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Let's Talk About Clipping

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Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby Wolf » Sun Apr 17, 2016 8:36 pm

Not long ago the matter of clipping came up in a different topic and unfortunately it started turning into an argument, so I asked that it be dropped for then. I am afraid that some people think that I was trying to keep the subject from being discussed at all, which was not my intent. My intent was to stop the argueing before it turned as nasty as it has done in the past.

This is considered to be a hot topic and not just here on this forum, this is not often discussed on many forums because peoples get frustrated and start insulting each other which really has no place on a forum, in my opinion. I do not think that anyone can say anything while being rude that is as effective or more effective than saying what they need to say in a calm, civil and courteous manner.

The matter of clipping a birds wings is a very important topic and it needs to be discussed openly and honestly and probably much more often than it is. Please feel free to tell us what you think about clipping a birds wings and the reasons for your thoughts on this touchy subject. The only thing that I am asking is that you be civil and courteous to each other, after all we are all here trying to learn from each other and to do what is in the best interests of our birds.


I will take the first step in beginning this conversation.

I do not believe that a bird should have its wings clipped unless there is a valid medical reason for it. Such a reason would be a bird that is blind as it would be dangerous for it to fly since it can not see where it is going or any obstacles that may be in its way. I believe that it is better to make the environment that we have our birds in safe for the bird to live as naturally as possible for it rather than to try to make the bird safe for the environment. By this I mean that it is better to put screens on our windows and curtains or stickers or even perches in front of glass doors so that the bird does not fly out of a window or fly full speed into a glass door because the bird can't see the glass rather than clipping the birds wings to prevent the same thing from occurring.

A birds ability to fly is tied into every major system in its body beginning with its respiratory system as the movement of flapping its wings help the birds lung and air sacs to inflate and deflate properly something that we accomplish with our diaphragm which the bird does not have. The same strong muscles that allow the bird to sustain its flight are some of the same muscles that are used for the bird to lay its eggs. The coordination that is required for the bird to see and adjust its speed and trajectory as well as when it needs to do these things is partly a mental function and it helps the bird to make decisions even when it is not flying and by this I mean that it ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently is directly affected by the ability to fly and solving the problems it encounters in flight. Flying is the only effective means that the bird has to rid itself of excess hormones in its bloodstream and the act of flying also appears to play an important role in copeing with and in relieving the stresses of its everyday life. Last but not least of my reasons for not clipping a birds wings is that it is the only effective way that a bird has to remove itself from dangerous situations.

I believe that this is enough to start the ball rolling on this subject. So lets have fun and discuss this in a courteous manner, please.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby liz » Mon Apr 18, 2016 6:50 am

Gimpy came to me with just one leg. If that was not injury enough some idiot clipped his wings. He could not walk or fly and was just a lump of feathers that stayed in a cage. He was so afraid that I was not even able to get close enough to talk to him. Fear is all he knew. Others in the flock would visit him in his cage. They seemed to know his situation.

His feathers grew back and now he joins the others when he finds a flat surface near them. Thanks to the flock he had already socialized with them and was quite ready to join them. I can now get close enough for him to know I am talking to him which is great because he also came without a name and I can now teach one to him. It is not my goal to touch him. All I want is for him to be happy.

Myrtle was a mess of emotions and most of it was fear. She had been kept caged for the first year of her life so they clipped her wings. When I looked straight at her she would tremble. When her wings grew back she had a means of escape and was then able to start bonding with me.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby ParrotsForLife » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:11 am

Well said Wolf, I only have 1 clipped bird and that is Mango and I clipped him myself and I regret it 100% I would much rather him be untame right now and be able to fly and I think he would probably be flying to me by now if he was flighted.I will never clip my birds wings ever again for the reasons wolf said and flying does help keep them fit.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby Pajarita » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:20 pm

Great move, Wolf!!! :thumbsup: Gotta go pick up grandchildren from schools (my second daughter went back to school) but I will come back to this!
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby seagoatdeb » Mon Apr 18, 2016 5:14 pm

I dont think severe clipping should ever be used personally. It is important for them to learn to fly and even a baby clip, should never be done until a parrrot is flying very well. Many breeders will always baby clip, so you often have an already clipped parrot when you purchase a baby from a breeder. As their wings grow back in they become more outgoing. Severe clipping can cause problems in the way Wolf has already mentioned so will not cover that here, and I agree with what was said.

Modest clipping offers a different alternative to severe clipping or no clipping. It shoud be done in a way that the parrrot is not traumatized and I always take one outside feather on each wing at a time and let the parrot adjust in between, if more is needed. They should have a lot of flight left for the health aspects. I lke to do the clip high up, so when the parrot preens they do not "feel" a clipped feather. I have so many expamples of how a modest clipping helped a cage prisoner parrot become a beloved companion. But so busy right now with the garden will only use one example, as it applied to my life........

Sunny my 10 month old Meyers was baby clipped when I got him. I was his third home and he had become more socialized to parrots than people. When he did his juvenille moult it was more like an adult moult and all his flight feathers came back. It gave him a lot of confidence. He is a small Meyers and has always been the parrot that was the smallest and had to wait and sneak in to grab what he wanted. With full flight he began to dive bomb Gaugan my almost 18 year old Red Belly parrot. Now Gaugan can fly well, but she is unbelieveably adept on the ground. she can outrun Sunny on the ground and do a flying running lunge from the ground or playground top,, that is so fast not too many parrots could get away. She also can outfight any parrot (so far)even if they have the above position and are pecking down at her. She can be so fierce that many people are afraid of her and most other parrots give her a wide birth. When i first brough Sunny into the same room after his quarantine, Gaugan would fly down and peck at the feet of anyone who would try to go near Sunny. Except me of course.....lol.......

So what happened is Sunny began to dive bomb Gaugan. Sunny could fly loops arond the house and then just dive bomb her and Gaugan could not be relaxed when Sunny was out. She was always on alert. Gaugan wasnt going to take that laying down and wasnt, and I could see a situation where they could not be out at the same time or experience the pleasure of having another parrot to flock with because she would injure Sunny.

I had trained Sunny to be tamer by having him sit on me and eat something and then dromp a towel slowly over him and pet him under the towel, and then slowly let him see my hands petting him as i slipped the towel off. He likes to be under a towel and will even go under one himself. I taught him to accept my touch anywhere and not be afraid of me.

I contemplated this situation, for days, and when i felt deep inside this would work for everyone, i decided to give Sunny a very modest clip. i just placed him under the towel and said "wing" as I had trained him to put out a wing when i said that and give him a reward. and clipped the outside feather on each wing.That would not change his flight much but it gave him a few days where he had to learn how to fly differently. It was during those days that Gaugan calmed down again and I was able to praise her when she and Sunny were close for handling the interaction in a good way, Simple beaking was okay, Pushing him off was okay. But trying to bite his foot or wing or tail was off limits and she was returned to her cage. Then way above my expectations, she began to preen him. They now have a realtionship as flock members. She preens him. She will let him feed her, but she will not allow him to preen her and she will not feed him. The whole house became happier, both people and parrots. We are a 4 member happy flock now. Perfect decision for that situation in my house.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby Pajarita » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:24 am

OK. I have been advocating keeping birds fully flighted since I got my first parrot back in 92 so I've had a long time to think about this issue and this is going to be long :D

First, let's review the reasons why people clip. The three reasons people give are: 1) safety (so bird will not fly out of a window) 2) control (so bird cannot fly high up where owner cannot reach, etc), 3) aggression (as a way of subduing it).

1) Safety - The only way you can ensure a parrot not flying out of a door or window is by doing a VERY severe clip because (as we have all learned from myriad postings of people who have lost their birds) mild clips will allow a bird to fly out and get lost with the difference that when you keep a fully flighted bird, you will be extra careful about open doors and windows but you might become a bit negligent when you believe that a mild clip will prevent this from happening.

2) Control - Now, although most people will tell you they clip for the bird's safety, I do believe that this is the main reason it's actually done. Personally, I don't need to be in control of my birds and I also don't have any problems with any of my flighted birds flying high up where it cannot be reached. I have had birds that did this but it was only at the very beginning, once they learned to trust me, felt 'at home' and were content with their lives, they did not show any desire to get away from me. I've also had birds that thoroughly dislike one another but, again, it's a matter of working on the problem. Ergo, this reason is perfectly corrected if the owner wants to put work and time into it.

3) Agression - a parrot is only agggresive when it feels it needs to defend itself, its mate or its nest from us so, again, the problem's solution falls on the owner's shoulders (because, as we all know, it's us who need to work to gain their trust as they are not hard-wired for submission to a leadership role). Penalizing the bird by handicapping it is not going to diminish the parrot's fear, quite the contrary, it would make it even more afraid because now it cannot get away.

As you all know, I am an animal rights activist. I believe that animals have the same right as humans to a good life so, to me, anything that compromises their wellbeing, be it physical or emotional is not acceptable. I firmly believe that anything that deviates from nature will, in the long or short term, harm the animal and that's unacceptable to me. Clipping a bird would, of course, firmly fall in the 'deviation from nature' category. One could give many arguments about the severity of the harm clipping might do. We all know that a severe clip is a very dangerous thing as the bird can end up with broken bones or even dead so we would have to consider mild clips. Now, it is true that we have no specific studies about it but waiting for one does not seem an option as the study itself would be expensive (you would need as many groups as there are clips done with different species and wait years for the final results) and there is no industry or profession that would benefit from it so who would pay for it? I also would not like to see a study on this because it would mean killing all the birds at the end. So, personally, I find no choice but to go with studies that, although are not specific to clipping, are directly or indirectly related to flight and the lack or impairement of it. And all of them show that both the lack and the impairment handicap the bird physically; that flight and predator-avoidance are 100% directly related with consequent added relationship between flight or fight response and stress and its physical consequences.

Now, the funny thing about clipping is that it's 100% cultural. Pet birds are not usually clipped in South or Central America, Europe, Asia or Africa so much so that, although I cannot personally speak for Asia and Africa, in South and Central America and Europe clipping is always considered a sign of questionalble husbandry. Oh, you will find wild-caughts that are clipped but then anybody who is actually willing to trap, sell, buy and/or keep a bird that was poached from the wild does not merit an opinion in the matter - at least not among bird lovers. It's the same thing with crating dogs... nowhere else in the world you will find people that routinely put dogs in cages, only in USA and Canada. I always wonder what is the real psychological root of these two practices (I have my own theory about it but would love for professionals to figure it out) because, if you think about it, the real purpose of both are one and the same, no?
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby seagoatdeb » Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:35 pm

I agree with most of your points on severe clipping, and I do stand up for animals, I am mostly vegetarian, the very few times I eat meat the animals have been grass feed, free ranging etc. Mild clipping does not cause any harm to any parrot I have ever seen. The feathers grow back. It helps give people another option who believe they need to clip. It is not talked about enough and the majority of parrot people do not even know about it.

Also a mild clip does not lull you into any kind of safety feeling, since your parrot still flys so well you have to be very carefull of doors and windows.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby Pajarita » Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:02 am

Just because we cannot see any external or behavioral evidence of harm, it doesn't mean that there is none, Seagoatdeb. Parrots are very difficult to read accurately, both when it comes to internal physical changes or behaviors, even for people who have years and years of experience with lots and lots of birds so, personally, I don't think anybody is actually able to tell with any degree of certainty whether clipping has or doesn't have undesirable consequences... I mean, if scientists need to do necropsies on birds that have been deprived of full flight to determine what changes occurred in their muscles, tendons, etc, I seriously doubt any of us can do it by just observing a couple of birds. There was a study (I posted the link in the other thread) that showed that fully flighted birds that were bred in captivity were slower and more prone to getting killed by predators than the wild ones. Imagine that! We are not even talking about clipped birds but fully flighted ones and they were still slower!

Now, I am sure that you are very careful about your birds but if you read all the postings of people who lost clipped birds, you will see that, in most cases, it was negligence that did it - not negligence in the sense that the owner did something knowing it was wrong but because they felt that it was safe when it wasn't. I can't tell you how many postings I have read that say something like: I have to clip my bird because I have children going in and out or my family/room-mates don't cooperate with closing the doors, etc All of these people think that a clip is going to guarantee the bird not flying away but we all know it's not true. And then there is the "I did not realize he/she had grown out his/her clipped feathers! He/she never did this before!"

Personally, I think that keeping a fully flighted bird would make you more careful than keeping a clipped bird -even to the point of creating buffer zones- as well as giving a 'lost' bird a better chance of surviving out there because, although a mild clip does not prevent a bird from flying away, it does impair its takeoff from the ground in terms of speed and height -both indispensable for avoiding predators.

So, in my mind, the question that begs asking is: If a mild clip does not prevent a bird from getting lost and is going to give it a lesser chance of avoiding danger, why do it? It makes no sense to me... UNLESS the real reason for it is for the human to feel in complete control of the bird (which is another common fantasy).

Now, using a mild clip as a tool is another story. In some special cases, clipping does help to get the human and bird through a difficult time but it's only in very specific situations. For example, I have been contemplating clipping two remiges on each wing of the male amazon because now that he doesn't have to share Precie (his mate) with Blue, he has gotten quite aggressive (it's breeding season and she hasn't laid eggs yet which she should have and it seems to me this could be making him more possessive than usual) so preventing him from flying out to attack me would make my life much simpler and I would not have to put them in the double macaw cage when I am in the birdroom (which is a bit of a project in itself). And, precisely because we are in breeding season and he will molt when it ends, it would only impair his flight for a couple of months. So I am thinking about it... but, most likely, I won't do it :lol:
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby Wolf » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:11 pm

I think that your last statement is exactly the point that Seagoatdeb has been trying to make all along, ie., that on occasion there is a valid reason to use a mild clip to help both the owner and the bird to get through a difficult time, especially when the results of not doing the light clip often is that the bird is confined to its cage, which also not good for the bird. I do not think that she is denying or even trying to deny that clipping a birds wings is not good for them, but that sometimes it is more a matter of the lesser of two evils, so you try to do the one which does the least amount of damage to the birds well being for the least amount of time.

Sometimes it is not always a matter of right or wrong, but more often with inexperienced bird keepers it is sometimes choosing the least wrong until they can learn how to deal with the issue in a more effective manner.

Myself, I see no reason to clip a birds wings unless there is a valid medical reason for it, but when I stop and look at it in the manner that I have just described in my last two paragraphs then although I do not like it I can see a certain validity for using a mild clip. But then when I started this topic, I was not as concerned about who or what was the most right, I wanted to discuss this openly and see what and why of this milder clipping. An attempt, if you will to see and understand both sides of this coin.
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Re: Let's Talk About Clipping

Postby seagoatdeb » Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:28 pm

Bringing Mild clipping into this discussion puts out the information on a third choice. Most parrot owners have just one parrot or a couple, so they are not in the experienced place where Pajarita and some others are and it takes time to get there, expecially when peoples lives are busy. Most tools can be helpfull, when they are used thoughfully, and sparyingly. When a parrot and human interact more sucessfully, both their lives improve. I want those cage bound parrots out of cages and most owners are busy and can only do so much at a time. Small steps to improve a parrrots life are better than no steps at all. At least thats what I find works best for most people.

When Sunny first got all his flight feathers back, he had to be put back in his cage everytime we ate or made tea, because he is a hyper, impulsive parrot and kept flying into the kitchen. That was very hard on him. He was too young and not in the right frame of mind anyway to understand why he would be stuck in the cage while we were doing things with food. The sad frustrated look in his eyes was heartbreaking to me. Now that he is older, mild clip or not, he has adjusted to it so he can fly just as well as a fully flighted parrot, better than some that are moulting. I have trained him to land on the window ledge in the kitchen, just in case there is that one time someone makes a mistake and has a hot element on, and I am letting him out if the burner is covered with something like a kettle, and that all pots and fry pan have to have lids on if hot if he is out. Gaugan will never fly into the kitchen, she knows I dont like it and there is nothing in there she thinks is worth it. If they get spooked by the amount of wild birds that land on the balcony here, I have trained them both on the safe places to land and keep my bedroom door open, so they will most often go there when spooked. Sunny flys so well, he once spooked and my bedroom door was accidently closed, and he made two turns to reach the back door, and then another turn to land downstairs, there are so many rooms there it took me a while to find him one day, I called and called and he was doing his I am a scared parrot and want to be a statue impersonation, so it took a while. He hasnt done that since, he stays on the top floor. I know I got another gray hair that day.....lol
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