Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some thoughts on flying

A couple of weekends ago, I was speaking with a woman who told me that it is extremely unsafe to live with a flighted bird. I told her that 4 of my birds were not clipped, and their flying abilities ranged from beginner (Daphne) to reluctant flyer (Calypso) to proficient (Beeps) to expert (Max).

Now, before I go too far, I am not advocating that all parrots should be flighted. I truly believe that a decision should be made, taking into consideration the household and the individual parrot. Note that Rocky and Jeff Saturday (when he was with us) are/were clipped. And my birds that currently fly have been clipped in the past. When we first got Max, I believed what I had read and been told about the importance of clipping. But I do believe that it should be a conscious decision made by the parrot owner, and that the owner not just blindly follow the advice of people labeling themselves as experts.

What changed my mind was talking to a few people living with flighted parrots, and reading this article. I thought about the lives my parrots currently lived and what we could provide for them. About how Thomas and I are so active and love exercise -- was I taking something away from Max by not allowing her to fly? Would she be more susceptible to strokes/heart attacks/early death because I forced a sedentary life on her? When Max began plucking, that sealed it. We would try letting her wings grow out and see if allowing flight would stop her plucking.

I am very pleased with our decision. Max and Beeps love to fly. They get fantastic exercise and I believe it helps to bring out their personalities and give them (slightly) more autonomous lives. My "good" fliers, Max and Beeps, are able to navigate around our house and quickly made adjustments for unanticipated events (e.g. kitchen light is off so a U-turn is made to join the rest of the family in the living room). It's a bit of a challenge, especially at first, to train them to stay off of unacceptable perches. However, we view this as a minor inconvenience and have reached a point where we are all in agreement.

We're hoping that flight will start to come more easily to Calypso. I can gently toss him in the general direction and tell him where to go, and he'll do it. But, he'd much rather "fly" with me cupping him under his chest. We don't believe that he was fledged, and we didn't start teaching him to fly until he was about 11 (we got him when he was 9). We remain patient with him, and this assisted flight still gets him exercise.

Daphne is also on the assisted flight plan. Occasionally something will scare her and she'll take off in flight. She is proficient enough to turn corners, but she has not yet flown with volition.

We tried letting Rocky's wings grow out earlier this year in anticipation of teaching him to fly. However, he decided to use his powers for evil and launch himself at me from long distances, so he was clipped. We've had to be a bit more creative in finding ways to get him exercise!

If we had small children, we'd rethink each bird's wings. Because it's just the 2 adults in the house, and we use a double-door system to ensure no accidental escapes, we don't have that worry. Besides, when we lost Max outside, she was well-clipped, so even that's no guarantee of safety.

I think it just frustated me that this woman I was speaking to would not even consider the fact that there could be other options. What works for one person will not necessarily work for the next. After I realized she wasn't listening to anything I said, I politely smiled as she admonished me and warned me that it was only a matter of time until one of my flying parrots landed in a pot of boiling water, and took my leave as soon as was practicable.


Anonymous said...

I understand the pros and cons about flighted birds. I started out religiously clipping my birds' wings for fear of having one fly off or hurting itself. However, over time, after cluing in to each bird's personality, their needs, and my circumstances, I've let all my birds' wings grow out - only clipping them when I go away for a vacation and have to leave them with someone else. It's been essential for my Jardine's parrot Sam to learn to fly in order to gain confidence in himself and more autonomy, as he was never allowed to fly from "egghood." He and my oldest cockatiel still want me to be part of the flying experience, which is ideal for me, as it suits their personalities and curbs their tendency to get into more trouble than the other birds. My lovebird and other cockatiel fly at will when they're out of their cages, and it's made a huge difference in their confidence and outlook (and health!). As with humans and all other animals, "one size fits all" doesn't work. But fully flighted birds do require more conscious and responsible oversight on the part of the birds' human companions!

Mary said...

Shannon -- thanks for your comment. It sounds like we are in agreement! Your stories of Sam remind me of Calypso! I love the Jardine's, possibly because they remind me of caiques :)

DweezelJazz said...

Oh I agree, it depends very much on the bird and the circumstances.

Jazzy flies expertly too, but we've watched her learn and grow in experience and it definitely has greatly enhanced her daily life. She's much happier being able to fly and investigate things. She has grown enormously in size as a result of flying too. She's a muscular, fit bird now.

She does have to be supervised at all times when she's out, cos she definitely has ideas about what she wants to do. So to keep her safe, and the home intact, we do watch her at all times when she's out.

Mary said...

I hear you on the supervision! We don't supervise as closely as maybe we should since we're careful to not leave out anything too dangerous. But that means we come across her eating bread, bananas, or other things until we find her. The way she forages for food around our house you'd think we starved her!

There is no way I could leave her out when we're not home, though. Who knows what she'd get into!