Pisces Guide to Wing Clipping for Birds

Deciding whether or not to clip a bird's wings is an important, and sometimes controversial, decision for any pet bird owner. With so many factors to consider, here is a guide full of our top wing clipping tips from Calgary’s best exotic pet source.

What is wing clipping?

Wing clipping is when a bird's primary feathers are clipped, impacting its ability to gain 100% flight capacity. Here at Pisces Pet Emporium, we only clip the wings of companion birds. These are any birds that come out of their cages to spend time with you – like parakeets or budgies. 

We do not clip the wings of birds that need free flight in their cage, like finches or canaries.

Should I clip my pet bird's wings?

There are several pros and cons to consider when deciding to clip your pet bird's wings. For starters: safety. Limiting their flight makes it much harder for your feathered friend to escape out of a window or fly into a spinning ceiling fan. 

Additionally, it is easier to tame and train your bird when they are more ‘grounded’, and cannot hover high above your head. Wing clipping may even have a positive effect on some behavioural issues seen in pet birds, as noted by The Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery.

On the flip side, clipping a bird's wings can lead to a lack of exercise and mental stimulation. This can be combated by engaging with your bird and encouraging wing movement to incite exercise.

Some oppose wing clipping as it can negatively impact a bird's flight, which is why it is so important for it to be done properly and with care.


How are a pet bird's wings clipped?

There are many different ways to clip a bird's wings. At Pisces, we like to do what we call a “soft” or “short” clip.

What feathers to clip

We only clip from their primary flight feathers. We do not clip the secondary flight feathers as they are more for guiding a bird's flight than for lift, and clipping these feathers can make it dangerous for the bird to fly.

We also only clip to the line of their coverts – the softer feathers that cover their wing and can be seen while they’re perched. The covert feathers play no role in flight.


How many feathers to clip

The number of feathers to clip depends on the species of the bird and its flying abilities. 

Typically, we clip anywhere from four to eight primary feathers. Light and aerodynamic birds like budgies, cockatiels and lovebirds require more clips – up to six or eight. Bigger and heavier birds like amazons and African greys are not as zippy and tend to require fewer clips – approximately four. 

Do not over-clip their wings!

Over-clipping a bird's wings should always be avoided, as this can result in them crashing during flight and hurting themselves. Let your bird test their wings and see how they are flying before continuing to trim. 


When to clip

Once your bird has spread their wings! Young birds who have not had their wings clipped before need to learn how to use their wings and muscles to soar, swoop, turn, and flap! 

Older birds with clipped wings who are new to you could also use some time before having their wings clipped again. Letting them grow their wings back in can let you see how well they fly and determine how much of a trim is needed.

Once you have decided to clip your pet bird's wings, it can be done seasonally. Some owners choose to trim in the summer when doors and windows are open more and let them grow their wings out in the winter.

Bonus facts for bird owners:

  • Always trim wings on both sides – never just one. It makes them uneven and can be unsafe for the bird.
  • Never cut blood feathers! These are the new feathers coming in that are dark and tube-like. We leave a guard feather to keep them from breaking.
  • Clipping a bird's wings is not permanent, but it can take between 6 to 18 months for them to grow back.
  • It does not hurt and can be compared to a nail trim or haircut.
  • Even a clipped bird could get some lift and distance when outside by catching a breeze, so be sure to harness or contain your bird when going out of the house.

Choosing to clip their wings or not is an important aspect of caring for your bird. We always recommend consulting an expert to cut your pet bird's wings! We offer in-house wing clipping at Pisces for a donation to the Calgary Food Bank. Give us a call at (403) 274-3314 to book an appointment!

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