Flight is a Bird’s Greatest Gift – Are You a Gift Giver or Taker?

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Disclaimer. I fully understand if you clip you bird’s wings. Large birds especially in homes with 8 foot ceilings and lots of windows open themselves up to injury from flight. I like flighted birds but what’s right for me in is not necessarily right for you.


Popcorn on the top landing door of her work cage.
Click here for more details of this 2 door Cockatiel cage from Prevue
For those of you who have not followed Popcorn’s Big Adventure allow me bring you up to speed. When you do a search for anything bird or parrot related we have high Google search rankings. Rankings are even higher if you do a search from a computer in the Chicago metropolitan area.
 
On a regular basis we get called by strangers, the police and fire departments to rescue anything the appears to to be an exotic bird. So it was with great interest I responded to a call for a white bird in the bushes not two blocks from the Birdie Boutique. It was a warm day, I grabbed a backpack birdcage and strolled 2 blocks north on Western Ave where al woman was waiting on the steps of her brownstone a few feet away from a small white bird who was more or less stuck in the front yard hedges.
 

She was was clearly flighted (her escape MO) and scared. I grabbed her taking the anticipated the bite, felt the rush:-), grabbed her around the neck dropped the towel over her (which I had brought), stuffed her little but into the cage and hiked back to the shop. (Note: Parrots have a pharynx unlike humans that have a larynx, thus a thumb and forefinger around a birds neck is a safe and easy way to restrain them. Conversely squeezing a bird around its chest can suffocate them)

We put her in a small 18 x 18 cage in the corner of the shop and Paid our due diligence by filing reports with Parrot Alert 911. and posting around Facebook. We’ve been bird free for the past three years and not even thinking about leaving the bird and little cage at work we brought a cage home and now were shuttling little Princess daily. So it was no stretch when Catherine asked me “do we want to think about keeping this bird?” I said yes with no hesitation. So here we are about five months later. Popcorn has a beautiful Cockatiel Palace at work and an HQ 702 that was sitting in the corner of the warehouse. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That said when we brought Popcorn home we knew she was flighted. My first morning trying to get out of the house with her to go to work she took off while trying to get her into her travel cage I lost sight of her as she flew about the apartment frantically. I couldn’t find her for 10 or 15 minutes. She’d fallen behind a large cabinet in the bedroom. Fortunately she sustained no injury. When I got to the shop we clipped her.

 
In the ensuing weeks her primary flight feathers started growing back while at the same time she was molting. Week by week as her wings grew she gained confidence. A jump off the cage door to a soft landing on an area rug led to flight across a room to see what mom was eating. Within a couple of months we all knew she was capable of sustained flight from an elevated surface and after about three months she could provide enough lift to get to a cage even the shower rod from the floor. (Have you ever thought about enormous amount of energy it takes for bird to instantly gain altitude from being quite still on the ground?)
 
It wasn’t without great debate that Catherine relented with my assurances safety would be my utmost priority with our new sky pilot. We live long wide 80-year-old apartment in Chicago with nine and a half foot ceilings. All the windows have shutters with drapes and shades. Were we do have open glass we placed flower arrangements in front of it. We let her fly into the kitchen as long as nothing is cooking and she has her own play stand atop the dishwasher. She knows if she comes in the bathroom she has her own towel across shower rod. Although in the bedroom she always picks the floor or the bed 7 just refuses to land on a stand anywhere in the room. She’s a BIG help when comes time to making the bed – not.
 
Her home cage (like her work cage) has a landing door and even though there is a Capital shade with a full spectrum light on top, there’s enough room to land. She has been getting better at landing on the horizontal faces of the cage too which is a great development and a testament to her control. Once I saw her horizontal flight Getting more consistent in less erratic, II made sure of it coming home every day, taking her out of her travel cage and gently tossing her the direction of her home cage from a foot or 2 away. Each day the toss would be a little farther. She has learned this is where it’s always safe to land.
 
Sometimes she becomes a sticky bird. She’ll be on my fingers and I’ll try to toss her towards the cage and feel her little feet get tighter like she was velcored to me. What’s really cool now is when I’m at my desk which is about 10 feet away from her cage, knowing she not going to let gow of my fingers willingly, we’re now both so confident that I just gently grab her around her wings and body the do an underhand toss in the direction of her cage. She’ll keep her wings tucked, dip for a millisecond then flap flap flap land. I can’t get enough of that!
 

Sometimes she’ll just leave her cage and start doing figure eights at home and at the store (which has 10 and a half foot ceilings) but always landing on a “known” landing the zone or one of us. I’ve gotten a shoulder landing a couple of times but she’ll usually land on the top of one of our heads. Popcorn’s flight gives me enormous joy.

 
While reviewing some links and a new video that had been added recently- the Hagen How to Groom Flight Feathers. One of the tips mentioned – birds should learn to fly and land before the first wing clipping. Another was not to trim a young bird’s nails AND wings at the same time because it may reduce their confidence. What I really like about the video is the close ups of precisely where to cut the feathers on the bird’s wings.

Should you keep your bird flighted? I think it’s an argument that will last forever. Greg Glendell is a strong advocate for keeping birds flighted. He lays out his case and starts with “So, ALL birds are subject to risks in the home, whether they are flighted or not: clipped birds are just subjected to *different* risks than those of flighted birds. Generally, wing-clipping is done for owner-convenience, rather than bird ‘welfare’ Read the rest of Keeping birds flighted here.

Does this make it right for you and your bird? Not necessarily. You may be in a small house or apartment with lots of (confusing) windows. You may have other animals you don’t want riled up. If that’s the case, clip the wings. It’s not as hard as you think.
 
 
 
Squawk at you next week
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written by Mitch Rezman CMO
Windy City Parrot, Inc
Simply Everything for Exotic Birds – Since 1993

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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