My bird can't fly anymore

I have a hand raised major Mitchell who I've had since he was a baby. For his first year he could fly at all. I assumed it was because the first wing clip he got before I bought him wasn't done correctly. The feathers just wouldn't grow and when he tried to fly he would constantly fall and the wing would bleed, hence prolonging the new feather growth further. This caused him, and us, a lot of anxiety and I believe caused him not to trust us.

Then, finally his wing grew and he could fly. He doesn't fly great distances, but could control it. He could fly from his cage to the ground and land without crashing, or fly from his cage to his playground. This lasted about 6 months to 1 year.

Now, for the past few months he has gone down hill again and can no longer fly. When he tries to fly it's like he can't control himself and does a back flip. This happens when he is trying to fly to leave his cage, or when he is on the ground and wants to fly. He then panics and does 3 or 4 backflips ( not very elegantly) and crash lands.

He is with an eclectus who is a very calm bird and can fly and be handled without any issues at all. They are great friends. I can barely handle my major Mitchell anymore without being bitten. He has a diet of mixed parrot seed, and fresh fruit and veges. Do you have any suggestions or advise.

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Jun 06, 2013
Bird can't fly anymore
by: The Avian Vet

Many things enter my mind with regards to this case. I am assuming that between the recent time he could fly and now cannot fly, that he has not had a wing clip. I certainly know that wing clips given to early in life affect birds for a very long time, and often for a lifetime. And incorrect wing clips given at any time cause irreparable damage to a bird's confidence and abilities. In fact, think the reason that your bird bites is because if he is picked up he feels insecure, maybe off balance which leads to biting to prevent being handled. I have seen many similar cases, and this may be happening with your bird.

Back flipping may be because he has not had a lot of practice flying. In order to practice, you need to stay in the air. I don't know if you fly or have flown remote control helicopters, but there is a huge difference in the learning curves when you are indoors vs out. The new high tech micro RCs can be flown indoors but the more space you give, the more you can 'stretch your wings' so to speak. He feels the same. I see a few birds that come in for wing clips and when we test fly them they will sometimes fly backwards because they do not know how to adjust flapping to compensate to the missing feathers. And this is even with an excellent wing clip. However, back flipping is more severe. Your bird may be experiencing something more serious such as inner ear infection or inflammation, central nervous disorder, or even a viral infection.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. I recommend that you have her examined by a board certified avian veterinarian to rule out these serious possibilities. I am interested to know what you find out. If you are able to come to my hospital I am happy to see your bird.

Dr B

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