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To Clip or not to Clip…

By Lucy Macmillan


sYou love your bird.  You love to watch your bird fly around the house.  Your bird loves to fly around the house!  Then one day your bird escapes for some crazy reason.  Maybe it gets spooked and flies away.  Maybe someone accidentally leaves the back door open.  Your bird is gone.  Bon voyage?  Unlikely! Most companion birds can’t survive in the wild and are easy prey for native raptors and domestic animals.

A few years ago I adopted Luna, a male cockatiel. He was my first bird so I learned as much as I could about caring for him.  I knew about wing-clipping but also saw how much fun he had circling the living room. I loved it when he would fly over to me to perch on my shoulder.  So cool - my dogs never did that!!

Then one day Luna got spooked and darted out the front door, racehorse flyer that he was.  I couldn't believe it.  Frantically I ran outdoors and looked in the trees near my house.  No Luna.  Maybe he was on the roof? I climbed up - no Luna.  I was crushed.  I ran back down, circled the house calling his name.  Then I heard it – a squawk.  And another.  And then I saw him, two stories up, clinging to a windowsill (literally spread eagle) on my neighbor’s house. Fortunately I had a ladder nearby and was able to get to him.  He bravely stepped on my hand, then my shoulder.  How lucky.  How crazy. How unnecessary!  

Luna didn’t leave his cage for two days after that experience and I have kept his wings clipped since.  Our companion birds are defenseless out in the big bad world and only the lucky can survive for long or are found.  Just this past December a stray cockatiel was lucky enough to land on an oil tanker in San Francisco Bay where the first mate rescued him.  He was one of the fortunate few, as was Luna.  If you want to prevent your bird from escaping and potentially encountering the big bad world, please consider trimming his or her wings on a regular basis to prevent unnecessary heartache.