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Wing Trimming - Clipping

Birds will be happiest if they have the opportunity for flight but sadly this isn't always possible. We are not going to talk about weather one should or should not clip their bird's wings, it's a personal decision based on your unique circumstances. What we WILL discuss is the best way to go about it. This information was provided by the Brisbane Bird Vet


A properly trimmed wing should NOT result in a bird that cannot fly at all, it should result in a bird that cannot fly away. The bird should not be able to develop lift but should still be able to to glide to the ground and the wing should look aesthetically pleasing (not hacked off).


Its preferable to have two people working together to perform the trim. For larger birds you will likely need to use a towel and hold the bird while your assistant extends and supports the win.  For smaller birds you may be able to handle it yourself but be careful restraining any bird especially when toweled. They do not have a diaphram and you can suffocate them by toweling too tight.

The firs 4-6 primary feathers should be cut from both wings from the outside to the inside just longer than the upper wing coverts (see diagram). They should be exactly equal on both sides for balance (if you take 4 feathers from one side; then take 4 from the other).


Start with 4 primaries on each side and do a flight test. If your bird is still able to get vertical lift while flying then progressively trim one more feather from each side until no lift is achieved. The goal is graceful flight to the ground.



  • Trimming is NO GUARANTEE against flight. It may still be possible for a frightened bird to obtain lift if they are outside on a windy day.

  • Birds will replace these trimmed feathers as they molt; if they molt the clipped feathers and new ones grow back then they will be able to fly again. Birds usually molt flight feathers once a year at the end of the breeding season (late spring/early fall).

  • Light-bodied birds including cockatiels, budgies, finches, and canaries with well defeloped muscles may be difficult to "de-flight."

  • If you are unsure, go to your vet or reputable groomer and ask to be shown how to clip.

  • NEVER clip a blood feather!

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