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How Far Can a Bird Fly With Clipped Wings? 

People have clipped birds’ wings for hundreds of years. While this procedure is primarily done to birds kept as pets, it may also be employed in other captive situations like aviaries, wildlife rescue centers, or educational programs. It ostensibly prevents the bird from escaping into the wild if its cage breaks, a door is left open, or it otherwise has an opportunity to leave captivity.

However, not every wing clip is the same. Partial, full, and no wing clipping are different levels of restriction you can impose on your pet bird. The decision on the level of wing clipping should primarily prioritize the bird’s welfare, while also taking into account factors such as the owner’s engagement with the bird, the bird’s species, and age.

Read on to learn how far a bird can fly when its wings are clipped. We’ll discuss the rationale behind wing clipping, its pros and cons, and its effects on pet birds. 

Main Highlights: 

  • Although most birds with clipped wings can glide downward, the ability to sustain upward flight can vary depending on factors such as the degree of clipping and the bird’s size, weight, and overall health.
  • Wild birds’ wings should never be clipped because it prevents them from being able to fly, thus stopping them from escaping danger. 
  • While wing clipping lasts only for the life of the feather necessitating a re-clip after each molt, it’s essential to note that the frequency of molting can differ significantly among species and individual birds.
  • Before proceeding with wing clipping, ensure you consult with an avian veterinarian to properly assess your bird’s mobility needs and to understand the implications of such a procedure.

How Far Can A Bird Fly With Clipped Wings? 

African grey parrot clipped wings
African grey parrot clipped wings | image by Brian Snelson via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

A bird can glide down from 10 to 15 feet in the air, but it cannot fly upwards, if its wings are clipped. However, clipping a bird’s wings is no guarantee that it will not be able to fly. Smaller parrots like budgies may still be able to fly short distances with clipped wings.  

Clipping a bird’s wings restricts its ability to gain enough lift to propel itself in the air. This method of restraining a bird’s flight is usually done to prevent accidents with indoor pets and stop escape attempts.

Wing clipping is a mainstay in the maintenance and upkeep of pet birds, especially large birds like parrots. It is a controversial topic that has many apologists and detractors. 

What are the Pros of Wing Clipping? 

Wing clipping is primarily done to prevent birds from flying away from their owners. Birds are valuable pets with long lifespans. They are no light financial investment. Wing clipping is seen as a way to ensure that the bird cannot escape. 

Even though some birds may demonstrate loyalty to their owners, predicting their actions in an open environment can be challenging; however, with intensive training, certain birds can be taught free flight and return reliably to their owners.

If a bird spends its entire life indoors, wing clipping is usually still done. It prevents the bird from flying places it shouldn’t. There are cases of birds flying into bathrooms and falling into toilets or tubs of water, instances where they fly unseen into attics, and when they tease or bait other animals. 

The rationale behind wing clipping is that it makes a bird more manageable. 

What are the Cons of Wing Clipping? 

African grey parrot perched
African grey parrot perched | image by Drew Avery via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

The drawbacks of wing clipping not only center on its impact on a bird’s spatial perception and personality changes, but it can also cause physical issues, such as balance problems leading to potential falls and injuries

Health problems happen when clipping is done too early in the bird’s life. Flying is a huge component of a bird’s health and well-being. It is crucial to allow a young bird to fledge, that is, learn to fly, and develop coordination skills before you clip its wings. 

When a bird’s wings are clipped too early, it will cause psychological problems. The bird will not have an outlet for its energy, may begin to pluck out its own feathers, and show aggression to people. 

There are also negatives of wing clipping adult birds. Adult birds may get stressed because they can’t escape from danger and are essentially confined to the floor and must climb everywhere. 

Do Birds Feel Wing Clipping? 

No, a bird will not feel its wings being clipped if the clipping is done properly. What happens during wing clipping is the feathers on the outside of the wing, the primary feathers, are clipped short. This prevents the bird from displacing enough air to lift off of the ground. 

Feathers are made of keratin, the same material our hair and fingernails are made of. Clipping feathers is similar to clipping your fingernails.

However, it’s important to make sure that you’re not clipping too far when trimming the bird’s feathers. Just like a fingernail has a live part and a dead part, there are feathers that contain blood and circulation. These feathers, called ‘blood feathers’ should never be clipped. 

If you have clipped your pet parrot’s feathers, make sure to inspect its wings regularly. When the primaries are cut, blood feathers can be exposed. Like a head wound on a person, injuries to the blood feathers bleed heavily.  

Can Clipped Birds Fly Away? 

Ara ararauna wing clipped
Ara ararauna wing clipped | image by imke.stahlmann via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Yes, clipped birds can fly away if they are in situations where they perceive danger. The smaller the bird, the more likely it will be able to fly away even if it has clipped wings. 

Clipping a bird’s wings is not a guarantee that it is immobile and bound to you. In cases where you will be bringing a bird outside or somewhere it can escape from, we recommend recall training instead. 

Recall training is a positive reinforcement method of training where the bird learns to return to the owner. It takes time and repetition to teach a bird recall, but it has many rewards.

The process deepens the relationship between the owner and the pet bird. In many cases, it prevents the need for wing clipping at all. 


A bird with clipped wings should never be set loose or abandoned in the wild. Flight is a bird’s primary mechanism of escape if it is threatened or stalked by predators, so restricting flight can be cruel. If you are interested in getting a bird, make sure to ask your vet their perspective on wing clipping. 

Physically modifying your pet should not be the first course of action. Try to train your bird before clipping. Furthermore, even when a bird’s wings are clipped, that’s no guarantee that they can’t fly. Make sure to keep doors closed and windows shut to prevent them from flying away!