Mika is Flying! (Teaching a Parrot to Fly)

May 31, 2010

Mika showed me this weekend that she REALLY likes Sun Chips: she saw me eating some and flew to my arm to get closer. This is a big deal because Mika doesn’t really fly. Or to be more accurate, Mika doesn’t know how to land. She flies very rarely and when she does it’s usually as a result of a startle reflex. The only place she’s been somewhat comfortable landing is on top of her cage, where her landing doesn’t need to be particularly precise.

So this weekend she landed on my ARM! And then the next day she flew to the back of the couch, where I was hanging out, three times. This is tremendous progress.

Since I’ve been wanting my pionus to learn to fly better — to feel comfortable making the choice to fly, learning how to steer and make decisions confidently mid-air, and (importantly) to learn to land with precision — I used her motivation to get a bit of Sun Chip to entice her into some flying exercises.

There really hadn’t been anything she’s shown nearly as much interest in as a bite of Sun Chip, so even though it’s junk food and not something I’d let her have regularly, I knew this could be the key to unlocking her confidence about flying.

I moved the playstand a couple of feet away from her cage and put a small bit of Sun Chip on one of the branches. It didn’t take long at all. She fidgeted around on her perch doing her “pick me up” dance and then … she flew over to the stand. It was a perfect landing!

She enjoyed her prize and then I broke off another small corner and put it on her cage. Mika thought about it for a few seconds and then flew back to her cage.

We repeated this (flying back and forth between the stand and her a cage) a few times. Although they weren’t all perfect landings, you wouldn’t really notice unless you were looking closely. Mika is starting to look like she kind of knows what she’s doing!

Here’s an eight-second clip of one of her flights. (Sorry for the camera-phone quality)

I’m so proud of her!

Now that I know how to REALLY motivate her, I think indoor flight/recall training might actually work pretty well with her. I’m also excited about the opportunity to get her to exercise a bit more.

Please share your own stories about how you taught a bird to fly.



  1. Well done, Mika! I think if Mom and Dad were properly motivated, I might even learn to fly a bit but since I’ve never done it would take a LOT of work and a LOT of almonds and donuts! Good job, Mika. You do Pionus proud!

  2. What great progress! I love it when it clicks and birds understand flying! Here’s hoping for more volition in taking off.

    Of my 5, 3 are very good/excellent flyers, one flies only if I toss him towards the cage/stand (or assisted — “flying” while still perched on my hand), and one only flies down — so he can get to the floor and walk where he wants to go — and only when he doesn’t see an easy way to climb down. Still working on volition with the latter two!

  3. It’s always a great feeling when they finally “get it”. I had a similar experience getting Paco, my Senegal parrot, to fly to my hand. In our case, it was a sunflower seed sitting in my palm that did the trick.

  4. Wow that’s awesome! i’m so happy for Mika and you! Nice job keep up the good work Mika!

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