Dr Catherine Apuli has been an animal lover since she was young and has been a proud pet parent to many types of animals over her life.  She currently has three cockatiels; Lil, Sil and Lancey and Tiny Bill. As well as Billy and Molly a pair of Eclectus Parrots and a large, walk-in aviary with a variety of Australian native parrots.

Working at the Unusual Pets Vets clinic located in Jindalee, Brisbane really is a dream come true for Dr Cat. She’s regularly making new feathered friends and one that is close to her heart is Wei Wei, a Green Cheek Conure.

Wei Wei sitting on the surgical table waiting patiently for her anaesthetic and new wings. You can see how short her wings have been cut

Wei Wei presented at 12-weeks of age for its very first health check while signing up for our Flystart package. During the health examination, it was noted that Wei Wei’s wings were trimmed too short and too many of them had been previously cut. As a result, Wei Wei couldn’t fly at all and was falling to ground when she attempted to fly.

In an effort to give Wei Wei some flight again, Dr Cat performed a procedure known as imping, which involves placing new feathers into the wing.

Where possible, feathers from the same type of bird should be used, and it just so happened that Dr Cat had a lovely set of green cheek conure feathers that had been previously been donated to our feather bank. These were a perfect fit for Wei Wei. The feathers were sterilised and dried in preparation for attachment.

What was involved in the imping procedure?

Wei Wei was anaesthetised and carefully monitored while Dr Cat one by one delicately attached the feathers using a small wooden dowel/rod and glued into the shaft of each feather.

The other end of the rod is then glued into the shaft of the donor feather. The dowels are very light, so they don’t affect the birds flight and they feel like their own.

When Wei Wei is a little older, she will moult her feathers and grow new wing feathers of her own again.

The imping procedure is complete and Wei Wei's waking up from her anaesthetic with her new wing spread

Is imping necessary?

Some would suggest that imping is unnecessary as feathers grow back. In some cases, this is true, but it can depend on the severity of the wing clip. If trimmed too short like in Wei Wei’s case, the feathers can take a long time to re-grow and birds can injure sever damage with crash landings in their attempt to fly.

Wei Wei was also very young when the feathers were clipped too short and she did not have the opportunity to learn to fly properly. This would have had repercussions with development, strength and overall well-being.  Getting Wei Wei flying as soon as possible was the best thing for her.

The End Result

The imping procedure was very successful, and the new set of feathers will prevent Wei Wei from sustaining heavy falls and injury. Once Wei Wei was awake we tested her flight and she did very well. 

Her owners report that she’s been great at home and they’re teaching Wei Wei to recall train.

Once Wei Wei was awake we tested her flight and she did very well
These beautiful donor feathers were disinfected and dried prior to attachment

How does one donate to a feather bank?

Bird owners can collect flight feathers from their birds and as long as the feathers are clean and in good condition, The Unusual Pet Vets accepts them from all types of birds. The feathers can be dropped off at the clinic or mailed directly to us.

Once the donated feathers are received, we disinfect them, catalogue them and store them in our feather bank until a feathered friend is need of a new set of wings.

Should you clip birds’ wings?

Before clipping your birds, wings consider their environment and if it is necessary. What impact will this have if they lose their natural flight ability?

If you make the decision to clip your birds’ wings, we recommend that you seek assistance from someone who has experience with this. The aim of clipping your bird wings should always be to clip as little feathers as possible, there is a fine art to doing this correctly and we are always happy to help.

The Unusual Pet Vets offers free wing clipping with a health check consultation or it can be performed on its own for a small fee.

Dr Cat and Wei Wei’s imping procedure has flown across the globe and been featured in many publications.  Be sure to ‘LIKE’ our Facebook page where this story and many other unusual and interesting cases are first published.

Wei Wei thanking Dr Cat for her new set of beautiful wings