Wing Trim, Nail Trim and Beak Trimming

Wing trims –  Wing trims are not as simple as one would first think! Why are wings trimmed, to begin with? Wings are trimmed to prevent or limit flying. If the bird can’t fly, there is NO REASON to clip the wings. This is why the first question the technician will ask is how well is the bird flying? If they’re doing loops around the living room and it’s in the interest of the safety of the bird, then it’s time for a wing trim! However, being able to fly is very healthy for a bird and the best way for them to exercise (it is, of course, what they were made to do!) So deciding to clip the wings should not be a light decision, but sometimes for safety, it NEEDS to be done.  Ideally, a wing trim should result in a 45-degree angle flight towards the ground. If the bird drops like a stone out of the air then it will end up landing hard on its tail, breaking feathers or damaging its tailbone. This can also be a cause of leg injuries and prevents the bird from being able to safely glide away from danger. If a bird is surprised, it will try to fly as this is its automatic reaction – being able to fly or not will not stop the bird from trying if it is startled. The goal is to prevent lift, not prevent the bird from gliding safely to the ground. Therefore, if you bring your bird in for a wing trim, it should be able to still glide, just not fly UP. This can be tricky to figure out how many feathers to cut, and I will “test fly” a bird if possible after a wing trim but sometimes it’s not feasible and may be too stressful. Therefore, if your bird is still getting lift after a wing-trim, just let us know and bring it back in in the next couple weeks and we’ll trim a little more at no cost.

Nail trims – Once birds start getting snagged on clothing or if their toenail starts to curl past a half-circle, it’s time for a nail trim! This can be done with an emery board at home (if the nails are just sharp) or you can bring them in for a clip and file.

Beak trimming – Beaks continue growing throughout a bird’s lifetime, just like our fingernail and toenails. However, it shouldn’t NEED to be trimmed by us as long as your bird is getting plenty of appropriate things to chew on to naturally wear down its beak on its own. Almonds in the shell are great for medium to large size birds, as well as blocks and natural wood for chewing. Some birds have beak defects that need regular trimming to keep them in check. Sometimes a beak that grows faster or gets soft can be a sign of metabolic disease such as liver disease and should be looked into.

Dr. Claire Peterson

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