How To Train Your Clipped Bird To Fly In 5 Simple Steps
Did you know birds with clipped wings can still learn how to fly?
Although clipped birds often struggle with lift generation and ascension, they can still be taught to fly to you!
The step-by-step training guide down below was created with consideration to the different circumstances that birds could have been in or are currently in. So, no matter your clipped bird’s mindset on flight, you’ll be able to move forward with the training process I’m about to show you.
Before teaching them to fly, you must first understand your clipped bird’s willingness to fly…
First, Understanding Your Clipped Bird’s Willingness To Fly
If a bird has associated pain or fear with flight, they’re going to be less keen to fly.
Before starting this training, ask yourself:
“What is my bird’s experience with flight?”
If you have a young bird who was clipped, perhaps during fledging, you’re going to have an easier time flight training them compared to an older bird who has possibly been clipped for a large portion of its life.
The reason for this is quite simple:
Young birds are very willing to learn, fail, and try again… Because they’re babies.
In contrast, adult birds who repeatedly failed or got hurt during flight attempts are often much more hesitant to fly. Birds with atrophied muscles will be even harder to flight train as you’ll need to gradually increase their wing muscle strength.
Of course, this depends on how wing clipping was conducted.
So, what’s the story with your bird? Do you think they’re willing to learn flight or is that something you’ll need to work on?
I’d actually be very interested to hear your story in a comment down below.
5-Step Guide To Teaching Clipped Birds How To Fly
I created this step-by-step guide while considering cases of severe wing clipping, muscle atrophy, and lack of flight confidence or coordination from the bird.
If your bird suffers from any of these, it’s best to start at step 1.
However, feel free to start at whatever step you believe your bird is comfortable with.
Some confident clipped birds can start all the way at step 4, while others must start at step 2.
Do what works best for YOUR bird and you will make progress!
Note: Fully flighted birds will ALWAYS be better at flying than clipped birds. If you want the BEST flight training results, you should allow your bird’s flight feathers to grow in. However, you can still start teaching your clipped bird to fly prior to having their flight feathers fully grown.
Step 1: Begin Target Training & Simple Recalls
Before teaching your clipped bird to fly, they should first learn how to recall. Recall training is essentially teaching your bird to walk, climb, or fly over to you upon your request.
The most effective way to teach recall training is through target training.
Ideally, you should begin recall training after your bird is confident enough with target training…
A Brief Guide To Target Training
Teaching your bird to touch a target stick in exchange for a reward is relatively easy.
Starting off, you’ll need to get that very first target stick touch. Reward heavily for the very first touch as that’ll motivate them to touch it again and again.
Reward your bird every time they touch the target stick.
Once your bird understands that touching the target earns them a reward, they’ll be willing to walk, climb, or fly so they can reach it. The ultimate goal is to eventually get your bird to fly to your hand so they can reach the target stick and earn a treat.
Start Simple Recalls With Your Bird
Before working up to flights, you should first teach your bird to walk over to you.
This training can be done on a flat table or on a T-stand perch. Your goal is to encourage your bird to walk over to you so they can earn a treat by touching the target stick. If you’re working on a flat table, you can begin recalling your bird from wherever they’re willing to move – For example, they might only want to walk half the distance of the table or less.
If you’re working on a T-stand perch, you can target them between both sides of the perch.
Give your bird a delicious treat every time they touch the target and successfully go to you.
Practice this step until they clearly understand the task, then you can move on to step 2.
Step 2: Start Teaching Step-Ups
Step-up training will teach your bird that going to your hand will earn them a treat.
Instead of only asking your bird to walk to you, use the target stick to guide them onto your hand. Hold your hand at chest height to your bird and hold the target stick far enough away so they must step up to reach it. Make sure they cannot reach the target unless they step up. They should easily be able to reach the target after they step up onto your hand.
Watch as I do a few step-up reps with Arthur, my cockatiel:
Reward heavily for the very first step-up rep.
You may have noticed that I wasn’t using a target stick in the video. This is only because my cockatiel understands step-ups really well and I only need to say the command phrase to trigger the behaviour. When you first start teaching step-ups, using the target stick is highly recommended.
I also suggest utilising the target stick all the way until step 5 of this training.
It’ll simply help the transition between steps smoother and with minimal confusion for your bird.
Step 3: Increase The Gap Your Bird Must Step Over
Honestly… Confident birds can probably skip this step and move straight onto step 4.
This step involves increasing the gap between your bird and the hand you want them to step up onto so that they must take a loooong step to reach the target. This is still a step up, but they’ll just need to take a larger step to reach your hand.
You should work on this step if your clipped bird suffers from a lack of confidence and you don’t think they’ll want to do small hops to your hand just yet.
But as mentioned, more confident birds can smoothly transition from step-ups to small hops.
Be flexible with this transition and do what works best for your bird!
Step 4: Begin Teaching Small Hops
The smoothest way to transition from step-ups to short flights and then eventually to longer flights is by practising small hops. As noted earlier, hesitant birds may need to practice long steps before wanting to do small hops while others can go straight from stepping up to hopping.
Starting from step 3, you only need to increase the distance between your bird and hand slightly.
Instead of long steps, they’ll need to make a small hop to reach the target.
For confident birds who can skip step 3, it should be a simple transition from step-ups to small hops:
Significantly increase your hand’s distance from your bird while holding the target stick, making it clear that they must jump to your hand to touch the target and earn a treat.
Important note: Ensure you don’t move your hand back or forth while your bird is in mid-jump. Since they’re clipped, your bird could fall down and hurt themselves if you move your hand when they attempt to jump to it. Getting hurt during training will certainly discourage your bird from persisting. If this happens, you may need to go back a few steps to regain their confidence.
Step 5: Training Your Clipped Bird To Do Short Flights
After enough practice with small hops, it’ll be time for your clipped bird to start doing short flights.
From a practical perspective, all you need to do is increase your hand’s distance from your bird even further so they must do at least one wing flap to reach your hand. If they’re still hesitant, you can try luring them with a favourite treat for the first couple of reps OR do some more hopping practice to boost their confidence.
Although small hops to short flights might seem like an easy transition…
It can be a HUGE step out of a clipped parrot’s comfort zone, especially if they’ve been in extreme situations where they haven’t flown in a long time.
For this reason, you must have patience with step 5.
Give lots of their favourite treats and vocal praise after the very first successful short flight.
This will get them motivated to do another short flight and then another one after that.
Once you build up their confidence with short flights, you can gradually increase the distance they need to fly in order to earn a treat. After enough time and practice, you’ll have them flying gracefully across the room, to your hand, and to places they aren’t allowed to be!
For most people, this is the ultimate goal of flight training their clipped bird.
Just remember to go at the pace your bird is comfortable with and not rush the process.
Also, keep in mind that going back to a previous step is perfectly fine if you believe doing so will increase their confidence, motivation, or understanding of the task. If you rushed through a step and realised your bird isn’t ready to advance, there’s no shame in going back.
Hopefully, the way I explained each step made sense to you as I know it can be a bit hard to understand bird training tactics through writing.
(It’s also a little tricky for me to explain in written form)
Feel free to leave a comment if you want something in this article elaborated on or clarified.
I’m always happy to help a fellow bird owner 🙂
P.S. BirdTricks has an extremely useful video on flight training clipped parrots. For further advice and information, I highly recommend watching her “Do’s & Dont’s of flight training clipped parrots” video linked below.
Thank you for reading!