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Mechanics of Your Bird’s Wondrous Wings  – what you probably didn’t know

Mechanics of Your Bird’s Wondrous Wings – what you probably didn’t know

You feel it’s best to clip your bird’s wings – right?

A lot of you know us well, many of you don’t. To be clear – we’re here to help whether you want to keep your bird flighted or flightless. We can talk to about flight training – we can explore “degrees” of clipping. Most importantly we want you to know birds use their wings for more than flight, like balance when on their feet and muscle strength maintenance.

That said, as the Confederate Army fought the Union Army. Longer and louder than the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s – the argument for & against wing clipping lives on. In the interest of world peace I’m not going to talk about either today. We are just going to talk about – “wings” made of parrot feathers.

Have you ever thought of your birds wings as “biomechanical check valves”? Slowing down to smell the roses sometimes just isn’t slow enough. What if you happen to have access to a high frame speed professional super duper slow-motion camera and someone gave you the camera & a plane ticket to Peru then said “go my son – take the fast slow camera to South America and make remarkable videos of parrots in the wild”? 

Destin, who makes these incredible videos (below) is so matter-of-fact throughout the entire discovery process, allowing his unbelievable content to overshadow (in a good way) his self depreciative narrative. 

How Bird Wings Work (Compared to Airplane Wings) - Smarter Every Day 62

Most striking is the counterpoint of Macaws seen in the wild are clearly not the same birds we harbor under our roofs. 

The 2nd video reminded me of a misconception about the Peruvian clay licks. For years the belief has been that toxins found in Rainforest fruit were cleansed by minerals in the clay parrot ate on the mountain. According to researchers at Texas A&M University, that’s not so accurate. It also graphically illustrates what your bird “instinctually expects” vs it’s current reality.

Knowing when to first clip wings is important for your bird’s muscular development life cycle. Clip a bird’s wing when it’s too young and vital chest muscles don’t fully develop from the lack of lifting & flapping the weight of a complete set of wings.

anatomy of a bird’s wing feather structure
diagram -anatomy of a bird's wing

We’re still fact checking this, we read somewhere on the internet that Sweden or Norway passed a law making it illegal to clip a bird’s wings under 1 year of age. If someone has information we’d appreciate confirmation or denial from an important person of that country. The BirdTalk article doesn’t count.

2/9/15 – this has been fact checked

Terri Leinneweber A fellow (Facebook) group member (Senegal Parrot Pets) on facebook provided this reference: This is the Swedish law:

http://www.jordbruksverket.se/…”Jordbruksverket” is the Swedish board of Agriculture. Page 13, 2 § 

(I (Terri) used Google Translate on this one and it´s actually pretty much what it says in Swedish too, after a few corrections): 

“Limitation of flight ability of birds may only take place if

1st – the bird is over a year old,

2nd – the bird can not be trained to use the flight harness,

3rd – limitation is performed by wing trimming, and

4th wing trim only happens once a year.

The wing trimming should be done in such a way that the bird after restriction has good stability and sufficient lift to eliminate the risk that it gets injured while attempting to fly.

Let’s give a digital hand to Terri

If there are health reasons, a bird’s flight capability, notwithstanding the first subparagraph 4, can be limited more than once a year.”

We love our three-dimensional fluffy feathered fliers. The more we discover, together, the more fascinating these creatures get. You know me – I have that “dream job”. Surfing the Internet & fact checking interesting things about raising pet birds and parrots.

I try not to go down a lot of rabbit holes like an Indian ringneck parrot talking to a stuffed animal video. What I look for is information that becomes actionable. Information you can use to be a better caged bird keeper.

One of my sources is Destin from a series on YouTube called “SmarterEveryDay” this guy is smart (he’s an engineer) and he explores everything imaginable including how birds fly. He has a remarkable ability to simplify and then articulate complex physical interactions. 

What’s even more better is he makes extraordinarily descriptive videos like the one below entitled – How Bird Wings Work (Compared to Airplane Wings).

I gotta tell you I didn’t really fully understand how wings functioned until I watched that four-minute video.

MACAWS in SlowMotion! Rainforest Research! Smarter Every Day 60

The slow-motion clips referenced in the video that you just watched (above) were from a trip Destin made to Peru with a bunch of researchers that video’d flocks of macaw parrots chomping on clay licks in the mountains of the Peruvian rain forest They kept extensive records of these Macaw daily activities.

The video itself is amazing chronicling a trip any of us and make in a heartbeat. At about five minutes into the video, you will learn how and what the clay licks do for parrots is what McDonald’s does for French fries.

Salt – whoda thunk it?
Every bird I see fly now, I look for the “delamination” of their wings. it’s interesting to go through our collection of tens of thousands of images of birds and seeing birds in flight now knowing if their wings are on the upward or downward stroke by the position of their feathers.

I detest “rabbit holes”. But, this is the best cat video EVER! (Did I really just say that?)

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

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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