Wings should be kept clipped for the bird's safety. In a sudden panic, a bird can fly into a wall, window, or mirror, and be seriously injured or killed. An unclipped bird is much more likely to disappear into the wild blue yonder, and remember that most escapees are not recovered. A tame bird whose wings are not clipped is more apt to develop an attitude problem. When his wings are clipped it has an instant humbling effect when he realizes he needs your help to get off the floor.
Clipping does not mean a bird can't fly at all. It should reduce the height, speed, and duration of the flight. As an example, when I clip a cockatiel I like to see him be able to fly almost across the room at about 3 or 4 feet high. I always clip both wings. This way the bird has an "even" look and still knows which direction he's going in. If you clip one wing only, the bird will fly in a circle with little control. This is not only dangerous but may also frighten the bird needlessly.
It's easier if two people clip the wings. One will hold the bird while the other extends the wing and cuts the feathers. Cut the long primaries, the outermost ones farthest away from the shoulder. Cut at the point where the end of the next feathers up (the primary coverts) meet the primaries.
Be careful not to cut a blood feather, which is one still growing and which still has blood inside the central shaft. If you do, you will have to pull it out or else the bird may lose too much blood. To remove a broken or cut blood feather, grasp the shaft close to the body with pliers and give a quick, firm pull in the same direction as which it grows. The first time I had to do this I was very nervous. I was sure I'd cause the bird extreme pain and he'd never forgive me. As it was, the feather came out without so much as a squawk from him! Definitely a worse experience for me than for him.
If in doubt about the wing clipping, watch someone who is experienced. You could also opt to bring the bird to a vet or groomer, at least the first time so that you can be instructed on how to do it yourself. Many pet shops also perform this for a minimal fee or perhaps even free.
All Content Copyright 1998,
Anita M. Golden
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