clip parrots wings or not

Should You Clip a Parrots Wings?

Clipping a parrot’s wings is a normal part of life for some owners. In contrast, other owners see it as unnecessary. Nearly all parrots have the ability to fly. To take that away might feel like robbing your parrot of a basic right. The truth is, the ethics of clipping parrot wings is open to debate.

You should clip your parrot’s wings if you’re concerned about it flying into objects around your home. This will also prevent it from getting lost, should you accidentally leave a door or window open. However, you should not clip a parrot’s wings if you’re worried about its ability to exercise. Some parrots become depressed or anxious if they’re deprived of their ability to fly.

Parrots are not physically harmed if their wings are trimmed correctly. The flight feathers can be removed with scissors, ensuring your parrot can no longer fly. As long as the nerves, tissue, muscles, and blood vessels of the upper wing are not touched, the parrot will be fine. However, if you cut them badly, it can lead to bleeding or the feathers being unable to regrow. If needed, visit a pet store or see an avian vet to have it done professionally.

Is It Cruel To Clip A Parrot’s Wings?

If done correctly, it is not physically harmful to clip a parrot’s wings. The only exception is if the parrot’s feathers are trimmed incorrectly. This happens when the owner:

  • Trims the feathers too short. You may cut into nerves and blood vessels, causing pain.
  • Cuts too many feathers. Parrots have many non-flight feathers that are used for temperature regulation and comfort. They shouldn’t lose these.
  • Cuts in a bad pattern. This could unbalance the weight or length of the feathers, causing the parrot to strain itself.

Likewise, you should never cut a baby parrot’s wings. The muscles, nerves, and tissue are still developing and will rely on the weight of the feathers to become properly balanced. Wait until the parrot has grown, or else you may cause developmental issues and muscle damage in its chest.

These mistakes can result in upsetting harm or injury to your parrot. If owners intentionally cut the wings badly, or mess it up several times, this is cruel. If you’re unsure of your abilities, it’s always better to seek expert assistance rather than injure your parrot accidentally.

However, if the feathers are cut properly, then no damage will be inflicted. The parrot will need a short adjustment period to the new weight and wingspan length. After this, the bird should return to normal.

Is It Wrong To Keep A Parrot From Flying?

With that in mind, you may still ask: is it cruel to clip a parrot’s wings, even if it doesn’t physically harm the bird? It depends:

  • Some parrot owners refuse to trim their parrot’s wings.
  • Others will clip the flight feathers every few weeks or months.
  • Certain owners claim that it harms their parrot’s mental well-being or ability to exercise.
  • Others state that it prevents the parrot from flying into a fan.

No matter your stance on the topic, we do know that a parrot’s wings are crucial to its lifestyle. In the wild, they’re necessary to help parrots reach their nests, scavenge for meals, and escape predators.

According to the International Journal of Engineering Research and Technology, parrot wings are impressively aerodynamic. The lift, drag, or lift-to-drag ratio of parrot wings make them very effective in transporting the birds long distances without wasting much energy.

Likewise, feathers help defend parrots against illnesses. According to Biology Letters, even the coloring of the feathers can make them more resistant to bacteria. It was found that red, blue, green, and yellow feathers all degraded less slowly than white feathers when exposed to bacillus licheniformis, known for degrading feathers. The pigment itself helped strengthen the keratin and protect the birds.

In the home, the loss of a few primary feathers won’t ruin your parrot’s health. It also doesn’t need its wings for flight; you can provide it with access to everything it needs. In fact, having the ability to fly may result in injuries or damage to your home. Crashing into ceiling fans, running into windows, and knocking over objects are all real concerns. This makes it seem reasonable to clip the wings to prevent that from happening.

can parrots still fly with clipped wings?

Clip Parrots Wings Or Not

As we can see, clipping parrot feathers is a matter of opinion. Before you decide if your bird needs a trim, let’s explore some of the pros and cons. You can decide which sounds more reasonable to you.

Pros of Clipping Your Parrots Wings

If you keep the parrot indoors, rather than out in an aviary, there are many perks to trimming the wings.

Protects The Parrot From Danger

It’s natural for a parrot to fly, but it can be dangerous in the home. Flying exposes the parrot to fans, windows, mirrors, and cooking pots. If your feathered pet soars right into these objects, it could be seriously injured.

That’s even more true when parrots are easily startled, taking off without warning. By clipping the wings, your parrot will be unable to fly with any speed or distance. 

Prevents The Parrot From Flying Away

Parrots may escape a window that’s been left open. Some can fly at 50 mph and travel great distances if they find a good wind current. If your parrot’s wings are trimmed, then it will be unable to fly away from home.

Curiosity may lure it outside, or it may get startled and take off. However, with short wings, at least it won’t get very far.

Dependence On The Owner

Clipping a parrot’s wings does not immediately guarantee a strong bond between you two. However, it will make the bird rely on you to pick it up, carry it around, and take it longer distances.

If walking is the only effective way to get anywhere, now that it can’t fly, sitting on its owner’s shoulder to navigate the home will seem appealing. That could help you spend more time with the parrot, now that it lacks independence.

Particularly stubborn parrots that pride themselves on being self-sufficient may end up softening around you.

Cons of Clipping Your Parrots Wings

Despite those perks, there are real downsides to trimming wings. In the end, you may find it more worthwhile to parrot-proof your home and tolerate the bird soaring where it pleases.

Lack of Exercise

If a parrot can’t fly, it has lost one of its primary methods of exercise. Parrots have feet and can trot along at a decent speed, but it’s a poor substitute.

Birds have over 175 muscles, and most of them contribute to their wings. Without the ability to fly, these chest and breast muscles will weaken, and your parrot will struggle to compensate with other types of exercise.

In this case, it will be important to dance, play, and exercise with your parrot. Certain muscles will never be as strong, but it doesn’t mean your parrot will automatically become invalid.

Never Learn To Fly

If you trim a parrot’s wings while it’s young, it may never learn to fly. The breast muscles responsible for maintaining its wingspan will not properly develop.

The parrot will also lose its instinct for flying. That works great if you intend on never letting the bird pick up this skill. However, once you’ve committed to that, you can’t reverse the process.

Psychological Damage

Parrots with clipped wings are more likely to suffer depression and other forms of psychological damage. This could lead to self-destructive behavior, the most common being feather plucking.

This is especially true for parrots that were allowed to fly before, but are now clipped. Parrots are highly intelligent, so they understand what they’re missing and will feel limited.

Can Parrots Still Fly With Clipped Wings?

Even with trimmed flight feathers, a parrot can flutter a short distance. If it’s standing on its cage or another tall object, this will help it glide around.

Even still, the parrot will struggle to gain elevation, and the flight itself will lack coordination. This may cause it to crash randomly around the home as it adjusts to its short wings. That may be dangerous if you don’t monitor and protect the bird during this time.

Within a few days or weeks, the parrot should adapt to the new wingspan. It will avoid trying to fly properly and instead use its ability to flutter when needed. Once the parrot’s wings grow back to their full length, it will begin flying again.

Parrot Wing Clipping Cost

If you want your parrot’s wings trimmed by an expert, then you can pay to have this done. It should cost between $5 and $20, depending on where you go. In some cases, it may cost a little more.

Small parrots will cost less than bigger parrots. For example, trimming a parakeet’s wings is a few-second affair with minimal restraints needed. However, a large macaw with dangerous biting force will require more care and experience.

Where Can I Get My Parrots Wings Clipped?

Vet clinics and certain pet stores offer wing-clipping services. You’re most likely to find it at large establishments or ones that deal exclusively with avian care.

Professionals will need the right kind of scissors, restraints, and possibly sedatives, should your parrot be unwieldy. You can also benefit from their experience, ability to gauge the length, and angle for the cut.

Do Clipped Wings Grow Back?

Clipped wings will grow back in parrots and most other birds. Since feathers are made of keratin, they’re much like human fingernails and can regenerate without issue. After a trim, it will take between 6 to 10 weeks to grow back to their full length.

The only exception is if you cut the wings badly. If you caused muscle or nerve damage while trimming them, they might be unable to regenerate properly. Luckily, this can be avoided by choosing a professional for the trim or taking careful steps when clipping wings at home.

How To Clip A Parrot’s Wings

Clipping a parrot’s wings should be done slowly and carefully. If you’re new to this, then consider asking a friend to help. It’s easy to make a mistake when trying to clip and restrain the parrot at once.

As your parrot grows familiar with the process, and you grow more experienced, you can also do this alone. It isn’t difficult, so long as you don’t rush. Start by:

Gathering What You’ll Need

Once you’ve started clipping, avoid stopping halfway through. This will stress the bird and may cause it to get loose from its restraints. At the least, you’ll have to catch it again. At most, it will struggle until it injures itself. To avoid that, gather all these supplies ahead of time and keep them within arm’s reach:

  • A towel, equal to the size of your parrot.
  • Styptic powder (if you have it) or a clean rag, so you can apply pressure if you nick a blood vessel.
  • A pair of very sharp scissors.

Wrapping Your Parrot With The Towel

Most parrots dislike having their wings touched. Yours may begin to fight you, bite, lunge, twist, or jump when you begin the trimming process. To avoid that, you can gently wrap the parrot in a towel.

  • The towel should wrap around its body, pinning one wing down and leaving the other free.
  • The towel should extend up to its neck, so it can’t reach around and bite you.
  • Have a friend hold the bird tight and keep it from moving, so you can address the wing.

Throughout this, be sure to speak in a calm, happy tone. Smile and act like it’s playtime, so the parrot understands this isn’t a punishment.

Identifying The Feathers

Take hold of your parrot’s wing and extend it. It will splay out in the same pattern as when the parrot is flying. You should be able to see clearly:

  • Long feathers that reach out from the front of the wing. These are the primary feathers, or flight feathers. 
  • Further along that line will be shorter feathers that look otherwise identical. These are secondary feathers.
  • Further still, into the ‘armpit’ of the parrot, you will see smaller, softer feathers that are layered over each other. These are the tertial feathers.

You only need to cut the primary feathers to keep your parrot from flying.  However, more importantly, you must avoid the covert feathers at all costs.

Higher up on the wing, above all the others, there will be shorter feathers. They will appear less defined, layering over each other. These are coverts and sit on the muscle and tissue of the bird’s wing. To cut this would be like cutting into the bird’s arm.

Judging the Length

Use your hands and gauge where the cut should go. Once you’ve practiced feeling for the right spot, you can do so again easily. Here’s how:

  1. Starting with the primary feathers, use your finger and thumb to feel along them
  2. Go upward, toward the covert feathers.
  3. When you feel a thicker portion, almost bulky, you are now touching the muscle and tissue of your parrot’s wing.  Sometimes you can clearly see a distinction, but other times, you can only be sure with touch.
  4. You need to avoid cutting muscle or tissue at all costs, so inch your fingers down from there, by about 1-2 inches.
  5. Rub these feathers between your fingers to confirm that they are thin and individual, rather than a part of the tissue.
  6. Once you’ve found the right spot, hold the feathers in place between the length of your index finger and middle finger.

Making The Cut

Now it’s time to finally cut the feathers:

  • Your 2 fingers will work as a protective barrier for the muscle and tissue.
  • Take your very sharp scissors and line them up on the right spot, pressed against your fingers.
  • It’s better to have the feathers too long instead of too short, so if you’re not sure, add another 1 inch.
  • Firmly but carefully trim the feathers in a smooth cut.
  • If the scissors are not sharp enough, do not try to pull or wiggle them around on the feather. Remove them and try cutting in a fresh stroke

Once all the feathers are cut free, you’re done.

bird behavior after wing clipping

Bird Behavior After Wing Clipping

Clipping is more strenuous for your parrot than it is for you. The bird may feel stressed, anxious, confused, or even a little angry at your behavior. Depending on the bird, reactions will vary from mild to extreme. For example, the parrot may:

  • Try to retreat to its cage as soon as it’s let go
  • Try to fight out of the towel as soon as you loosen your grip
  • Pout and remain quiet
  • Scream or squawk
  • Attempt to bite you
  • Ignore you when you offer treats or company

Some parrots will continue like this for several hours. Others will forgive you after a few minutes, or once you offer a treat. Parrots have their trust broken easily and don’t forget personal slights, so it’s important to reassure them. Make sure to reinforce the bond immediately by:

  • Taking the parrot to its cage while still in the towel
  • Placing it inside and undoing enough of the towel so it can get free on its own
  • Giving it 5-10 minutes while you wait quietly nearby, or however long is necessary until it calms down
  • Speak softly and happily to the parrot as you approach
  • Offer it a treat and praise for allowing the wing trimming
  • After 1-2 hours, once it’s had time to gauge its balance without primary feathers, take it out of the cage
  • Sit on the floor with it, so if it flutters, it does not fall a great distance
  • Play with and encourage the parrot, offering it another treat

The key is to let your parrot know that you still love it, the situation is still safe, and that it’s not being punished. If it goes well, your parrot should adapt to its lack of flight feathers and return to normal in a week or two.

If your parrot truly misses the feathers, it may develop behavioral issues in the coming weeks that will need to be addressed with training.

How Often To Clip A Parrot’s Wings?

Depending on the parrot, its flight feathers will regrow in 6 to 10 weeks. You can wait until then to clip them, or you can update the trim when they’re half of their original length.

You may notice the parrot startling to flutter greater distances or gaining more coordination. At this point, it helps to take more off the tips. The key is in deciding if your parrot needs its wings cut, and then doing so properly.