Wing Clipping 101 for Parrots

by Heike Ewing Ott

It is generally recommended to clip a parrot’s wing feathers for safety reasons. It’s a good idea to watch someone do this once or twice before attempting it yourself. The following provides instructions for those who would like to clip their bird’s wings themselves.

Wing Clipping 101

Step 1: Examine the underside of both wings, especially the shafts of the primary or flight feathers, for blood feathers. Blood feathers have dark shafts indicating they still have a blood supply. If you find any, note them carefully – you shouldn’t cut them or either of the feathers next to them. (If you leave a blood feather sticking out by itself, it’s almost guaranteed to break.)

Step 2: With some one else holding the parrot on its back, spread out the wing. Notice that on the “top” side of the wing, there are two rows of feathers, like this:



The smaller row of feathers are “covert” feathers. Avoid cutting them. Now, looking at the underside of the wing, use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the first 5 or 6 flight feathers right at the point where the actual “feather” spreads out from the shaft. Be careful not to cut the coverts, and you won’t be able to see the cuts from the top side of the wing, or when it’s folded. This avoids that “choppy” look.

Step 3. Repeat with other wing.

Step 4. Let bird try to fly. If you are satisfied with the results, you’re done. Otherwise, cut two more feathers on each wing and let bird try to fly again until you are satisfied with his ability to land gently but not get far.

See? That really wasn’t hard!

Note from Shelly: When holding the bird, be sure to do so in a way that does not restrict the bird’s breathing.

Nail Grooming 101

I don’t usually clip nails. I do use grooming perches and file nails when they get sharp enough to hurt. If the bird has trouble gripping after the nails are filed, try “wearing” a terrycloth towel – it’s easy for them to grip. Remember that a grooming perch must be larger than a regular perch to be effective. The foot should not sit on it like this (O) but more like this: ‘O’.