Great comment! There is no real safety in clipping. It is merely trading a certain set of risks for another set of risks. Clipped birds often sustain serious injuries in falls, are killed by predators that they can't escape such as dogs or cats living in the same home, and can fall into things like tubs or toilets while they are climbing or jumping to get around. I spend my life with over 100 birds, and with the exception of a few who have physical issues, all are flighted. There are times when I wish the macaw wouldn't soar into the room like a 747 on short final, but I won't take that away from him. Nor will I take it away from any of the other birds, regardless of how much extra effort it is to care for them while they can fly. Several are wild-caught ex-breeders who don't "step up". We allow them out of the cage time regardless of how difficult it may be to convince a fully flighted bird that going back into their cage is the right thing to do. Even the Amazon who has taken to touch-and-go landings on my head won't be clipped. I put myself in their position. I always wanted to fly. From the time I was a very young child, I would dream of flying. Not in a plane but flying like a bird. If I were to magically wake up one day and be able to fly, I would be very angry at someone for taking that gift from me. We follow the same practice used in mental health facilities for human patient rights. We will not use the "restraint" of clipping a bird's flights unless they are a danger to themselves, or others.
Let me tell you a story about a clipped bird that spooked into flying up into a very tall tree. Someone climbed the tree after him. The bird climbed higher. He thought it was a great game. Finally he climbed higher than the tree could support his human pursuer. He wanted to return to the safety of his human's shoulder, so he tried to fly to her. But with his wings clipped, instead of flying, he fell. Uncontrolled descent. He broke his back. The rest of his life was filled with suffering until he - as with many human victims of spinal cord injury - died at way too young an age. Clipping wings *does not* prevent flight. It does not prevent a bird from "gaining altitude" if they are sufficiently spooked. Adrenaline provides thrust so that, just like a rocket with its tiny vanes, the bird is propelled upwards. Thrust overcomes the lack of lift caused by removing surface area by clipping the flight feathers. We've seen this happen over and over and over when we've been contacted by owners or their friends who are searching for birds -- CLIPPED birds -- that have been startled into flying away and getting lost. One of those birds tried to return and in an uncontrolled descent, instead collided with a fence and was killed. The *safest* bird is one who is NOT handicapped but is a capable flier and is trained to recall to your hand. Once the panic is past, a bird that is physically able to return and is trained to do so is far more likely to be safely retrieved.
Kathy, a great article, as usual. I agree with you completely. There are times that it's needed, but it shouldn't be the first choice. Birds are meant to fly. It is our responsibility to keep them safe without choosing the (deceptively) easy solution of clipping. For those who disagree, I understand your fear. Don't let that be your motivation.
Wonderful, powerful and yes bound to raise some heated discussions. Any creature created to fly free will no doubt suffer in one way or another the forced loss of that ability. I agree that indeed clipping a birds wings is forced obedience and a definite disability. Whether done for safety or selfish gains, we all need to consider the longer, larger range picture before taking up those scissors to groom our Companions.
I don't like clipped wings. I have 4 birds, three are not clipped. The fourth is because he was that way when I got him and he hasn't gotten his new feathers yet. He is only a baby at four months old but he is constantly trying to fly. He breaks his tail feathers off in the process and falls a lot. I hate it for him. I can't wait for him to soar happoly!
All of mine have intact wings and Rocky is the only one who doesn't fly. We don't know why. His daddy gives him "flying lessons" (carries him around on a T stand and swoops it this way and that so Rocky will extend his wings and, perhaps, realize he COULD fly) but still, he doesn't. He's had two big molts and a couple of small ones since moving in with us and he is quite welcome to fly if he likes. Clyde prefers to be carried where he wants to go, but if no taxi is available, he flies. The rest seem to prefer flying to taxi service. The tiels take regular laps around the bird room, yelling like banshees, just for fun. I wish Rocky could explain why he doesn't.