Grooming Birds: Wing, Nail & Beak Trimming


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    Grooming your bird includes trimming its wings and nails, filing its beak, preening your bird and bathing your bird. Wing, nail and beak trimming are simple procedures. If you are inexperienced with how to perform them, then have your avian veterinarian show you the proper instruments needed and the correct method of trimming. Once you have done it a few times it becomes easier. I recommend, however, that owners let others do the grooming so their bird does not become distrustful to the owner. 

    Wing Clipping:

    Should My Parrot’s Wings Be Clipped by Greg Glendell

    I personally am not a supporter of wing clipping – although I do understand a wing clip may be necessary to keep a pet safely in the house.  For example, if you have children that cannot  be relied on to keep the doors and windows closed.

    If the situation is so that you need to clip your pet’s wings, you have the option of going to a local pet store or vet office where they have trained people available. 

    However, it is not really that hard to trim wings yourself.  Following is the link to an easy how-to video (the best one we found on this topic).  Further down this page, there are more information on this topic and useful illustrations.

    However, if at all possible, the advantages of flight are numerous. Flying inside the house is good exercise, increases your bird’s self confidence and allows him or her to flee from any dangers — such as a dog that somehow gets into the house.

    Flying is natural to parrots. Everything about them was designed for flight, from their hollow bones to their respiratory systems, to their feathers and aerodynamic body design. 

    Flying is an incredible way for our parrots to get exercise, and may prevent deaths by heart attack or stroke; which are as serious health concerns for birds as they are for humans.

    Birds that can’t fly can easily be stepped on. One has to weigh the risk of this happening against the risk of a bird flying off if the kids or a forgetful spouse leave the door open again.

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      Clipping your bird’s wing does help with the taming process and is an option during the taming period. Wing trimming will also prevent your bird from flying into objects such as windows or mirrors and injuring itself.

      However, I found curtains or blinds are helpful in preventing birds from flying into windows and birds generally learn their way around the house and I have not had a bird fly into mirrors yet — although they do like to admire themselves in them 🙂

      However, poor wing clips have caused birds to fall to the floor when trying to fly or jump of a perch getting seriously hurt, broken breast bones, for example. This was one experience that I learned the hard way.

      Having to deal with recurring falls, open chest wounds, suturing by a vet, resulting infections … not an easy situation for sure. Poor wing clips are also said to be a cause of phobias in pet birds.

      How to Clip Your Bird’s Wing:

      Opinions differ about what the best method of clipping a bird’s wings is. One method would be to clip the outer primaries (longest wing feathers) of only one wing — to allow a bird to make short flights. Some experts feel clipping only one wing is dangerous, as this will cause birds to spiral helplessly to the floor.

      The other method is to clip BOTH wings, below the level of the primary coverts.

      The number to remove on each side varies with species as well as individually. The primaries (longest wing feathers) must be cut because they are the feathers that give lift when the bird flaps its wings.

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        The secondary flight feathers (shorter, upper “arm” feathers) should be left intact to give some air resistance in case the bird falls. It is important to trim both wings so the bird is able to maintain its balance. We do not recommend plucking the feathers because they will grow back out in six weeks and it is a very uncomfortable experience for the bird.

        There are also risks associated with that. If feathers are cut too short, a bird will drop down hard to the floor potentially resulting in injury.

        Upper Birdwing Anatomy

        It is important to remember that clipped feathers will molt out and new ones will replace them within a few months. When the new feathers grow in they contain a pulp consisting of blood vessels and nerves.

        You should not clip the blood feathers because they will bleed profusely and cause the bird a lot of pain, stress, and blood loss. It is best to wait until the feathers are fully mature before clipping the wings again.

        Some birds are very strong fliers and may still be able to fly even after being clipped. So, do not risk taking the bird outside, trusting the wing clip, only to have something suddenly scare your bird, and cause it to fly off into the wild blue yonder.

        You will be left standing there with your mouth open, thinking –“But he was clipped!” I have seen it happen, with no matter as to the tameness of the bird. No matter how bonded your bird is with you — if he gets spooked by a back-firing car or a perceived or actual preditor — your bird will fly off.

        If you want to take your bird out, make sure that he is in a carrier or use a harness. The only truly safe and secure bird harness is the Avianweb Bird Harness

        Nail Clipping:

        Trimming your birds’ nails also serves several purposes. When their nails become too long perching is uncomfortable and it may lead to more serious foot problems.

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          Long sharp nails are also uncomfortable to you when your bird perches on your bare skin. Long nails may also become snagged in toys, clothing or on a cage and can result in serious leg or foot injuries.

          When trimming your bird’s nails it is important to remember that each nail has a blood and a nerve supply called the quick. Remember that the quick grows with the nail and an overgrown nail will have a longer quick.

          If you trim the nail too far back and cut the quick, it will bleed and will be painful to the bird. Any amount of blood loss, however small, is significant and should be stopped immediately with pressure and a styptic compound.

          Instructions for trimming your bird’s nails.

          I found that using a grooming perch eliminates the need to trim my bird’s nails, provided that your bird is spending enough time on them. I placed them right by their food and water dishes and it works great. 


          The beak also has a quick like the nails and the same precautions should be considered when correcting the beak length. If your bird has plenty of toys to chew on, a Polly Perfect or lava rock perch to rub its beak on, and its beak is growing normally, it should not be necessary to trim the beak.

          It may be necessary, however, to file the tip with an emery board or nail file to dull the point or shorten its length slightly. If the beak is growing too fast or growing abnormally, you should see your avian veterinarian to determine the cause and cure.

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