Archive for March, 2008

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Cockatiel with Small Ring Toss Prop

March 24, 2008
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Teaching Flighted Recall: First Steps

March 9, 2008

In the last couple of weeks Stewie has had a few flight feathers grow back in. He was clipped when I got him last summer and he’s been to the vet for a follow-up trim because one was growing in really uneven.

But this time around I’ve been wrestling with the decision whether to keep him clipped or try to let him fly. So far he has two full flights on each side and that’s enough to get him pretty mobile. He’s not an expert flier, but he can fly enough to get into trouble 😉

I started recall training with Stewie this weekend and our first session went really well.

First I asked him for regular step ups. I kept increasing the distance a fraction of an inch until he could barely reach me with his beak if he stretched as far as he could. (He had to reach real far, put his beak on me and then lunge to pull the rest of himself onto my
arm.)

When I was just out of reach I brought out the big guns: a Nutriberry – his very favorite treat in the whole world. That got his attention. Using the Nutriberry as a lure, I coaxed him to get up on my arm.

It took a little while of him running up and down his cage trying to figure out how to reach me and then after much hesitation, he hopped over. That got him lots of praise and a whole Nutriberry! He dropped half of it, which I retrieved and used to get him to do it again.

That first 2 hops were the most difficult. After that he just got his regular safflower seeds as a reward. Going from a short hop, to a
short hop with a little wing flapping, to a flight of a couple of feet went very smoothly.

Stewie did all that in just one session. Now need to keep reinforcing it and trying lots of distances, changing the heights, etc.

He’s still not doing it all the time, and today he won’t attempt longer distances even if it’s a distance he’s comfortable flying; but if he got every single trick down cold in just one session, I’d be at my wits end trying find new ways to keep him challenged.

Flighted recall is probably one of the most important tricks to teach a parrot who can fly, so I’m going to try to be more vigilant about training and reinforcement for this one than I’ve been with some of his others.

Related Post: Teaching Parrot to Fly

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Training a Wild-Caught Bird

March 6, 2008

This is a YouTube video I found of a woman working with a cherry headed conure (or possibly a mitred conure) who was originally part of a wild flock in San Francisco. Jasper came down with neurological issues and suffered brain damage and was then taken in by Mickaboo Rescue.

What I love about this video is the level of excitement in the trainer’s voice. This is very effective.

One of the take-aways from Jasper’s story is that even wild-caught birds can be trained via clicker training. So if your once-hand-fed baby turned into a handful – fearful and bitey – don’t despair. There’s hope for your little feathered terror.

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If You Were a Parrot: A Children’s Book

March 4, 2008

If You Were a Parrot

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This fun children’s book, If You Were A Parrot, leads the young reader into a magical world where children can imagine what it’s like to be a parrot. We learn about parrot behavior and the children in the story mimic these behaviors.

Particularly noteworthy is that the book even has a section that encourages would-be parrot owners to think carefully about the work, expense and inconvenience before getting a bird for a pet.

The book includes an craft project where children can make their own beak.

A delightful book suitable for young children who love animals and are interested in learning more about parrots. Get If You Were A Parrot at Amazon.


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Clicker Training Coins in a Piggy Bank

March 4, 2008

I found a cute little toy store in Clarendon with a completely unusable Web interface, but a great brick-and-mortar store. As soon as I walked by the Kinder Haus I knew I had to go in (and my companion knew it was for Stewie, no foolin’ him) and I found lots of great, high-quality (German-made) toys.

Since I’d been looking for a piggy bank, I was very pleased to find a small ceramic bank that was just the right size for Stewie. And Stewie already had “coins” he could use for this prop trick: the little chips from the Connect Four game were the perfect size. (I don’t want him using real coins because they are usually filthy, plus I don’t know if the metals are a problem.)

So the next prop trick we’ll be working on is “coins in the piggy bank.” I’ve introduced the prop to him and so far he’s not very adept at putting the coins in the slot. Mostly he just places them flat on top and then watches them slide off. Silly bugger. But he has gotten it a few times, so I’m optimistic he’ll master it in just a few sessions.