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The following instructions and advice are directed to mid-sized and larger parrots, such as the Amazon Blue-Fronted Parrot, macaws, cockatoos, African Greys, etc.

Reasons to trim your parrot's wings:

  • Your parrot never learned how to fly properly. By this I mean that in the first 2 years of your parrot's life it did not learn how to take off, land, etc.
  • Parrots can learn to fly at older ages. However, if you are not willing to
    1. Get a large outside cage with proper heating, etc. or
    2. Parrot-proof your house by removing objects your parrot can knock over, moving objects that are potential hazards to your parrot as it flies, being able to rescue your bird from high landings (i.e. the light near the top of your vaulted ceiling), remove your ceiling fans (this is a common fatal error) or try to leave them off while the parrot is on the prowl, accept that your parrot will nosh your moldings, etc.
    please do not let your parrot have free reign in the house. You can substitute by selecting one large room (like a rec room) for your parrot's adventures. Obstacles are good for practicing agility and inducing creativity. Parrots can be trained to stay away from certain objects and areas, but don't tempt fate too much.

In addition, please be careful when letting your parrot fly outside. Most parrots are no more than 1-2 lbs. A light breeze can sweep your bird away, even if it can fly. People who take their parrots around in public have been followed home and have had their parrots stolen. There are safe and kind parrot leashes available. Parrot owners have been sued because a child reached up to "make nice" and your parrot rebuffed their advances. Parrots will not survive very long in the wild. They do not know how to forage, seek proper shelter, etc.

Cutting your parrot's flight feathers can tame your parrot as well. A sexually mature parrot that is the king of your abode can be a menace to the novice owner and especially to the owner's spouse. A sexually mature parrot with a partner is often a poor choice as a pet as it claims complete loyalty to its mate (many parrot species are monogamous for life).

SO, onto the meat of this node. Parrots have a few different types of flight feathers. The outer ones, the longest flight feathers, are called primary flight feathers. The next group in are the secondary flight feathers. The final group, the closest to the bird's body, are generally referred to as the inner flight feathers.

Trimming your parrot's wings will involve the following: two sets of leather gloves, a willing partner, and scissors. No Fiskars, please. Your average desk scissors (approx. 4-5 in. cutting surface) will suffice. Don't make jerky movements.

  1. First, calm your parrot by talking to it softly, giving it it's favorite foods and treats, etc. Even saying that you are going to trim it's wings helps, though this might trigger the bird to avoid you in the future when you repeat this phrase.
  2. Don your gloves.
  3. Place the parrot on your non-dominant hand (if you're a rightie, place the bird on your left hand, and vice versa) and grasp its feet firmly but softly.
  4. Have your partner slowly open a wing. You can suggest to your parrot to open its wing with a pre-learned verbal command or with positive reinforcement. Your partner should hold the outside of the wing at the hinge, or at the top of the wing. Hold just enough that your bird cannot pull away and jeopardize itself.
  5. Starting with the primaries, cut towards the inside. Begin an inch from the tips. These feathers are blood feathers and cutting to close to the origin can cause bleeding and irreversible damage. Also, your parrot will hate you. When you get to the secondaries and inners, move up to cut an inch, as these feathers are significantly shorter than the primaries. Try and be as quick as you can while being safe.
  6. Repeat with other wing.
  7. Talk to your bird soothingly and reward it with treats afterwards. Cuddle it or do anything else that might calm it down.

Your first, or maybe all of your attempts, will look like you took a hacksaw to your parrot. If your parrot seems to significantly suffer (general change in behavior) from having its wings trimmed, leave the primaries alone and trim the rest. This will cut down much of the flying while allowing your parrot to keep much of it's original beauty.

If the above seems like too much for you to handle right now, don't be afraid to take your bird to a veterinarian that specializes in birds or the breeder from whom you purchased the parrot, etc. Ask to watch them trim your parrot's wings and listen to their advice.

Next: Trimming your Parrot's Nails

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