Why Won't the Caged Bird Fly?

Flying is natural to birds, so it seems strange that some pet birds would prefer to climb, walk or just hang out rather than frolicking about the room when you take them out of the cage. Furthermore, some simply can’t seem to take off even if they have the urge or their owners try to encourage a romp through the air. Others get off the ground, so to speak, but end up flying in unsteady paths or even hitting walls or furniture. So what gives? Why is such a natural action so seemingly unnatural for many domestic bird pets?

Flying BirdIt’s not; they’re just out of shape. Sadly, being out of shape is not just a condition for domesticated humans. This phenomenon happens most often in birds that are rarely removed from small cages that aren’t large enough to give them room to fly. Since 90% of the domestic birds kept in homes are in cages that are either too small, or just large enough for them to live comfortably in, they end up standing around on their perches or climbing on the bars to get around. For parrots, this also comes naturally as in the wild they would use their powerful beaks and strong feet to climb about trees, but flight is an important part of their makeup as well. Even though your pet may seem happy enough in their cage, the muscles that control wing movement and the power for flight are atrophying. It is important both physically and mentally to take them out often and let them have some air time.

Grounded birds are usually discovered when a bird who has previously spent all of their time in the cage is put up for adoption or sale, and an experienced bird owner finds them. In some cases these caged birds have learned to adjust so well to a grounded lifestyle that they have no desire to flap about even when loose. Some careful encouragement may get your bird back in the air again, but you may have to resign yourself to the fact that Tweetie is a pedestrian for life if they prefer it that way. So long as they aren’t in any danger it won’t actually hurt them, but even if your bird won’t take off, you should still seek to provide as much exercise for them as possible to keep up their heart health and other muscle tone.

You can give them a lot of opportunities to walk and climb outside of their cages, and encourage them to move by giving them plenty of interactive toys, ladders and ropes to play on. Whether you have a bird who has developed a sedentary lifestyle over the years, or have just found yourself the proud owner of a previously fated pet, get them out and playing and enjoy all of the benefits of watching them have fun and getting back in shape.

Year Published: 

  • 2013


  • December-January

Author Name: 

Author Bio:

Tami Parrington is a freelance writer who lives in rural Illinois on a small farm, surrounded by many animals, including a Yellow Nape Amazon, a cockatiel and two budgies.