To Fly Freely

photoBy Chelsea King, Lead MAScot Trainer

Doc has started to molt his clipped flight feathers!

When a bird has its feathers clipped, this means is that a set of the flight feathers (usually the primaries or secondaries) on its wings have been trimmed down to inhibit flight. When done correctly there are enough feathers to allow a bird to slow a descent when falling. A bird’s feathers will molt and re-grow, so clipping is not permanent. Whether or not it’s harmful to a bird is up for debate. Clipping a bird’s flight feathers is common in bird keeping, but its prevalence doesn’t make it uncontroversial.

Doc has had his wings clipped for most of his life. Now that we’ve had success in getting him to respond to commands, we’re allowing him to “fledge”, or to grow his flight feathers in fully. Many bird keepers advocate having their birds fledged, saying it has a positive impact on a bird’s confidence and health. A fledged bird is more independent, and gets to choose where it goes without relying on its person to carry it around.

Having a flighted bird is not without its risks. If precautions aren’t taken it is unfortunately easy for a flighted bird to escape or injure itself in a room that hasn’t been “bird-proofed”.  Safety is a common reason bird owners choose to keep their birds clipped. Because Doc is kept in a secure environment and is always supervised, we have no reason to keep him clipped. He’s still in the process of learning, but is picking up a “Fly” command during exercise and we’re happy he’ll soon have the freedom to fly where he likes!

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