Why and When to Clip a Bird’s Wings

Bird owners are often advised to clip the wings of their birds. A common first reaction is that it is a cruel thing to do. After all, birds are meant to fly. However, there are valid reasons for clipping. First and foremost is the bird’s safety, but there are other reasons as well.


Unclipped birds can easily panic and fly into windows, glass doors, or mirrors, injuring themselves. They can fly into kitchens and land on hot stoves, burners, and pans. They can fly into overhead ceiling fans or dangerous electrical appliances. Small birds have flown into open cupboards and drawers and been locked in or have gotten trapped behind appliances. Others have drowned in open toilet bowls We have all heard that ‘Curiosity killed the cat’. This adage applies to your birds too. There are many things around our homes that are toxic or dangerous to birds like paint and household cleaners, etc. A flighted bird can reach such items more easily. There is no end to the number of dangerous and lethal items that your bird may find attractive, edible and/or what they feel is a suitable (but dangerous) place to perch.

Loss Prevention

For most of us, losing our bird would be very painful and it would be even worse if the loss could have been prevented. An open door or window is an invitation to an unclipped bird. No matter how tame, birds will fly out and may be lost forever. Some of us take our birds out in the sun or transport them to the veterinarian or take them with us on a trip. In all these situations, no matter how careful we are, an opportunity to fly away may present itself. Clipping a bird’s wings is an easy way to reduce the possibility of such a loss.


Birds, like children, must be taught where they are allowed to go and where they are not allowed to go. They should be trained to stay, when placed on a gym or other permissible area. A bird with clipped wings will be more likely to stay where you place him.


Some birds are more aggressive and difficult to train. Many people find that clipping a bird’s wings diminishes aggressiveness and makes a bird easier to work and play with.

Protecting Your Home

Birds can and will be very destructive if they are allowed to fly around wherever they wish. Door and window frames, furniture, curtains, vacuum cleaner hoses, etc. are all subject to chewing and become objects of great entertainment.


In some species the male has been known to attack the female. Clipping the male’s wings while leaving the female fully flighted can help protect the female by enabling her to escape an attack more easily.

When to Clip

Baby birds should not be clipped until they have learned to fly. Learning to fly gives a bird confidence, enables them to properly develop their chest muscles, teaches them balance and enables them to learn how to turn and to land safely. Being able to maneuver and land properly is very important. Birds have very light, fragile bones which can easily be injured by a clumsy landing or a fall.

Birds should be clipped when their feathers have grown back enough so they can fly more than a few feet. This is usually after a molt and for most birds about once a year. If clipping is done during a molt, then some of the clipped feathers may continue to grow out. New feathers may also grow in as well. If you wait until the molt is complete there should be a need for only one clipping. However, if your bird is flying, you may not be able to wait and will need to do multiple clippings.

Instructional Video

This video does a good job of showing you how to safely clip your bird’s wings.

Provided by Creatures Corner reader Carol Highfill

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