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Free Flight Considerations

Questions to ask yourself before starting your free flight journey.

Species of Bird

What species do you plan on flying? 

What is their natural behaviour like in the wild? How well do you know the natural inclinations of your species of choice? 

What is their general ability for establishing a relationship with humans? 

Have you discussed their strengths/weaknesses with other free-fliers? 

Would your species of choice be okay flying solo long-term, or would it be a better idea for that species to fly with a flock for safety against predators? 

If you are training more than one bird, how are you going about it? Are you making sure to train and/or build a bond with each one individually? Do you understand that flock dynamics can be complex and that you cannot expect to suddenly begin flying a handful of birds together successfully outdoors, regardless of how well they do indoors? 

Are you flying these birds at liberty from a familiar outdoor aviary/home-based location, or are you taking these birds to a flight location? Do you understand what can be different about these two situations?

Consider Your Bird 

What is your bird's developmental background like? Were they clipped and/or kept in a small cage during crucial stages of brain development? Did they learn how to fly at the natural age in an appropriately stimulating environment for the cultivation of both physical and mental abilities? 

How old is the bird? How far past the natural fledging stage are they? 

Was your bird reared in a household where they learned to trust and be close to dogs, which can present as dangerous predators in the outdoors? 

Has your bird developed any maladaptive behaviours or phobias as a result of previous negative treatment that may suddenly manifest given certain stimuli they experience outdoors? 

What is your bird's physical fitness level? Have they practised all they could indoors? 

Do they respond to you with contact calls when you're out of sight? Do they demonstrate some basic understanding of locating you by sound? 

Is your birds recall immediate and consistent around competing motivators? 

Are you ready to subscribe to the motto "Better safe than sorry", to apply critical judgement in the face of what you want to do or think would be fun? Are you ready to view your bird as an entity capable of exercising complete autonomy and freedom where, once unrestricted outdoors, its choices are the final determination in whether they come home with you or not--and is that decision best for the bird in question?

Preparing for Outdoors 

What is your bird's comfort level with the outdoors? Have they practised at least a little bit of flying in some type of outdoor enclosure such as an aviary or batting cage, if possible? 

Can they handle blinding sunshine as well as cloudy skies? Wind? What level of wind? Rain? What amount of rain? 

Have they seen all the common birds they are likely to encounter once outdoors, such as songbirds, seagulls, crows, geese, and vultures?

Have they heard their calls? 

What about airplanes flying directly overhead? Have they heard the sound of cars and trucks rumbling and honking? 

What other strange sights and sounds might they encounter at the place you intend to fly? 

Are they sufficiently socialised and confident so as to not panic if they see a novel object?

Are they too socialised and willing to land on and go home with anyone?

What's your game plan for when you take the bird outdoors? 

Does the bird have a strong social bond with you, have you implemented food management, or both? Are you just taking the bird out and hoping for the best, or do you have a routine to follow? 

How long will you take the bird out for each session? 

Do you know, based on the type of bird you have, how they will most likely react when spooked?

Choosing a Location

Where will you go to fly? 

Do you need a large open field or something with trees? 

Do you have binoculars to better aid you in tracking them if they fly far? Will you be able to follow after the bird if they fly off, or are you going to be restricted by private property, fences, or other obstacles? 

Are there power lines, busy roads, or other dangerous man-made structures present at that location?

Native Birds 

What birds are native to where you plan to fly--not just of your state or suburb, but of that specific flight location? Have you been there? Did you notice it's very heavy on seagulls, crows, or raptors, which your bird may not be ready for? 

What sorts of birds of prey are native to your area, and are they a concern? What do they hunt? How do they hunt?

Can you visually identify the birds of prey? 

What birds may prove to be allies, whether by issuing alarm calls or chasing off birds of prey directly?

Going Outdoors

What time are you going out? What time does the sun set? How many hours of daylight do you have? 

What if the bird ends up in a tree? Are you prepared to wait hours and try various methods of luring them down for their first difficult descend? Do you know what methods to NOT try, as they may frighten the bird completely out of the area when they are already feeling insecure? Are you prepared to come back before sunrise if they stay out overnight? 

What if the bird flies off? What is your plan, then? Are you, once again, prepared to wait the rest of the day for the bird to come back AND to return before sunrise the next morning if they don't? Are you prepared to recruit people to help you search, call, and wait at the rally point? 

What is the weather forecast like for the next several days, should something go wrong? What will the temperature be during that time? What temperature range is your bird acclimated to?

What are the predicted wind speeds? What wind speed are you comfortable flying a beginner bird in? 

Will your bird be exposed to weather conditions they are not yet comfortable with? Will your bird not want to or not be able to leave a tree due to the weather? 

Will they have trouble finding their way back due to the weather should they be out all night? Could they become totally lost or die overnight due to inclement weather conditions? 

Are you ready to make and put up posters in the surrounding areas if the bird is gone longer than a day? Are you ready to post on all necessary platforms? Is your bird banded, microchipped or wearing contact information?

These questions provide a few key considerations, however are not a comprehensive list of all the risks involved in free flight. Free Flight is a lifestyle for both the human and bird. Whilst incredible, it is not the epitome of aviculture and should not be endeavored into lightly. At all stages of free flight through the bird’s life, it is imperative to assess the benefits and risks. This includes each individual day you take the bird out to free fly. Ask yourself, what are the consequences of your actions, be it positive or negative?

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