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Flying again after traumatic wing clip!


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I just wanted to share with you my little bird's experience. I'm so proud of her!


Seraph is a small grey, approx. 370g (at 14 months) and has only flown once in her life - right before the breeder clipped 7 primaries on each wing to keep her safe in her new home. It's been a horrendous experience for her.


At first, she didn't understand that she couldn't fly and banged herself up pretty badly with her persistence. Every time she'd leap off her perch she just dropped like a rock. She jumped off her perch so many times that she ended up breaking off all of her tail feathers, injured her keel, and broke the tip off her beak - and then, finally, she stopped jumping. When her brother would glide off to see us, she'd just sit and scream miserably for someone to come pick her up. I'd stand a foot from her perch and try to encourage her to jump to me but she wouldn't even do that - she was scared now. I was really worried that when her feathers grew back in she'd be unwilling to fly at all. And the vet reminded us of another thing to worry about: that her tail feathers were growing back before her flight feathers, and that meant there was a very good chance of a broken blood feather if she fell again. She even went so far as to suggest we pull the growing tail feathers just to be safe (which I declined.)


I came up with an idea after watching a friend "fly" their grey around their house as a game. I thought we could try the same thing with Seraph by manually "flying" her from room to room. We had already taught the birds to flap their wings on command by paying attention when they were exercising and giving them a key word - fly, along with lots of praise. So I began to teach Seraph to "fly" by stepping her up on my hand and wrapping my thumb over her feet. She understood that when I told her to "Fly!" she was supposed to flap her wings and get excited, so with her perched on my hand I would tell her to fly, let her start flapping her wings, and then I'd run her (very slowly at first) on my hand into the other room where her other perch is. We'd go back and forth like this a few times until she got tired out, and very quickly the game of flapping became a game of flying.


Of course, she got lots of praise, kisses and snuggles every time she went flying to help encourage her. After a few flights she began to leap onto my hand and flap her wings whenever I walked by the cage, hoping I'd fly her around a bit (which of course I did.) We did lots of daily exercises with just this technique - and gradually, I began to scale back my participation by letting her wings drive the momentum of our speed so that she was really moving as fast as she could fly.


This was a very important turning point. I wanted her to be confident flying under her own steam and it was this scaling back that allowed her to recognize that when she didn't beat her wings hard enough, she'd drop. This taught her to rely on herself instead of my running speed to keep her aloft. Once she was doing well with that concept I began releasing the thumb pressure on her feet until she was also the only one controlling whether she was holding onto me or not. She'd grip my finger with one foot and tuck the other just like she was really flying! I expected her to start trying to take off and leave me in the dust, but she was really good about it - it was as if she understood that she couldn't quite do it on her own yet, so she'd keep the training wheels on for just a bit longer. :)


This process of positive reinforcement has taken about 6 months of daily training (4-5 training flights per day and whenever she demands it), but I am VERY happy to report that over the last two days our baby has finally been taking flights on her OWN and this time she's gliding gracefully to the ground instead of dropping. She only has 2 primaries back on each wing, but that and her training are enough. There is a huge difference now in how she acts when she glides down to the ground - she dances around and chirps as if to say, hey, look what I did! I am also happy to report that she has 4 gorgeous, unbroken red tail feathers and no further bumps or bruises, other than what her brother gives her when she steals his toys :)

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What a wonderful story and guide others can use to to make their bird feel like a bird and keep on building up those muscles so that when even the slightest bit more of lift is available, they can start using it to actually partially fly once again. :)


Thanks for sharing this and congratulations!!!!!

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  • 2 months later...
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  • 11 months later...

zandische, I found your post, to be amazing! It was thru trust, that your bird recovered. You are an amazing parent, and I know you and your bird have many more years to develop a wonderful, binding relationship. You truly caught my attention, with your story. I have no doubt.... with your empathy and unconditional love, you will have a relationship that is truly unique. " Trust" is the number one ingrediant , a grey needs. Nancy

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  • 1 year later...

Thanks, this post gives me hope. My new 5 month baby was already severely clipped when I picked her out. They didn't leave any flight feathers, so when she gets scared a lot of times she just flops off of her perch. Her tail feathers are a mess! She obviously wants to fly but can't. I will try this once she grows flight feathers.

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