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Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.

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Author Topic: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.  (Read 8086 times)

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Greg Glendell

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Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« on: June 06, 2011, 08:05:51 PM »

Hi,
Below is the normal moulting sequence of a parrot's flight feathers which I thought folks might like to see.  It allows us to understand the problems that can be caused by wing-clipping parrots, as their flight feather moult is different from most other birds.  
 
Most parrots have 10 primary feathers which are attached to the ‘hand’ and 12 secondary feathers which are attached to the lower forearm (ulna).  These feathers are numbered, anatomically, in a standard way.  Primary number 1 (P1) is the innermost primary.   P10 the outermost (distal) one. But the most distal secondary is S1 (which lies next to P1) and the innermost (proximal) is S12.  Normal healthy parrots moult in a set way and this is very different from the moulting sequence in ducks, hawks, fowl or pheasants etc.  In parrots, a central primary, usually P6 is the first feather to be dropped from both wings and growth of the new replacement feathers start immediately.  Most parrots grow their feathers at a rate of 3 – 4 millimetres per day.  In good strong daylight you can see the daily growth bars as alternating narrow parallel dark and pale bands across each feather.   Once the new P6 is part grown, P5 and/or P7 will be moulted and re-grown.  Then numbers P3 and P7 etc. working in *both* directions along both wings at the same time.  Once most primaries have been replaced, the bird starts to moult and replace its secondaries.  The full moulting sequence for most parrots is as follows, brackets indicate feathers being moulted at the same time in pairs: P6, (P5+7) (P8+4) (P3+9) (P2+10) P1.  Then the secondaries: S1, straight through to S12 at the end of the moult.   This moulting sequence is an adaptation to maintain the symmetry that is so vital to flying birds.  

Normal healthy birds will not moult more than 3 feathers from the wing at once.  Since the rate of growth is much the same in parrots, regardless of their size,  large birds take longer to replace all their flight feathers.  It may take a large macaw or cockatoo more than 18 months to complete a moult.  But a small parakeet may take less than 3 months to complete the same process.  

However, when a *clipped* bird tries to re-grow its wing feathers by producing the new ‘blood’ feathers, these are liable to be damaged.  This is because unlike the normal wing, a clipped wing does not have adjacent old, full-length feathers to give the new blood feathers any protection during their very delicate growth stage.  Bleeding can be profuse if such a feather is damaged.  Birds which do not show any behavioural problems at the time of clipping often develop problems later at this stage. They may start to pick at the new unprotected feathers and this may prevent proper re-growth of all clipped feathers.  If your bird is clipped, it is best to restore flight immediately by having donor feathers splinted back onto the clipped feather stumps.  This procedure is called imping and can be carried out by an avian vet.  

Free donor feathers can be had from me via the feather donor scheme I run with Parrots magazine.  
Copyright: Greg Glendell 2011
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Greg Glendell
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bkhowe

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Re: Normal flight feather moult in parrots.
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2011, 08:10:20 PM »

That's very interesting Greg, and food for thought for anyone considering wing clipping.
I have stickied it  :thumbsup:
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pip

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Re: Normal flight feather moult in parrots.
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2011, 08:14:31 PM »

Greg, on the subject of imping do you need any flight feathers from Greys?

Greg Glendell

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2011, 08:51:09 AM »

Hi Pip,
I'm ok for greys feathers at the moment, but if anyone has any macaw feathers, I really need these now:  Moulted wing feathers (primaries) from;  B&G, Scarlet, and greenwinged. 

Send feathers to:
BirdsFirst
P O Box 1160
Axbridge
BS26 2WD. 

The feathers are given to avian vets for repairing damaged/badly clipped parrots. 

Thanks if you can help!
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Greg Glendell
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geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2011, 09:16:52 AM »

In response to this thread I have pm'd 2 members who I know have Macaws, given the above details. :biggrin:
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geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2011, 10:09:27 AM »



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Greg Glendell

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2011, 08:23:07 AM »

Hi Geff,
Many thanks for passing on the request!  Most appreciated.
Cheers,
Greg.
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Greg Glendell
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lizduncan

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2011, 08:51:10 AM »

Interesting stuff. Nico has followed this pattern  :thumbsup: and definitely worth a read for those that are thinking of clipping. From reading that it seems that once clipped it might be difficult for birds to achieve full feather again or could take several moults :(
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pip

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2011, 08:54:27 AM »

You know what always makes me laugh (well, almost cry actually) about wing-clipping? It's the fact that some owners are so concerned about how the wing looks after the clipping that they give them that clip which makes the wing look 'normal' but leaves the longest flight feathers terribly vulnerable. Yet they are so unconcerned about the actual effects of clipping, so long as it looks like an unclipped wing! Do they not see the irony?!  :grrr :grrr

geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2011, 08:59:10 AM »

Liz Charlie has been clipped for many years and has all his Flight feathers in place, yet he cannot fly, he has lost the "knack" on how to fly, although I give him daily exercise  to build his muscles, he flies like a brick.
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pip

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2011, 09:06:07 AM »

Different species I know but when Mark first took on Charlie, YCA, she was clipped. Her feathers have long-since grown back but she rarely flies. She can fly but is dreadful at landing, she takes-off having clearly not thought about where she's going, bless her.

We have absolutely no idea of her age or history (her owner died) so she could be hand-reared or even a wild-caught import from years ago.

geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2011, 10:07:06 AM »

When I got Stumpy, his feathers were cut down on both wings too 1/2 inch from the skin on both wings, he has since regrown his flights back, and has great flying skills, which pleases me no end. :yahoo: :biggrin:
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Rachel.

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2011, 11:14:42 AM »

Just incase I'm missing something can somebody tell me
WHY do vets agree to clip wings when the fact is that 1. It damages them psychologically and 2. It doesn't stop them flying away which is why most people do it ??? If I took my dog to a vet and asked them to remove it's legs they would hopefully say no ??? And if vets now have to have special reason and give certificates for removing dew claws and docking tails WHY can they just cut birds feathers off ???
There must be some reason that I don't know of?
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geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2011, 11:20:13 AM »

Its done by vets who are not competant to treat birds. and for MONEY. :grumble: :grumble: :grumble:
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pip

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2011, 12:29:45 PM »

I think it's unlikely an avian (or avian-experienced) vet would agree/advise to clip these days but, as we know from past threads, there are plenty of general vets who will do it and often very badly too (the one-wing clip anyone?)

Greg Glendell

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2011, 02:04:19 PM »

Hi Rachel and All,
Many vets, both 'avian' and general/small animal practices do it because the owners of the birds demand it.  Many owners fail to understand the importance of flight and many rely on outdated info in American bird 'care' books.   Before I wrote my books I could not find *one* parrot care book which explained how to teach basic flight requests to a bird.   Which is a bit like buying a book on horseriding which never explains how to ask the horse to walk, trot, canter, gallop etc.; It would be a useless book!   

Also, most vets do not seem to understand that the 'problems' of a flighted bird can be solved by the teaching of basic flight requests.   I find that once flight requests are taught, you can have the birds out of the cages all the  time you are home, since they are so much easier to manage.  It's no different from having a well trained dog or horse really, except that parrots learn much faster than these other creatures.  'Red' one of my T greys does know his own name and when I address him, Mr Big my Meyers parrot he lives with,  ignores the instruction, but Red obeys.   

And yes, where a *young* parrot is not encouraged to fly, and/or is clipped, it can stop them from ever developing the confidence to fly for the rest of their lives. 

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Greg Glendell
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lizduncan

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2011, 02:23:23 PM »

My vet refuses to clip. (Not that I requested it done, he volunteered the info at our first meeting)
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Pat

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2011, 11:29:42 AM »

Greg:  How would you teach flight requests?  What do you mean by that, just let them fly when you ask? 

Greg Glendell

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2011, 02:20:15 PM »

Hi Pat,
I'm quite relaxed about having trained birds flying around the house, and encourage them to use certain places to go to where they feed and play etc.  But I use an "Off there" request if they land on 'banned'  or unsafe places.  These include any electrical things/lights, tops of doors, curtain rails.   

I teach, 'pet' birds these requests in this order: 
Step on and off hand and/or stick 
Stop/Stay (means do *not* come to me for now). 
"Go" this means fly off me and land on a suitable perch/cage, stand etc. 
"On here"  This means please fly to me.
"Off there" This means please fly off your present/banned/ unsafe perch, do not fly to me, but go to another suitable place.   

Once your bird does these requests; you're away, and they can be out with you all the time you are there to supervise them. 
All training is done at a pace the bird is comfortable with and all done using rewards/pos. reinforcement.  So I hold rewards in my hand or place them conspicuously on places I ask the bird to fly, to and make sure he has seen them.  I do *food tests* to determine precisely what the best food rewards are, but you can use head scratches or favorite toys etc; it depends on *your* particular bird's preferences.   

It's all in my books in more detail (he hinted shamelessly!)




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Greg Glendell
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geffsgrey

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Re: Normal Flight Feather Moult In Parrots.
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2011, 02:23:25 PM »

 :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: fair play to that one,
 although I also own one of your works,
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