Friday, January 2, 2009

Who’s your Daddy? Parrot Parents

I think I found my favorite quote for 2009 already. Here it is "Maybe if more people had a duck in their life...we wouldn't be so mad at each other"

I love it! It comes from this great little news piece sent to me from a friend in St Louis. It is about a man and his duck.

One of the reasons this man has such a great relationship with his duck is that this duck is imprinted on humans. This means it was raised by humans instead of another duck. Ducks are precocial meaning they are pretty self sufficient as soon as they hatch. Parrots and many other bird species are altricial. They are quite helpless when young and require a great deal of care as they mature.

Hand fed parrots are those that are typically pulled from the nest at a young age or incubator hatched and fed parrot feeding formula. They imprint on humans and tend to be fairly comfortable around people. I am not a breeder so cant elaborate on all the various ways young parrots are raised. But I can say that a hand raised parrot is usually easier to work with for most parrot owners.

However that is not to say that parent raised birds can’t learn to be comfortable around people. I have been fortunate to work with a number of parent raised birds to train for shows and zoos. They do require a bit more patience and it is extremely important to not rely on coercive methods to get behavior.

But in both situations, hand reared or parent reared what matters most is what happens after weaning. This means positive reinforcement approaches to working with the bird are what is most critical. A seemingly great hand raised bird can learn to present aggressive behavior if heavy handed training strategies are in play. That once sweet baby can become the biting terror due to our own handling mistakes.

That is why learning how to avoid coercion is critical. Coercion is a difficult concept to grasp sometimes. My terminology page has a nice definition of it. Even gently prying a toe off of the perch is coercion. Try to practice letting your bird choose to participate to keep things far from the realm of coercion. The pay off is a great relationship with your parrot, whether he was hand raised, parent raised, wild caught, adopted, re-homed, abused or all of the above!
Copyright 2009 Good Bird Inc


Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

OMG-- I WANT one!! Would it be weird for a falconer to have a trained duck?

Anonymous said...

I've always thought having duck would be terrific. I've always thought a chicken would be fun as well, but the Condo Board where I live would have a cow. I was offered a turkey vulture recently; I think I'd have better luck getting a duck as a resident of the building. The Senior Citizen Residents here would probably take it personally..But they all love my parrots!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have a duck. A chicken would be fun as well. But the Condo Board would have a cow, I was recently offered a turkey vulture but I'm afraid the Senior Citizen residents would take it personally. God they are so sensitive!