Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Parrots and Children

Recently, the baby parrots had their first introduction to children. This was going to be a big new experience. There were four children who were very excited to meet the parrots. There were also three adults (including myself) to make sure the situation was safe for everyone involved.

Because this introduction was also occurring in yet another new environment, the baby parrots were going to have to adjust to two criteria at once. This is usually not an ideal training situation. Usually it is advised to focus on one criterion at a time. To help make the transition easier, the first goal was to have the children sit patiently and quietly on the couches while Beni and Wrigley took a look at the new environment. The kids did great!

Wrigley came out first and was definitely a bit distracted by the super tall ceiling, high paned windows and open space. Our host’s house has a two story living room. Wrigley needed a few moments to look around. But once he relaxed he flew calmly over to the oldest child, Jay and decided his head was perfect for perching. Jay responded in the best way possible. He held still and kept calm. Wrigley stepped from Jay’s head to my hand with ease, and we were all impressed with Jay’s reaction.

Beni came out and quickly relaxed in the new environment. He was ready to fly to his perches and to me right away. Both birds were receptive to treats, and the children asked if they might hold a parrot. Because both birds appeared relaxed we thought we would give it a try. After some instructions for the children, Wrigley stepped onto their arms. Beni tried to fly to one child’s outstretched arm. But we decided a macaw might be a bit too heavy for these youngsters. Instead Beni found his way to my friend Rebecca’s arm a few times.

After a while the birds began a few more exploratory flights. Wrigley even ended up on the ceiling fan, but flew down within just a few minutes. This was an important experience for him. In the future he may be in other rooms with high places to perch. I wanted to be sure he had some opportunity to recall from much higher perches than those he had experienced in the past.

As time passed 3 of the 4 children ventured onto to other activities. Beni and Wrigley were also starting to lose interest in the session. John stayed focused on the birds. The big grin on his face made us think “future bird trainer!”

Lessons I learned from the experience are that we need to explore some more diverse environments. I have some ideas for the next venues to address that.

I also think I will have one parrot out at a time if my attention will be directed elsewhere. When working with the children and Wrigley, Beni wanted to fly to me. Normally I step aside when he flies before he is cued and he will land on a perch. I then cue him to fly to me so he can learn a cue is required for permission to launch to me. However because I was focused on an important task with another parrot and child, I had set it up so that Beni could easily land on my head or shoulder. This is a behavior I would prefer he not do. But I had not set either of us up for success in that particular moment. However as mentioned, that can be easily addressed in the future by making sure I will be able to give him my full attention next time.

Another piece learned from this excursion is it's time to start training some specific behaviors, flight patterns and/or routines for these guys. This will help give them direction and focus when they are in front of a group of people. Time to brainstorm!

*Special thanks to Rebecca for the pictures and to Jenny and all the young bird trainers!

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright Good Bird Inc 2009


Anonymous said...

I think that's terrific! I do grade school classes often and the kids are so open to learning about birds. I also leave homework projects for the teachers to give the kids later. Great story Barbara!

Ellen said...

That sounds so great. I would love to know the hints you gave the kids to help them meet the parrots. I have an 11 year old Jardine's, a husband, and a 7 and 10 year old.

Barbara Heidenreich said...

Hi Ellen,

Mostly the kids were asked to sit still at first while the birds got used to them. For stepping onto them I tell them to hold their arm super steady like they were a tree. I do support their arm at first and if they are doing well, I let go and let them hold. I am always ready to ask the bird to step up onto me if needed.

Unknown said...

I love it Barbara, you do great things to encourage people to learn and be curious. What fun!

pet meds said...
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moro said...

i love too..Awesome and very useful