FAO Liz - Repairing clipped wings

I mentioned wing repairs yesterday so I thought I would find some more information for you. I posted it publicly so that others can see what can be done too.Imping is simple procedure which both restores flight immediately, and perhaps more importantly, protects the bird’s new ‘blood’ feathers as these grow during the moult. Clipped birds, esp. greys are vulnerable to breaking their blood feathers and bleeding can be profuse. I run a flight feather donor service via Parrots magazine and can supply your bird vet with any feathers they need for imping. Provided the bird has the stumps of the clipped feathers intact, then it can be imped. This is usually done under light anaesthetic, unless the bird is ‘cuddly tame’ then imping can be done without anaesthesia. If you replace some of the clipped feathers, so that the bird has about 8 of its 10 primaries restored, then he will fly immediately. It takes greys about 8 to 9 months to complete a moult, and blood feathers may break during this process in clipped birds. IMPING: REPAIRING A BIRD’S DAMAGED OR CLIPPED WINGSThis note describes the process of imping, it is not suggested you do this yourself to a bird, unless you have learnt how to do it from someone who is already familiar with the technique.Imping is the process of re-attaching donor feathers onto a bird’s wings by the use of small splints inserted into the hollow shaft of the bird’s main flight feathers (primaries and secondaries). It restores flight immediately and is also invaluable in preventing broken blood feathers during a clipped bird’s moulting period. Imped feathers will of course also be moulted out and replaced eventually, as though they were the bird’s normal feathers. In most cases, imping is carried out by a specialist avian vet. The bird is usually anaesthetised, though very tame birds who like being ‘cuddled’ do not need to be anaesthetised. Donor feathers, preferably of the same species, will be needed to match up with those your bird requires. No two flight feathers on a bird are the same; and each has its ‘mirror image’ feather on the opposite wing. Donor feathers should be sterilised, without causing them to be damaged. Imping does not directly affect any live tissue.Imping is a skilled task but not difficult to perform. It requires the feathers to be attached accurately as regards their angle of insertion and length. The aim is to have your bird’s wing returned to its natural condition whenever possible. Most parrots have 22 flight feathers on each wing (12 secondaries and 10 primaries) though many birds can still fly with just 6 or 7 primaries attached. First, the donor feathers should be laid out in the correct order of attachment. This is determined by close examination of each feather. There are differences in the width of leading edge/trailing edge. The more distal feathers have a narrower leading edge, and have bigger notches and margins (except the two MOST distal primaries which are usually also flatter and shorter in most birds. Lengths of bamboo splints of appropriate size are then prepared for the species. Af. Greys and Amazons need splints about 1 inch long, macaws need splints about 1-and-a-half inches long. Splints need to be thick enough to be a snug fit in inside the hollow feather shaft (they will be inserted one, to one-and-a half inches from the base of the feather). The bamboo splints should be whittled down until they fit just right. Half of the length of the splint is put into the hollow section of the donor feather shaft, and the other half into the receiving feather shaft (clipped feather) of the bird. Note; all birds’ flight feathers are embedded in their wing bones, so it is important to be very careful to make sure you do not damage your bird’s feather stumps by having the splint too long. To reduce the time the bird is anaesthetised you can prepare and glue the splint into the donor feathers before imping onto the bird. The best glue to use is quick setting epoxy resin, trade name here in the UK is ‘Araldite’. This sets in about 10 minutes. ‘Superglue’ sets too quickly. Take care not to get any glue anywhere else. Shield neighbouring feathers with some inert plastic film as you imp on. Work from innermost wing feathers to most distal ones as you imp. In replacing the feathers, follow the natural line, form and feather length of the species you are imping. If the species is new to you, take photos of another fully flighted bird’s extended wings of the same species to check on how they should look and use this as your guide. When imping is done properly and skilfully, the imped feathers should lie in the natural position when the bird is at rest, as though they were the bird’s own feathers. It is then very difficult to actually see which are the bird’s own feathers, and which are imped ones. In flight, they should be as good as the bird’s own feathers and perform just as well. If you achieve this, the bird will be able to fly normally when it makes its first few attempts at flight. Imping ensures the bird will replace its old feathers and moult normally, without breaking blood feathers and this is the real advantage to imping for the bird. In most parrots the normal rate of feather growth when the bird is moulting is 3 to 4 mm per day, so it takes a grey parrot about 40 days to re-grow a primary feather (which is about 16cms long), but with smaller birds primaries a can be replaced in half this time. If a bird’s flight feathers are examined in very good light, you can just about see these growth bars; they show as fient parallel light and dark lines across the feather vane, each about 3 to 4mm wide. Imping can also prevent feather plucking and self mutilation, especially in African greys and cockatoos. Once imped, allow the bird time to get used to its new wings. The bird will not know that it can fly by just looking at its new feathers. But once it takes to the wing, it will then realise it can fly. The bird may find it strange to be suddenly flighted at first, but most adapt within a few minutes to having two ‘normal’ wings. Make sure the bird can ‘air-brake’ safely (fly at near stall speed) before allowing it to fly any distance. If you have a lot of feathers to replace on a very tame easy-going bird (when anaesthetic is not being used) it might be easiest to just imp two or three at a time, to let the bird get used to the effect in a more gradual way. In an emergency situation (where someone has clipped a young bird and it is vital for the bird’s developmental stage for flight learning) you can use donor feathers from unrelated species, but it is preferable to get the right ones if you can. I run a free feather donating service for avian vets. Anyone who needs donor feathers to repair their birds’ wings can contact me: I usually have feathers from most ‘pet’ bird species available and theere is no charge no cost. I also need people to donate any unwanted feathers (mainly primaries) which should be in good condition. Greg Glendell BirdsFirst, UK Tel. 0844 826 8456.

I actually read an article today when I was waiting at a vet readin a magazine, was about an American avian vet doing volunteer work rehabilitating cought greys, and imping was one of the things he did to get the birds back out quick and not get to conftible around humans, was an interesting article.

High my names Dylan and im completely new to parrots i have a beautiful african grey named Grey Beard. any useful tips or hints could help tremendously! Thank you.

parrotlover26 wrote:High my names Dylan and im completely new to parrots i have a beautiful african grey named Grey Beard. any useful tips or hints could help tremendously! Thank you.Please start a new thread. This is not a good place. Thanks!Marie i read this yesterday and it was fascinating! I didn’t know such a thing was possible.

I remember reading about it a long time ago but it never really occured to me that there was a need for such a thing since all mine are fully flighted and clipping isn’t as common in the UK as other countries. Something Liz said brought it back to mind so I thought it may be useful for others as it is a fairly low risk procedure in a healthy bird as the anasthetic time is short because they do all the prep before knocking the bird out, its pretty much no risk for one that is tame enough to handle the wings.Definitely something I would consider if I ever took on an unfortunate bird that had been clipped and I’m also going to collect flight feathers from my two when they are back to full health so we can hopefully help other birds.

About feathers, there is some organization in the states (can’t remember the name) that do take donations in form of feathers and then hand em out, from what I’ve seen it mainly goes to native American wear etc, but something like this might earn you feathers from them as well, I just remember reading about it in some blog.