One potential cause for concern among some parrot owners is the fact that keeping a bird in your home necessitates certain constraints on the creature’s ability to live in a natural manner. One of the most obvious concessions that needs to be made is the restriction of the bird’s ability to fly. This can weigh on the minds of some parrot owners who would like to see their bird enjoy their life and exhibit their innate behaviors as much as possible.
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Though some owners resort to clipping a bird’s wings to restrict its ability to fly, other parrots are allowed to fly to some degree. If space is available, a bird room, flight cage or aviary can be set up that does not pose any dangers to a flighted bird. Your birds can then be allowed to fly for at least a part of the day, enjoying the freedom of flight as well as getting important exercise that will help prevent the problem of obesity in pet birds.
Other parrot owners want more for their birds and take the next step by embracing the practice of free-flying. This involves allowing your parrot to engage in unrestrained outdoor flight. Training a bird for free flying takes patience and hard work. It also involves the acceptance on the part of the parrot owner that every free flight can potentially be the last time you see your pet. There are dangers inherent in free-flying that pet birds do not normally encounter. Your bird may just decide not to return. This can cause undue stress to the parrot owner and needs to be considered seriously before you decide to let your bird fly freely.
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Initial Flight Training
The first step in training a bird for free flight training is basic flight training that is conducted indoors. According to freeparrots.net, these basics remove the need for wing-clipping and build the foundation of trust and response from your bird that is necessary if you ever aspire to let them fly freely. The fact that parrots are intelligent allows them to understand these spoken commands. Among the behaviors that you want to train your parrot to exhibit in response to spoken words are:
- Stay or don’t land on me – This is designed to have the bird refrain from landing on you, not to stay totally still.
- Go off – A command that indicates your bird should get off of you and fly somewhere else.
- Off there – Use this command to restrict your bird from certain locations where it might be in danger.
- On here or fly to me – As stated, this command is meant to have the bird fly to you.
These training basics are helpful for having your bird fly indoors and alleviate the need to clip its wings. These are certainly not sufficient to enable you to try free-flying your parrot but are a good start to developing a trust with your bird.
Taking the Next Steps Toward Free Flight
According to learningparrots.com, not all parrots have the skill set required to successfully navigate free flight. While the above flight commands are a start, there are many other factors to be considered before allowing your bird to experience free flight.
The next critical step is known as operant conditioning, which means that each interaction we have with the parrot imparts more information on how they should act in the future. Teaching various behaviors with positive reinforcement rather than punishment or restarting is a key component of this kind of training. Your bird needs to understand that when it returns to you after a flight it is not immediately stuffed into its cage but rather rewarded with treats and kind words.
Understanding your bird’s body language is crucial if you intend to free fly your parrot. Your bird needs to be comfortable outside and if it appears to be nervous being outside you should not attempt a flight, even if it has flown outside previously. You also need to observe the weather and only let your bird fly when conditions are optimal with no strong winds or storms in the area.
Teaching your bird to return to you from high places can be practiced in a home or a warehouse and needs to be ingrained in your parrot before you take it outside to fly. Recall training is one of the most important facets of preparing your bird for free flight. Below is a video of active parrots free-flying.
Dangers of Free Flight for Your Parrots
There are many dangers inherent in free flight that your parrot will not be exposed to in any other situations. According to avian-behavior.org, here are some of the issues that your parrot can face when flying free:
- Your parrot can be chased and killed by a predatory bird.
- Your bird can get scared by something and fly out of sight.
- Sudden weather changes can force the bird to stay in a tree overnight.
- Your parrot wants to mate with another parrot and flies off to build the nest.
- You are flying your parrot in a new location and it flies off and gets lost. If this occurs then see our guide on what to do if your bird flew away.
The freedom that your bird enjoys with free flight must be tempered by the dangers to it and the emotional cost to its owners. Many parrots and parrot owners should not engage in the practice. The bird must be healthy and well-trained to minimize potential problems, but these problems can never be totally eliminated.
You need to ask yourself if you are prepared to experience the loss of a bird that does not return from a free flight. If you do not think you could handle the devastating loss and constant wondering about the whereabouts of your bird if it does not return, then free-flying your parrots is not for you. There is also the question of endangering your bird in an outdoor setting that is not its natural habitat.
Ultimately, free-flying your bird is not a practice to engage in without serious consideration of the risks and benefits to your bird and so should only be taken on with great caution.