Yellow cockatiel wearing leather flight helmet riding on the back of a blue front amazon in flight

Why Do We Not Trust Our Birds to Fly?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

Why is it that some of us don’t trust a bird’s 99 million year old instincts to fly – but will trust a teenager to navigate a 3500 pound terrestrial vehicle at 60 MPH on a crowded highway – after 36 hours of classroom and road training? 

The below video received 349,906 views on YouTube. We got 11,000 views in a week after placing this video on our Facebook fan page.

From the 11,000 views we received the following comments

Jacqueline Hartmann
I don’t care how well trained a bird is. This is a horrible horrible idea. A bird still has its natural instincts. For example, the bird can fly too far and end up being out of reach.

Todor Kostov
Hey Would you like to live in a cage for a lifetime !??!

Jacqueline Hartmann
A bird isn’t necessarily caged for a lifetime as long as the owner takes him/her out of their cage for social interaction inside of the home. That’s domestication of a bird. People generally choose a bird for a variety of reasons-including companionship.

Plus, I’m not the only person on this thread who has voiced their discomfort or displeasure of free flight. Thank you and have a nice day🙂

Debbie Edenfield Mcdaniel Todor Kostov
how would like to be eaten by a hawk.

Melinda Crews Kirkley
Apparently you do not follow Roku. He is a free flying macaw. Check him out on YouTube!

 Kim Gorman
I would never be able to take this chance with my birds either. ❤ my lovie! 90% of pet birds die due to human negligence inside the home

Pam Johnson
Your bird is beautiful but this is NOT safe. They can always fly just a little to far and get lost. Lots of preditors like hawks can grab them. Not worth the chance.

I posted other videos of bird free flying along with motor scooters (see the zygodactyl footnote at the bottom of this post) and theirs always a group that says this is inhumane to make a bird work so hard and fly for more than two or three minutes

Am I the only one seeing the disconnect? 

The critics of in-home bird flight make the argument that “my bird will fly into a wall” “my bird will fly into a mirror” “my bird will crash into a window”.

 Let’s examine this free flight thing. 

Editor’s note: if you want to clip your birds wings, we are not saying “don’t” just do it the correct way. Simple lopping off feathers can cause more harm than good. If you have questions reach out to us and we will work with you to help build the best relationship you can have with your bird 

Let’s establish some definitions.  Hawks and Falcons are considered birds of prey. Their entire life is spent in search of the next meal. 

Parrots and parakeets are prey birds that spend 40% of their life in the wild looking for food and 60% of the time of the wild try not to be food.

In spite of those differences they have many similarities including feathers and flight. I know what it is to hold and fly a bird of prey. It’s all about the training. 

scarlet macaw parrot wearing yellow flight harness

Genghis Khan (1206-1279) was believed to have an air force100,000 Falcons. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of falconry, when you drop all the pretense it is hunting using a bird as the weapon. 

Falconry, and I use the term loosely indicating any bird of prey used for the sport of hunting relies on the bird either staying with the caught prey or returning to the master. 

That means for more than 700 years humans have been training birds to return to the trainer 

If it were not for 500,000 pigeons in uses during WWII, me might all be speaking German today

We are learning more every day about how intelligent birds are and how they are able to process thought 3 times faster than mammals. 

Do we think that once we step outdoors our birds have forgotten where they came from a minute ago? That they no longer realize where they can find food, warmth, companionship and a flock? 

Is it possible to assume that if the bird is taken outside and flies away it really was unhappy with his environment? 20 hours a day of caged confinement. Erratic light cycles. Counterintuitive to food (pellets). 

We know that a high percentage of pet birds die from malnutrition. I’ve seen it firsthand. 

If not malnutrition humans cause most of pet bird deaths because of the following 

  • Lands on edge of a drinking glass, reaches down for liquid and falls in head first & drowns
  • Flies or falls into a mop bucket
  • Flies or falls into a toilet
  • Flies into a mirror or window
  • Water bottle malfunctions while you’re out-of-town for 3 days – bird suffers dehydration
  • Electrocution by chewing through electrical wire
  • Flies into open oven
  • Flies into boiling water pot
  • Fumes emitted from Teflon cookware heated over 535 degrees (Birds are 90% lungs – people)
  • Using Teflon coated heat lamps to keep babies warm has killed chicks even at zoos
  • Bird gets stuck on single toy hung in middle of cage – gets tired and can’t reach cage walls to leave toy – falls off toy from exhaustion
  • Toe caught in knot of chain – flaps uncontrollably until injury or death
  • Flies into old fashion glue fly paper – flaps uncontrollably until injury or death
  • Mouse trap under couch
  • Impaled on knife or sharp object on kitchen counter
  • Bird get laid on because someone thought it was cute to sleep with their bird
  • Flying out the door
  • Ingestion of a home cleaning product
  • Sucked into a vacuum
  • Stepped on
  • Squeezed too hard by a young child
  • Bird bites finger, clamps on – person shakes hand to get bird to release – bird hits floor or wall and dies
  • Run-ins with ceiling fans (Vets call them shredded tweet!)
  • Second hand smoke
  • Crushed in a sliding glass or any door for that matter
  • Other house pet kills bird
  • Other birds – Lovebirds will bite other birds toes – toe loss can cause a bird to bleed to death
  • Wrong human food – avocado, chocolate, caffeine
  • Place bird in outdoor cage in the morning, bird bakes in afternoon sun
  • Introduce sick bird into home without quarantine
  • Swallows remote control battery
  • Poisoned or electrocuted by chewing on cell phone
  • Leg band gets caught on toy part
  • Wet seed and some wood debris can create Aspergillus fungus
  • Oven liners
  • Loose & threads threads on bird bedding
  • Scented candles and room fresheners
  • Heavy metal poisoning from an antique brass bird cage
  • Ingesting medication that was dropped on the floor
  • Bird of prey attack while parrot is unattended out of doors
  • Tainted well water
  • camp fires and fire places
  • vinegar + baking soda produces co2

All I’m saying as you can’t have it both ways. Simply because you socialize and feed it, you won’t necessarily earn the bird’s love – you need to connect with it. Training is the best place to start

Many captive Bird Owners who feel that pet birds should be deprived of free flight and sunshine while believing that their Google search on how to make the best bird chop is somehow is more effective man the tens of millions of dollars and years of research pet bird food manufacturers invest in creating their nutritional products 

Yet they don’t question where the protein is coming from out of these vegetable salads.. Parrots have between 5000 and 8000 feathers. Feathers come from amino acids. Amino acids come from protein. 

It’s simple math. There are 2.9 g of protein in 67 g of kale which is the weight of a green cheek conure. 

Tropican Lifetime Formula Food for Parrots contains 21% crude protein out of the bag. 

If you want to offer a kale salad on the side to your bird, That’s fine but we would advocate that keep a bowl of Hagan Tropicana pellets or granules available to your bird to satisfy the well rounded nutritional needs. 

I got a kale story for you – not many people can say that. I’ve had two other careers beside being on Internet vendor of pet bird supplies.

I spent a decade selling home improvements and 20 years in food service 10 of which were with Sizzler steak House of America. I hope one a chain of 11 in the Chicago metropolitan area.

We were the first restaurant trained to introduce salad bars and I’m talking 1976 77. We physically built around salad bars and learned that we could fill the bar with stainless steel sleeves, then pour lots of small ice cubes to keep the sleeves in place and the product chilled. 

The problem was the ice was always looking sloppy with pieces of vegetable produce and salad dressing and bacon bits. It just looked terrible. 

The solution – not mine was to cover the ice with kale. As a kale got soiled we would put in a bus stub and rinse it. Ironically we found that rinsing and soaking kale in warm to hot water extended its life once it was put back on the ice. 

After two or three days of recycling the superfood of today, went into the garbage of yesteryear. 

We give our budgies and our Senegal lettuce on a daily basis. Our favorite is romaine because it stays relatively Chris rock the day in a slightly more nutritious than iceberg but iceberg holds up the best. 

We tried hanging several all the greens in their cages including kale and found that kale will’s, the quickest. 

So that’s my fireside kale story. 

Circling back to some sort of point. Social media is great for sharing information but it doesn’t make the information necessarily valid. Nutritional input that has kept birds alive for 99 million years hasn’t changed in spite of the latest Facebook bird group trend. 

We are telling you this because we want you to succeed. You don’t have to raise your birds in a vacuum. We are here to guide you and your bird to help you help yourself provide the quality of life your bird deserves.

(Facebook ) caveat:

Erica Ospina June 13 at 2:51pm

Breeders are not the core problem or root cause. Irresponsible pet ownership and poor planning are to blame.

There is also not enough supportive avian community that welcomes and educates, bringing an interest and passion for our future care takers. As our community ages we are not bringing in the new generations as we should.

I ask have you done your part honestly? The harsh reality is we are at a point ecologically around the world many rare species would be extinct if it wasn’t for the pet trade.

The damage is done and we need to band together and do what we can. Please support ethical breeders who are for repopulation efforts, whether that be a pet or wild.

Rescues please don’t be mad at the breeders (unless irresponsible and unethical), it isn’t about you.

I want to see generations of parrots continue but support healthy husbandry and responsible parrot keeping.

I’m so tired of cynicism, back biting and getting wrapped up in your ill placed anger and emotions.

Let’s find good homes for parrots in need and address the real problem.

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

your zygodactyl footnote

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. None of my birds are caged–unless injured or sick. But they free-fly around my house, basically residing in three rooms, all with big windows. Outside? While I love the idea–and my deceased lovebird would have been a good candidate for such a venture–I can’t see it being safe, especially around here, with at least a pair of Cooper’s hawks constantly in the vicinity. Is it any wonder that large birds pluck or pick, given what lives they are meant to live in the wild? We should STOP buying birds from breeders, adopt those in need of homes. provide the means for our birds to live QUALITY (cage-free, if possible) lives, and do whatever we can to support organizations that are protecting their native habitat.

  2. My birds are free flighted in the house, and happy as clams. Over the years, I have sadly lost 2 birds as mentioned in the article – one to an unforeseen accident and one to escape. Other than the escape, none had to do with being free flighted.

    I don’t pretend to deeply comprehend avian psychology, but when a bird is anatomically designed and biologically engineered for flight, taking that capability away seems cruel to me. Although wing clipping is not painful when done correctly, it seems to me it can deeply affect the bird’s psyche. I will likely take flack for my comments, but I can’t help what I feel. Thank you Mitch and Catherine for all you do to help all bird owners!

  3. Our fully flighted GCC panicked in the home when someone disposed of a plastic container (the noise it made and the flash when sunlight hit it sent him into a frenzy) he slammed into two different windows that had decals on them and also slammed into a wall. I thought he broke his neck. Luckily he was just in shock and after a while he settled and we promptly trimmed his wings. He can still fly around the house but can’t reach the speed he once did. I almost lost my bird and full flight in a home doesn’t seem worth his life. He’s out of the cage 6+ hours a day.

  4. My birds are fully flighted and several of them choose not to fly. Stormy will stand on the top of the cage, say “flap your wings, Stormy. you can fly” but never lets go. Parrots out side may want to come home but do not recognize the outside of their house. I have caught a few “escapees” (not mine) by taking their cage outside where they could see it. There are a lot of raptors around here. A colony of quaker parrots that were living free were decimated by raptors living in the area despite their large and well built “condominium”. My birds are out of their cages when I am home to supervise them but not when I am gone. My heart breaks when I hear of birds, allowed to fly free w, who never come home. The raptors and the weather in the northern climate will kill them if starvation doesn’t get them first.

    1. Actually there is quite a Quaker parrot population in the US now but generally speaking you’re right, if they escape they are easy pickings.

  5. Joey flies in the house, when he wants to get somewhere.

    There are hawks around here, and I would never let him fly outside.

  6. “how would you like to live in a cage all your life”

    Well, wild birds dont. I trust wild birds to fly. If I didn’t care if my bird gets killed I would trust it to fly too!

    If I turned a tame bird into a wild bird and let her fend for herself she would be subject to the same risks wild birds are.

  7. My greenwing macaw has flown out of the back window twice in 5 years. The first time, she was gone for over a week, and I had to hire a cherry picker from a tree service and go 120 feet (the limit of the arm) into the air and pluck her from a tree. She was just shy of 2 years old, and was able to ascend just fine, but didn’t seem to know how to come back down. She sat in the same tree for 4 days, calling for me and talking to us, but going higher or sideways. We took her straight to the vet, and she was dehydrated and disoriented, but otherwise fine. I’m sure that she was lonely, because all of the native birds avoided her like the plague. The robins and blue jays of Independence, Missouri had NO CLUE what to make of her. And there’s not a lot for an exotic bird to eat in the wild here. The second time, she was gone for 4 days, but flew much further. I’m fortunate that the person who found her was honest and called me right away. She could have just acquired a fabulous family addition and said nothing. Sheer hunger was what finally got her this time. Even though we had been working on targeted flight (having her come to me) at home, she was unwilling or unable to do it outside. But the family in who’s tree she roosted this time lured her down with a basket of apples. They placed a large basket filled with apples at the base of the tree and waited. After a few hours of eyeing the apples, she carefully climbed her way down and once she was happily munching, they threw a blanket over the whole thing and called my son to come get her. Lessons learned. Wings stay clipped at our house.

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