..........good luck with what ever decision you make :)
She certainly does love to fly, which is one reason I had the vet clip her further. Even now though, it amazes me the amount of air she can get beneath herself when taking off ( but the descent is always that afterwards, downward). Still, a very good point, thanks for the reply!
lol it doesn't seem to matter how many times this discussion comes up, there is always something to add ;). I agree with bobby in that we have to 'agree to disagree'. However, I personally don't disagree with clipping, nor do I disagree with not clipping. What I do believe though is that clipping should only be done to benefit the bird, not to benefit the owner. Its clear that the above posters all clipped to benefit their birds in terms of safety and I do applaud that. What I have a problem with is that clipping often seems to be something that you 'just do' to a bird:

So your getting a bird?.....what do you need?....'cage, food, toys and a wing clip'.. That erks me.

Clipping is a decision that should be made carefully, as it will affect the birds temperament, personality and physical fitness, both in good and bad ways. It should not simply be done because you 'don't want to deal with a flighted bird'. If anyone came into parront-hood with that attitude, I would suggest a pet without wings ;). If its a matter of safety, or improving the birds relationship with its human family etc, then fine....clip away, but it should be a careful decision. For now, my birds will stay flighted.
For my two cents worth, I have had or fostered both clipped and fully flighted birds. I don't think that I have the skill or the time to safely train and socialize a fully flighted bird safely. That said, I know others ( both on and off this forum ) who do. I also agree that it should be a personal decision based on the bird's best interest. If done for that reason then I find it does no harm. At moment the birds in my house range from a fully flighted keet (Teechka) who is new to my home and wants only to stay in one room and fairly close to her cage to a thoroughly clipped conure (Sam) who crashes mirrors and windows when not clipped. Most recently, I clipped my ancient keet, Merry, who had grown out over the year and a half he had been caring for and never leaving his sick cage mate, Skye. For a several weeks post Skye's death I left Merry unclipped as he looked for Skye and then settled back into the family life he had opted out of to care for Skye. But then my husband wanted to let Merry come outside on his shoulder with the two clipped conures and I gave Merry a very very thorough clip as it doesn't take much to loft a light weight parakeet. Merry was disgusted with his inside loss of mobility but absolutely loves the outside time with Sam, Gem and Misha so he is a happy little fellow all in all. Bottom line ...what is best for bird? Teechka is happy aloof and flighted and doesn't mind a rather narrow world in a room she chooses not to leave. Merry, Sam and Gem enjoy walks with Misha and time in places around the house and neighborhood and car trips that would all be off limits if they were flighted. For my flock, flexibility seems best.
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You know, Ben, Merry is doing so much better. I remember how he grieved for Skye (if others are interested check out the "Merry needs a new friend, I think " thread from a couple of months ago ) it is hard to believe how well he is now.He and Gem have become cross species buddies even down to grooming, a relationship that developed against my better judgment as I thought Gem's initial interest seemed a bit aggressive towards the much smaller bird.I have a great picture on my phone of them on the outside play stand from this fall but I have the toughest time getting phone pictures to post. I will try as so many forum members helped me get Merry through his grief.
I can only agree with the above.

It is simply doing what is best for your bird.

With the Zoo that I live in, Cal can only have out of cage time in the one room. I have parrot proofed the room, it's big enough for her to fly around in with oodles of space and nowhere near any out door doors. The window is never open.

She's not a huge flier, she zooms around the room a few times to stretch and then does it periodically, but I know she enjoys it.

If she was in a single pet home, she'd be clipped. No two ways about it.

The way I see it though, any potential hazard for her is my other pets. They're all soft as sugar - even the cat! But I will not risk it. Should the cat (world's worst hunter) manage to sneak in while we leave to go to the loo or something(of course we make sure not, but lets be honest, mistakes happen), at least Cal has the ability to fly away out of reach. Similarly should the door to upstairs be left open and the living room door (this is nearly impossible but what IF?!). what if the dogs burst in?

You can never predict your pets actions no matter how well you know them so in my case, I feel it is safest for Cal to be able to fly. I reiterate, all my pets are seperated and only allowed in the same room as Cal when she is inside her cage, but you do just never know what can happen.

I take her safety very seriously and will not allow any windows in any room upstairs to be open when she is out of her cage. The fact she has never even been inside any of the bedrooms or bathroom is irrelivent! She could shoot into the hall one day if she goes the wrong side of crazy. I believe I have to take all of these "what if's" into account.

She has a full, happy, contented life and she shows me this in the way she "comes to visit" of her own accord in out of cage time, the way she shows off just to make you giggle, the gusto she attacks her meals with and the happy chattering, beak grinding and cuddles she frequently gives.

Like all of you, I just want that life to be sustained for as long as possible. I don't want a ridiculously silly mistake on my part to be the cause of it ending - so I try and cover everything I possibly can. :)

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