Archive for September, 2007

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Fast Progress with Clicker Training

September 29, 2007

I can’t believe how quickly Stewie has caught on in our training sessions. Clicker Training for Birds is based on operant conditioning principles – basically: teach the bird that a particular action will result in a treat. Even before I started with the formal clicker training, Stewie already grasped the concept of doing something for a reward. Very early on I rewarded him for making quiet noises instead of screaming. But that’s hard to perfect since there will always be times he wants to scream, and often he makes his cute little conure noises as a way to “beg” for attention, which isn’t something I want to reinforce.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I started to give him a seed when he gave me a kiss. No clicker, just a “good boy” and a treat. Getting the animal to understand what it is you want the first couple of times can be challenging, but in the case of “gimme kiss”, I just stuck my face in front of him and it was his instinct to beak me. I had him giving me kisses that very same day! We’re still working on him only doing it on command though. He has a tendency to reach for my face whenever I’m close. 🙂

Then I joined the Bird Click group on Yahoo Groups. There I learned that you should teach prop tricks first in order to avoid begging behavior. And the very first trick that almost everything else is based on is called “targeting.” With targeting, you get the bird to beak a target (usually a small stick). Then you click and treat.

I asked a dog trainer acquaintance if she had any extra clickers around, which she did, so I was ready to start.

At first Stewie didn’t think too much of the chopstick I was sticking in his face. After a couple of mornings with him walking away from the chopstick I came up with the unoriginal idea of putting food at the end of it. So I stuck a piece of banana on the chopstick, and when he reached for it, I clicked and then let him have the piece of banana and a seed. Within that same session he began to understand that touching the end of the chopstick would result in a treat. I’m not entirely sure that he gets what the clicking is for, but it’ll come in handy later with the more complicated tricks.

After only 3 sessions I already have him climbing all over his cage in order to reach the chopstick, so there’s no doubt in my mind that he understands what’s going on. And we both have fun doing it!

I really feel like the training is helping to improve our relationship. He seems a lot more interested now in being where I am and interacting with me. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but I don’t think so. And even though I can’t get him to do it on command, he’ll step up on my arm now, which he never liked doing before. So now this bird who just a couple of weeks ago didn’t even seem to like me much, is hanging out on my shoulder, giving me kisses and walking across his cage to touch a chopstick for me. Amazing!

Since he picked up targeting so quickly, I’m going to have to figure out what to work on next so he doesn’t get bored. According to the Bird Click group, “retrieve” is the next logical step, but since I’m supposed to use his favorite toy and he doesn’t have one (not one that he can easily pick up anyway), I need to go toy shopping first.

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When the birdsitter came over…

September 24, 2007

I went out of town for the weekend and asked my friend Lisa to come over and keep Stewie company for a while, so he wouldn’t be too lonely. She said she read the paper to him and he behaved very well. He even made his trilling/purring happy sounds when he was digging into his apple slices – so it seemed he didn’t miss me too much.

Here’s the video she took on her Moto RAZR from Sprint:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf86HsuZA3I (Sorry, the resolution isn’t great. Really only meant to be seen on the phone, IMO)

And here is a photo she took on her RAZR:

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Quiz: What Kind of Bird Are You?

September 17, 2007

Someone posted this link to a quiz on one of the boards, and I thought it was cute: http://www.youthink.com/quiz.asp?action=take&quiz_id=868

I think I’ll try taking it again until I can figure out how to be a sun conure. I don’t want to be less glamorous and misunderstood. I’d like to be gorgeous and adored, and still be plenty S-M-R-T.

What kind of Parrot are you?Parakeet

You are misunderstood because you are less glamorous, though you are quite smart

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.
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Stewie’s First Real “Step Up”

September 17, 2007

A major breakthrough! Earlier over the weekend, Stewie was leaning towards me as I sat in front of my computer, super interested in what I was doing. So I scooted closer, offered him my arm and said “step up?” And the answer was “yes”! Okay, so he didn’t actually say anything, he just stepped onto my arm. But I was floored! That’s really great progress.

I put him on the back of my computer chair and let him check things out from there. Then he spotted some birds outside and proceeded to scream straight into my ear!

The rest of the weekend, he only stepped up one more time – the other times preferring to bite me when offered my arm, but he did enjoy sitting on the back of the chair quite a bit … I would just roll the chair over to his cage and he’d climb on. I’ll have to take some pictures of that soon.

I also signed up for the Bird Clicker Training list on Yahoo Groups. Based on all the really cool info I learned there, I’ve decided to start Stewie on clicker training soon. It’s not just all about cool tricks – a training program can help build trust and a stronger relationship. Plus it exercises the bird’s mind, keeps him engaged, so he (hopefully) won’t get bored. I think we’re starting to reach that point in our time together that he’s comfortable enough and trusts me sufficiently to allow for some basic target training.

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Conure Toys: Vote for Your Favorite

September 12, 2007

Vote for your favorite Conure Toy on this widget I created.

Toys I (or Stewie) recommend for your conure (or other medium-sized bird) are:

  1. Wooden Ladder
  2. Mazey Munch (Treat Labyrinth)
  3. Rope Swing
  4. Snuggle Hut (a.k.a. Happy Hut)
  5. Bird-Safe Bell on a Chain
  6. Shredder Toy (such as a birdie pinata)

Stewie has been learning to play with toys a lot more, although he seems most interested in perches and food… toys that incorporate foraging for food are probably his favorite “toys” and the only ones I see him interacting with regularly. But who knows, maybe one day he’ll be ready for those birdie rollerskates! Ha!

This list comprises my top five favorite parrot toys. What are yours? Any that should be on the list that I missed?

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The Quaker Song: I’m a Little Quaker Green and Stout

September 11, 2007

Tooooo cute!!!

This is a little quaker parrot singing something called The Quaker Song. I particularly love the part when he says “yay!” after finishing the song.

Lyrics to the I’m a Little Quaker song:

Sing a song? Ready?
I’m a little Quaker, green and stout
open up the cage and let me out
better pick me up or else I’ll squawk
rub my tummy and then I’ll talk

Yay!! Ha ha ha!

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Stumble It!

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Stewie Wants to Join Me in the Shower

September 8, 2007

Stewie did something he’s never done before: he flew to(wards) me while we were in the bathroom together. He was hanging out on his shower perch and I was taking a shower. When I was done and toweling off he flew toward me, but given that his wings are clipped and he’s not too coordinated, and the fact that I wasn’t prepared to catch him, he landed in the bottom of the tub. Now, my bathtub isn’t draining properly and he landed in about an inch of water. He was more surprised by it than I was, I think.

After he hopped around a little bit in the water, I managed to fish him out. After determining that he was in fact alright, I put him back on his shower perch and gave him a good misting so that he could get thoroughly soaked from head to tail (not just his belly).

Here’s the shower perch I have (the toy hanging at the end of the perch is different, but you can hang your parrot’s favorite toy on the end as well) and a photo of Stewie using that perch (attached to the bathroom mirror). Click on the photo on the left to see it in use by an African Grey:

Stewie in the Mirror