Q. - I would like to know if I should have my cockatiel's wings clipped.
A. - This is a very controversial subject among bird owners. Some owners prefer to allow their companion the freedom of in-house flight. In some controlled environments, this is probably acceptable. However, I have seen many heartaches that could have been prevented if owners had kept their bird's wings clipped. Each year, many fully-flighted birds injure or kill themselves flying into celling fans, windows or open pots of hot water. I know of countless birds that have flown away because a window or door was left open accidently. Cockatiels, among birds, seem to be very strong flyers and even when clipped often still fly quite well. I would suggest you have your bird's wings clipped by a trained professional. This is a painless procedure but proper handling is essential to a safe and relaxed clip. Make sure both wings are symmetrically clipped. I prefer clipping the outer most primary flight feathers. This seems especially helpful for cockatiels, who seem to often injure their wings in their cage. When properly done, a clipped wing should allow the bird controlled downward flight over 6 to 8 feet. Birds that are heavy-bodied and fall like a rock are over-clipped and can be seriously injured in the fall. Since most birds molt their flight feathers once or twice a year, you will need to have them clipped accordingly. Please do not try to clip your bird's wings yourself unless you certain of what you are doing. Owners have inadvertently amputated their birds wings while attempting to clip feathers.
Laura L. Wade, DVM
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 403, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052-0403. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.