Trimming flight feathers, don’t just wing it!

To trim flight feathers or not to trim them? This is a very controversial question. Birds in the wild need to find food, shelter, nest sites, and mates. A captive bird does not need to do such things. Birds in the wild also fly to get exercise. Flapping the wings strengthen the muscles, as well. In our homes, however, birds are able to engage in forms of exercise other than flying.
Birds can run from place to place, climb, and even flap their wings vigorously while standing still. There are several pros and cons to trimming feathers. While it is an individual owner’s choice whether to trim flight feathers, we at the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics promote wing trims due to the number of accidents we see in captive flighted birds. First and foremost is safety.

Flighted birds can injure themselves by flying into ceiling fans, mirrors, or closed windows. They can also escape out open windows and doors, or worse yet, get caught in slamming doors. They can fly into open pans of boiling water or into hot cups of coffee. They also can get trapped in air vents. Through 17 years of experience in treating birds, Dr. Hess has seen it all. You never think it will happen to your bird until it does. All it takes is a fraction of a second.

Some owners argue that a bird whose wings have been trimmed is disadvantaged in that it is be unable to get away from on overly interested or aggressive household cat or dog. Our response, based on our experience with our own personal bird pets, is that if all household pets are monitored, remain separated, and never left together unsupervised, this situation can be completely avoided. Given the risks, in the balance, we generally recommend wing trimming, unless there is some special unique reason not to do it.

A proper wing trim enables a bird to coast to the floor from a height and not to plummet. This is especially important for large, heavy-bodied birds such as Amazons and African grays who are prone to severe (sometimes life-threatening) injury if they fall uncontrollably. With a proper wing trim, a bird can maneuver safely around without risk of injury or even death. If you’re considering a wing trim, remember to think safety first, and be sure to speak to your bird-savvy vet.

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About Veterinary Centers for Birds and Exotics

If you have been looking for specialized care for your bird or exotic pet, look no further! We have you covered. At our unique animal hospital, we provide care to birds and exotics ONLY—no cats and dogs! We are the only bird and exotic veterinary hospital with a full-time, board certified bird specialist, Dr. Laurie Hess. Dr. Hess, who, with her two associates, Dr. Amanda Marino and Dr. Amanda Dewey, are the only full-time veterinarians in Westchester County who are residency-trained in bird and exotic medicine and surgery. Call to schedule an appointment for your pet!