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Clipping Captive Swan Pets

September 4th, 2016 | Posted by LadyNerkle1 in Clipping Captive Swan Pets


Prevent Your Beautiful Swans from Flying Away.

                              Click on Images to Enlarge

Clipping Swan Cygnet

Clipping Captive Swan Pets 

IF YOUR SWANs and CYGNETs are Pinioned
you Never Need to DO THIS !!!

Full Wing Mute Swan

Adult Swans that were NOT Pinioned are Generally Capable of Flying
unless they are Clipped to keep them Grounded.

Unpinioned Mute Swan Cygnet


The Cygnet above Hatched in the Wild, was Injured and we Rescued.

Cygnets are Capable of Flight once their Wing Feathers
are Fully Developed – around 15-16 Weeks Old.

Mute Cygnet First Wing Feathers

This will differ when Cygnets are Not Feed a Good Diet.

Swan Cygnet 84 Days Old

It Helps to Record the Date Cygnets Hatch..

Mute Swan Cygnet 5 Months Old

Clipping is NOT as Effective as a Proper Pinioning..

Clipping Swan Wings
Swan Never Learned to Fly

Clipping Swan Wings
              Our Young Rescued Cygnet did NOT learn to Fly.
In 2022 Our Male-Cob is 13 Years Old… He has Never Flown. 
We have not Clipped him after the First Two Years.
He does NOT Know he can Fly..
There is a Risk that One Day he Might Surprise himself.. and Us.


Clip Mute Swan Cygnet
    The Rescued Cygnet Above was NOT Pinioned or Clipped…
He DID Learn to Fly..  Grounding will be More Challenging.
He Knows the Freedom of Flight.  The Risk he will Fly will Always be there.
It will be Safest to Clip any Swan that has Learned to Fly Annually.

If you have ANY Doubt about Clipping yourself,
Check with your Veterinarian who Works with Birds
and see if they will Help you at least the First Time.
( ASK Your Avian Vet to READ this Topic Page.)
Unfortunately, I am Learning that Many Veterinarians want to Clip
the Swans the same way they Clip House Birds..  NOT Effective.
The Blunt Cut below is for House Birds.. NOT for Swans..
Wrong Way Clipping Swan Wing

I am Adding the Image Below.. It is Important to KNOW the Feathers.
Learn the Names of the Wing Feathers.. You will NEED this Information.
Clipping ONE Swan Wing


I will Not Assume Any Responsibility if you Do Not Read and Understand
ALL these Instructions or do Not Take the Time to Fully Understand Wing Anatomy..
or Understand the RISK of Cutting into a Blood Feathers.

Mute Swan Blood Feathers Cut

This Young Swan DID NOT Survive the Blood Loss. 

Mute Swan Blood Feathers Cut

        The Person who did this
had NO IDEA what they were Doing ! 

I Got a Call After this Cutting of Primary Wing Feathers was Done ! 
I BEGGED the Owner to take this Cygnet to a Veterinarian.. 
After 2-3 Days of Waiting for the Bleeding to Stop, he was Surrendered to us !
We Immediately took this Cygnet to a Veterinarian to Try to Save him.
His Blood Loss was Too Great..  He Died.. 
This was the WORST Attempt to Clip/Pinion I have been Aware of.


***CLIPPING WINGs – Safe, if done Very Carefully.

The Goal is to keep the Swan/Cygnet off Balance when they Try to Fly..
Clip Swan CygnetClip Swan Cygnet

He made me NERVOUS… But, it Worked…. ! ! ! Mute Swan Cygnet Clipped

Clipping is a NON-Surgical Alternative to Surgically Pinioning
the Primary Flight Feather Section on ONE Wing.
This Method only Lasts until Flight Feathers are Replaced
during the Swan’s Annual Moult.

Every Time he Tries to Fly, he Spins to the Left… Left Wing is Clipped.Clipping Swan WingsAnd the Instinct to Fly is Strong during their First Summer.

Clipping Swan Wings*****Clipping SwanAfter Numerous Attempts to Get off the Ground..
   ..our Cygnet Finally Stopped Trying.      I was Holding my BREATH !!!
If your New Swan is Full Wing,
which is Common with Rescued Swans,
and they DID Learn to Fly, it will be Safest to CLIP them Annually.Clipping Swan Wings
If you are Acquiring a Full Wing Swan from a Rescue Group..  CLIP !
Most Rescue Groups are Reluctant to CLIP…
They Adopt the Rescued Swans to Folks New to Swan Care.. 
and Several Hours or Days after these Swans are on their Ponds.. 
The Rescued Swans Fly Away.. and they are “In Peril” Again.

I Hear this Story of Anguish TOO OFTEN..  

Mute Cygnet Clipped

Clipping Feathers does not Trigger New Primary Flight Feathers to Grow.
A Feather that is Pulled will Regrow.

Ideally you will be Clipping/Cutting (5-7) Primary Flight Feathers
above the level of the Primary Coverts, so almost the entire Feather is removed,
leaving about 2-3 inches of Shaft still visible beyond the Skin Follicle.

Top Side Mute Swan Wing

Looking from the UNDERSIDE of the Wing:

Underside of Swan Wing
If there is any Pink-Purple in the Feather Shaft, it would be Safer
to Cut/Clip 6-8 Primary Flight Feather on One Wing Short of any Coloration…

One Swan Owner said, she Used a Flash Light to Shine Through the Feathers. 
This Make it Easy to See any Coloration Inside the Shaft..
    Great Ideas.. Thanks K.H.M.    
    SWAN Clip Wing Feathers
 ONLY Cut where the Shaft is White..
CLIP One Feather at a Time.. and WATCH for Any Bleeding..
(STOP if you See ANY BLOOD.)
Do what is Necessary to STOP ANY Bleeding.

Wait for the Feather Shafts to turn Opaque
-Maybe One to Three Weeks, then Cut/Clip 5-7 of the Flight Feathers Shorter.

Clipped Wing Feathers

*****Mute Swan ClippedIf you Acquire New Swans or Cygnets that are still Full-Wing,
Clipping or Pulling Primary Flight Feathers can be useful
until you Arrange to have a Veterinarian Surgically Pinion your Cygnets/Swans.Swan Full Winged
FULL WINGS will Look the Same Left and Right.

If you have a New Swan and you are NOT SURE if they are Pinioned.. ??
The Link Below will Help you Visually “See” if the Wings are Full or Pinioned.


Full Wing Mute Swan
Proper Clipping will Prevent MOST of them from
“Taking to Air” and Flying Away ! !

Mute Swans Flew Away

*****Full Wing Mute Swan
NOT All Methods of Clipping will Work for Swans/Cygnets.

Methods for Clipping House Birds and Ducks are DIFFERENT.
Clip Swan CygnetClipping Swan Wing
Proper Clipping is Effective until the NEXT Moult..Mute Cygnet ClippedThis was my First Clipping – AFTER doing a LOT of Reading.

  He kept Trying for about Two Weeks..  Kept Spinning Out.. Eventually Quit. 

Clipping will Not Stop Your Swan from Trying to Fly. 
They may Still Run and Flap and Keep Trying..  (Hold Your Breath) 

Pulled Feathers will GROW BACK in about 4-6 Weeks.

Cable Tie Leg Band

This can also give you Time to send Samples for DNA-Sex Testing.
Make sure you can Identify Individual Cygnets/Swans
when submitting Multiple DNA Samples.

Colored Cable Ties

Assorted Sizes and Multi-Colors Cable Ties
can be Found at Most Hardware Supply Stores.

DO NOT SEND the Cut Primary Wing Feathers for DNA Testing.

Feathers to send for DNA Testing must be freshly pulled from the Birds’ Skin.  

Check the Information about DNA-Sex Testing on this Page.
Determine the Sex of Swans by DNA

5 – 6 Body Contour Feathers from the Breast Area are a Good Sample.
 The Testing Lab needs the Tissue Material inside the Quill of a Live Feather
for their DNA-Sex Testing.

Fresh Pulled Swan Feathers

Shed, Moulted or Cut Feathers do not have this Live Tissue.


Anatomy Birds Wing

Study a Diagram of a Bird’s Wing and learn the Names
of the Different Wing Feathers and their Location.

SWAN Wing Feather Anatomy

*****Mute Cygnet Wing Feather Anatomy

*****Moulted Swan Feathers

If you have a Cygnet/Swan with Clipped Wings, Watch for their Moult to Start.
You will think a Feather Pillow Exploded.
The Very Large Flight Feathers Falling Out will be a BIG Clue.
Swans go into a “Shabby Stage.”

Shabby Stage of Swan Moult

You may see the Thick Feather Shafts of the Old Clipped Feathers
on the Ground or Floating on the Pond.

Clipped Swan Feathers

Female and Male Swans Moult at Different, Slightly Over- Lapping Times.

Female Swan Moulting

It will take Several Weeks for the New Primary Flight Feathers to Grow in.
They will Need to become Firm before the Swan is able to Fly..
This Firming only takes a Week to 10 Days.

A Flock of Swans will be Moulting at Slightly Different Time..
Clipping Swan Wings

     PICTURE SERIES of a Male Mute Swan’s Annual Moult.
   These are the Visual Stages to Watch for.

           A Normal Moult Time for a Healthy Mute Cob – July.
Mute Cob will MoultMute Swan Cob Full Wing      Male Mute Swan Generally Start to Moult in July….Mute Swan Moult

    The Annual Moult is to Replace Worn Plumage.
Mute Swan Moult

Mute Swans Annual Moult

Mute Swan Moult
Swans are Flightless During their Moult.
Mute Swan MoultingLook Closer – New Feathers are Emerging ! 
Mute Swan MoultWATCH for THESE Stages of Moulting.

Mute Swan MoultBlood Feathers are Mainly in the Wings and Tail. 
Mute Swan Moult*****
Mute Swan Moult*****
Mute Swan MoultNO PINK or Purple Visible
You will have about 10 – 14 Days to Take Action.
Mute Swan MoultThe Beautiful New Plumage of a Mute Cob.
Full Wing SwanIt is TIME TO Clip….


Whatever Way you are Able to Catch your Swans.. is Good.
Be Safe. 

Clipping Feathers is Quick and Simple to do.
Pick an Area that has Good Lighting.

***Supplies to have On Hand For Clipping:

*** BEST to Work with TWO (2) PEOPLE
Swans are Difficult to Control Alone.

Keep Every One Calm.. Speak Softly to the Cygnet/Swan..
Reduce the Stress for All.. Panicking will NOT Help..
A Stressed Swan will do Open Mouth Breathing..
A Little Stress will be OK.  Think Calm, Calm, Calm..

If it Helps, do a Run-Through with a Pillow, Pretending it is the Swan, 
So Each Person knows what they will be Doing..
                                          … and where to Place your Supplies.

Clipping Swan Wing
One Person to Hold Cygnet/Swan with a *Large Bath Towel.
…AND One to CAREFULLY Clip/Cut the Flight Feathers.

When you are Ready, Gently Extend the Wing and Inspect the Feathers.

Fluffy Bath Towels

the Rib Cage Area of a Cygnet/Swan TOO Tight..   
Swans NEED to Move their Ribs to Breathe.
If they can not Breathe, they will Struggle MORE !

***A Pair of *Blunt End Scissors that Cut a Drinking Straw Easily.
You do not want Dull Scissors, you want a Quick Smooth Cut.
Large Flight Feather Shafts are about as Tough as a Twig of the Same Size. 
They are FIRM.

***A Sturdy Pair of Needle Nose Pliers
                                – (tweezers are not strong enough).
Just in case you need to Pull a Feather that Bleeds and will NOT STOP ! !
*** Read about Pulling a Blood Feather so you are Prepared.  
The WebSite below is One of Several.

Foster and Smith PetEducation.com  . . .  Broken Blood Feathers

Clipping Swan Pulling a Feather

***Clean Corn Starch (seems to be preferably) or (White) Flour.
IF a Feather Shaft BLEEDs.. STUFF this Clean White Powdery Material
into the Hollow Shaft. Hold the End Securely for 5-10 Minutes.
***WATCH it does not Start to Bleed Again.

Pushing Powdery Material into the Bleeding Feather Shaft
(Corn Starch – Flour – Wonder Dust – as a Last Resort Kwik Stop)
gives the Blood Tiny Particles to HELP Form a Clot.

No Matter what might cause a Bird/Swan to Bleed…
Keep the Bird/Swan as Calm as Possible.
The More a Bird Struggles the More it will Bleed.

BIRDS do NOT have Reserve Blood in their Body..
They are Streamlined for Flight.
ANY Bleeding for ANY Bird can become Serious VERY Fast.

*** You may not need these Things.. but, Good to have Ready.
A Small Pack of Q-Tips. Clean Paper Towels.
A Gallon of Clean Cold Water. A Small Bowl to Work from.

***A Working Surface at a Comfortable Height.
OR a Comfortable Washable Chair. (And Washable Shoes)

OR A Person Sitting on a Chair Holding a Wrapped Swan for Stability.
With a Large Bath Towel or Blanket Around Most of the Cygnet/Swan.
This will Control One Wing…and Both Feet.. Wrap their Toe Claws.
Toe Claws can Cut.  I know > I had to go to Urgent Care for One Nasty Cut..
    Getting Cut was My FAULT.. not the Swan’s.

***Your Avian Veterinarian’s Phone Number. ( Just in Case.)

Found at most Farm Supply Stores.. like Tractor Supply.
This will ALSO Help to Stop Bleeding – Plus it is Medicated.

Wonder Dust

*** KWIK Stop*** as a LAST RESORT..

Kwik Stop Styptic Powder
Found at Most Pet Supply Stores.

GREAT Care Must be Used to Prevent the Swans from Ingesting this Material. 
It Quickly becomes Solid as a Stone..
and COULD become an Obstruction in a Swan’s Mouth or Throat.
 Extending the Wing…
*** CHECK the Feathers you Plan to Clip Carefully.

Underside Swan Wing

There are 10 Primary Flight Feathers on Each Wing.

For a Nice Appearance – Skip the First 2 Primary Feathers   (#9-#10)
Then Choose 5-6-7 from the Remaining 8 to Clip.

Below One Feather is Clipped in Stages to be Sure there was NO Bleeding.
SWAN Clip Wing Feathers

YEAH !    – SUCCESS ! !    – I Knew YOU Could Do IT ! !
Next Year YOU will be more Confident. 


If you Need to Clip/Cut Very New Blood Feathers……
  DO NOT CUT as Short, > > Trim a Few More Feathers > 7-8.

Underside Swan Wing
*** NEVER Cut into the Shaft Section-Area containing a Blood Supply.


The Quill is the Part of the Feather Shaft up Inside the Skin Follicle.
The Blood Vessel will Remain Active in the Quill Longer then in the Shaft.

For Several Weeks (varies) after Primary Wing Feathers Grow-in
there will be a Blood Supply Flowing through the Feather Shaft and Quill.

New Mute Wing Feathers

The Section of Feather Shaft Closest to the Quill will appear Pink or Slightly Purple.

                                      Where YOU SEE THIS Coloration.

 ***Shining a Flash Light Through the Feathers to Check for Pink or Purple.. 
                                      This will be Very Helpful.  

***ONLY CLIP/Cut the Shaft where it is Opaque White.


***Watch for ANY Bleeding before Cutting another Feather.

*** DO NOT CLIP TOO SHORT... or Too Long either.

SWAN Clipped Wing Feathers
Clip/Cut just up under the Primary Covert Feathers
so the Cut Edge will be Covered. (Ideal)

At this Level the Risk of there being an Active Blood Supply in the Shaft
 is much less then Closer to the Skin Follicle.

Plus, IF you would NEED to PULL a Bleeding Feather Shaft….
If you Cut TOO Close to the Skin Follicle, you will NOT have Much to Grasp
if you Need to Pull the Shaft/Quill to Stop Bleeding. 
Clipping Swans

***If you see Pink or Purple in the Shafts,
you MUST Clip/Cut the Feather Shafts Longer to Avoid Blood Vessels.
Leaving the Feather Longer then you might want.

***IF there are Blood Feather and you can not CLIP up under the Primary Covert Feathers….

Mute Swan Blood Feathers
Measure 1-1/2 to 2 Inches Back from the Pink-Purple Coloration
to where the Shaft is Opaque White.

Cygnet Clipped Wing
You will want to Clip/Cut Across Several MORE Primaries (7-8).
This will Leave the Cut Edge Uncovered by the Primary Covert Feathers.

You will want to Clip these Feathers Shorter in Two to Three Weeks,
once the Blood Vessels have Atrophied, leaving more White Shaft.

Clipped Swan Feathers

The Goal is to keep the Swan/Cygnet OFF Balance when they try to Fly..

Swan Cygnet Grounded

If Feather Stumps are Present Beyond the Lower Edge of the Primary Coverts
they May Irritate the Swan during Preening, causing Significant Discomfort.

Mute Swan Preening

The Cygnet/Swan may Chew and Tug at these Cut Shaft Ends
until they Pull them Out. Then a New Feather will Grow…( OH NO ! )
Remote – BUT Possible..
*** THE BEST SPOT to CLIP – ( IDEAL is not always Possible.)
Cut the Primary Flight Feathers at the Point where the Feather Barbules begin
on the Shaft of the Primary Flight Feathers.
Leaving Few Barbules on the Shaft.

SWAN Clipped Wing Feathers

*** Leave the remaining Primary Feather Shaft and Quill in the Skin Follicle.

***(once trimmed up under the Primary Coverts)
There may be as much as 4-6 Inches of Feather Shaft remaining.
2-3 Inches of Round Semi-Hollow Opaque White Shaft
and 2-3 Inches of the Quill up inside the Skin Follicle.

The Quill is the Part of the Feather Shaft up inside the Skin Follicle.

*** NEVER Clip/Trim Secondaries

Do Not Clip Swan Secondaries
It is sufficient to Clip FIVE Primary Flight Feathers
                                                        – One Wing Only.
To be Extra Sure.. Clip the Other Five Primary Feather
   about Half Way.  Keeping Off Balance is the Goal. 

The Method of Clipping for Ducks is Different then for Swans…
It is Recommended that the Secondary Wing Feathers are Clipped.
IF a Swan’s Secondary Wing Feathers are Clipped.. they can still Fly.

Wing Clipping may appear to be an alternative to Pinioning,
but Wing Clipping is Not Always Reliable.

The Annual Moult may occur Earlier or Later then Anticipated.
You may MISS your chance to do this Annually.

Female and Male Swans do not Moult at the Same Time..
Generally about a Month Apart. The Females “Generally” Moult First..
and 3-4 Weeks Later the Male Swans will begin their Annual Moult.

A Swan in Poor Health may Moult over an Extended Period of Time…
when its Body does not have the Nutrients to Grow all New Feathers
in the Normal Moult Cycle.

Mute Swan Moulting

A Swan that has Partially Re-grown New Flight Feathers may
be able to Fly Away for a Short Distance.

Wing Clipping may Create a “False Sense of Security.”
Clipped Swans, if Spooked, are still Capable of a Short, Powerful Burst of Flight.

A Properly done Clip only Trims the Feathers and not the Wings.
It is Painless and Temporary, lasting only until the next Moult.

Mute Swans Flying

Better to Clip Full-Wing Swans then Watch them Fly Away..
Clipping Swan Wing

  This Young Female is Grounded for Another Years..  

In the Past, to Preserve the Symmetric Beauty of both Swan Wings,
Swan Owners/Keepers might decide to Clip rather then Permanently
Deform their Swans by Pinioning.

Mute Swan NOT Pinioned

Mute Swan NOT Pinioned

The HOPE was/is, if a Cygnet does not learn to Fly during their First
Two/Three Years they will not know how or try to Fly.
This may work with a Large Percentage of Swans..   
Not 100%.  There is a Risk.

Swans are Spectacular in Flight.. Breathtaking.
but, seeing them Fly AWAY is not.

Mute Swans Fly Away

*** Once Swans learn to Fly… all Bets are OFF.
They will know “the World is a Bigger Place” then their Pond.

All Swans will Play-Chase and Flap-Run across their Water…

Mute Cygnets Play Chasing
But, in the FALL… when there are Stiff Cool Breezes..
or in the Spring when it is Time to look for Nesting Sites..
They get a “Glint in their Eyes”.. and want to Fly.

You can be Comforted that 5-7 mostly Missing Primary Flight Feathers
will keep your Swans Grounded.  Clipping Works..

Mute Swans Fly Away
They can not get their balance.. and can not “Take to Air”..

Mute Swan Wing-Tipping
Swans need the Exercise. It is Good for their Hearts to “Wing-Tip.”
Their Wing-Tips touch the Water Surface as they Flutter-Run..

Wing Tips on the Water

I LOVE to see them do this.. They will often do this together..
It happens so QUICK, my Camera is usually not ready.

Mute Swan Running on Water

Turn toward your Pond when you HEAR the Slapping of BIG Webbed Feet.

Mute Swan Running on Water
*** There is a Physiological Component as well as a Psychological Component
when one considers how important Flight Feathers are to any Bird’s Safety and Life.

A Damaged Feather reduces Flight Efficiency and Interferes with Escape from Danger.
Birds/Swans Appear to be Quite Concerned about these Clipped “Half” Feathers.

Clipping Swan Cygnets
For Management of a Large Flock of Swans it may be Very Difficult
for a Keeper to Identify, Catch, and Clip each Swan at the Proper Time.

Assorted Swans

In SOME States,
the United States WildLife Department of Natural Resources
(WDNR) Regulations may Requiring Captive Mute Swans be Pinioned,

the Practice of Clipping may only be a Temporary Measure until you can Arrange
for your Swan to be Pinioned by a Qualified Avian Veterinarian. 
This Requirement does vary by State.

Mute Swan Pinioned

Have this Information Ready when you are Preparing to have the
Swans/Cygnets Surgically Pinioned.  Their DNA-Sex Test Result.

DNA-Sex Result Cygnet

** Females > > Pinion the Right Wing.
** Males > > > Pinion the Left Wing.

FROM JB “I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy
and relatively calm it was.”

THEND Soar once More

This Information is a Work in Progress…..
As I learn more I will add to this information..
Compiled by (C) L.M.Sweger                           – UpDated    May 2022
 Thanks to the Swan Folks who have Shared Photo Images.

If you have ANY Questions, Please Contact me..  Thanks..
I am Always Happy to Share Information and Ideas.

SWANLovers Info



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