Friday, December 18, 2009

Transitioning Baby Parrots to a New Home

All that training paid off! The baby parrots have transitioned to their new home at the Kaytee Learning Center. I mentioned in a previous blog, that one of the best things we can do for a young parrot is train him. Young parrots are sponges. During this critical time of development they are often quite receptive to new things and new experiences. Instead of waiting until a behavior is needed or when a problem develops, I highly encourage people to build a foundation of behaviors early in a young parrot’s life. Just like taking our pups to obedience classes, we can offer the same type of early instruction to set our young parrots up for success.

Beni the blue throated macaw and Wrigley the double yellow headed Amazon parrot are evidence of how well this works. Traveling with them was stress free thanks to advance training. And their first day at the center was remarkably easy. As soon as we arrived at Kaytee we brought the parrots to a meeting room and let them out. They were completely unaffected by the new environment and eagerly interacted with John and Michelle their new caretakers. They didn’t even need time to adjust to the new space. The first few clips in the video are from that first session.

As the week progressed we tried flying them with new people and in new environments. Our biggest fear was some large windows in the main room of the Learning Center. The windows had decals on them that birds can see, but are clear to humans. If the parrots got flying fast, we worried would they see them? Both Beni and Wrigley had experience with windows and mirrors at my house. Smearing bar soap on these surfaces can help parrots learn to avoid these hazards. This is an “old zookeeper’s secret.” There are many zoo bird houses that feature glass barriers. To help birds acclimate to them bird keepers smear soap on them. Over time they gradually wipe the soap off until it is all gone.

Our hope was that the decals would offer the same function, but could stay on the windows forever. The good news is that they did. During one session Beni headed towards a glass door and in mid air did a 180 and headed a different direction. In another session he circled the room and got going pretty fast, each time he headed towards the windows he banked and kept going. After that we felt pretty confident, the windows would not be an issue.

Throughout the week Beni and Wrigley interacted with a number of different people and in several new environments. They did really well. In fact on the last day they participated in another school program. This one was for high school students. Wrigley stepped up on each student and Beni flew to a dowel rod each student was allowed to hold. Beni also did his flighted retrieve and Wrigley flew over the students as they sat on the floor. The teacher for the class was kind enough to share his photos of the event. You can see them at the end of the video clip.

I wrote a blog a while back about “Preventing the One Person Parrot.” Because Beni loves attention and had been receiving it primarily from me for the past three months, I was a bit of a distraction during training sessions. Beni would often seek me out and fly to me. However because the goal was for him to interact with others, I was careful to avoid giving him attention or treats for flying to me unless I cued him. Instead everyone else would now be the ones to deliver treats and attention. It also meant I did not get as much footage of his training sessions. I had to hide to help improve his success with others. It did help and I am happy to hear he continues to be working really well for everyone at the Kaytee Learning Center.

The week flew by and before I knew it was time to say goodbye. They are in good hands and as you can see from the video are already well loved by the staff. I heard the baby parrots recently made their debut at a company meeting and performed perfectly. They will be great ambassadors for their species and will help a lot of people learn about responsible parrot care. I am honored to have had them in my life and will look forward to visiting them in the future. I hope their story has helped you with the parrots in your home.

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright Good Bird Inc 2009

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