I argued with myself for 3 months before clipping Butters’ wings. She was young yet, fully fledged under our roof and at the ripe age of almost 2, a total handful. Not two hands full like Snickers, but nevertheless a hand full. Our vet strongly and kindly suggested a “conservative” clip. Which gives me pause here to remind us all that no man has the right to use words carelessly. Since when is cutting wings to remove flight abilities a conservative choice? But the term “conservative clip” does rest easier on the human mind.
But back Butters’ attitude and the idea of a conservative clip being a solution. The real issue was my attitude and my control issues. She was being a fully flighted joyous, and confident macaw. I was being impatient and wanting the quick fix. Alas, a quick fix is worth about as much. It’s quick to remind me of my own selfish nature. So I took our joyous and confident ButterBean in for grooming, blood work, and that “conservative clip”.
I brought home an intimidated, confused and sad parrot. And I ached for her next molt to come in quickly. I cried for 2 days for what I had done to our girl. She was not our ButterBean until her next molt. I watched her confused heart and mind for a week. Her balance was off, her confidence removed and yes, she knew who brought this on her. Around the 9th day she found her way around her disability. And I watched her for months after fuss with the missing feather locations on both her wings. It was as though she were conjuring her body to create those feathers again. I tell you my experience for a parrot’s perspective. I tell you this story because it is imperative, no matter the reasons, we understand that clipping wings is not to be taken lightly. It has a palpable impact on a parrot, no matter how they react and overcome their newly acquired disability. And make no mistake, this is a chosen disability we have brought on them.
There is no such thing as a conservative clip anymore than there is a pet parrot. There are real consequences for them physically and mentally. And yes they are quite adept at making do, and merging into their new normal. And yes, there are real reasons to do such a thing to a companion parrot. There are times and lifestyles that require it for their own health and safety. I make no argument against those times. I make an argument against the idea that it is no big deal and that it somehow magically keeps them safe and easily found if they are lost outside.
What happens when we remove flight, or partial flight feathers from our parrots via a clipping?
Balance is affected. And balance creates confidence. Confidence creates trust. And trust builds our relationships with our companion. Clipping wings is not a way to “bond with your parrot”. It’s a way to control our parrot so that it’s easier to get them to do what we perceive as bonding. Which is simply obedience via no choice.
If our companion isn’t flying, our companion isn’t using the main element of mobility that their biology and physiology evolved to utilize. Muscle atrophy, affected metabolism, less demand on the respiratory system as it was built for, comes into play. We hamstrung a flying being who’s body was structured to fly. They will become weaker.
There are discussions on both sides of the science fence on whether fully flighted parrots are healthier and have stronger immune systems. I tend to the example of humans and exercise. Humans who use their bodies as fully intended by their structure are healthier than humans who do not use their bodies as intended. Sitting is the new smoking. I believe fully flighted parrots are healthier, stronger and have a stronger immune system than those who can not fly. I absolutely believe this idea inside the context of young parrots being allowed to fledge and fly for a few weeks before being clipped for the first time. Much like a baby being allowed to cry, to strengthen their lungs, diaphragm and respiratory system as a whole.
All this being said, if clipped wings are in your bird’s lifestyle, then it is important to compensate that lost mobility and exercise with more nutrition, more ways for physical activity through deeper enrichment. I am not writing an indictment of wing clipping and those that choose the practice. I am writing a reminder to all that clipping wings is not a small agenda item. This is to be approached with a seriousness toward our companion’s nature, personality and life quality.
Clipped wings do not mean your companion can not fly. They will find a way to gain airspace. But clipped wings on a companion that has “gotten out” and is now lost leaves a defenseless parrot. Some wing clips will cause a parrot to look injured in flight. A predator will pick up the idea that there is an easy meal. A companion with clipped wings lost outside will do their best to fly, and they will be vulnerable doing it.
A fully flighted parrot lost to the outside has mobility and escape on their side, and are no longer on a certain rung of the food chain. And yes, I’ve experienced one of my fully flighted parrots getting outside, twice. Kirby flew down from his tree with some coaxing and command work, and a banana. I know the terror. But I am glad he was fully flighted. Had he not been, the local cats would have had lunch, I have no doubt.
Clipping wings is a control choice. No more no less. It is rarely a choice for the benefit of a parrot. Our relationship with our companion requires we be honest about the clipping wings choice, and at the very least see it for what it is, and compensate to the best of our abilities for doing it to them. We are literally removing their very nature by doing it. We must respect that impact. It is 2019. We know round cages are horrible. We know sunflower seed only diets are a death sentence. We know peanuts can cause illness. We know parrots are self aware. We know parrots are not pets. We know so much, and are learning more every day through the science and the power of the internet. It’s time our words and actions get updated as well.
I support the safety and lifestyle security found through clipping wings. I do. I support not clipping and delivering safety and lifestyle security through other avenues, as we do here in our home with our 8 companions. This is a very personal issue, and at times a point of contention. I choose to speak for the voice of the companions and set the humans point aside. After all, it’s they who must modify and find a way to live without, not us.