Sunday, December 19, 2010

The First Two Weeks Training a New Parrot

What a difference a few weeks makes. Blu Lu the Blue Throated Macaw from the conservation project the Bird Endowment has now been here about two weeks. In her first week here although quite cooperative I would describe her as hesitant. In other words the environment was so different to her that she was slow to get out and explore.

Because she is a flighted parrot I really wanted her to get those wings flapping and get to know the perches in the house. She quickly learned to fly to a PVC perch that was similar to one she knew from her time at the breeders. But I had to spend some time teaching her to fly to other perches in the house. You can see this process in the video clip.
The training has paid off! Now she is showing the kind of confidence I would expect out of a more seasoned flyer. She knows where her perches are and has figured out how to maneuver through doorways and around corners. So far she has not made too many attempts to fly to places that are not sanctioned for parrots. However when she has, I have returned her to an acceptable perch and reinforced her there with a toy, head scratches or a treat. My goal is to make the perches I want her to use the most reinforcing places in the room. Because Blue Throated Macaws tend to be active and inquisitive parrots (someone once described them to me as the engineers of the parrot world) this means I am going to have to be very attentive to this, especially in these early stages of training. Fortunately I just had a fabulous outdoor aviary finished that I hope will help keep her enriched throughout her lifetime. (More on that in future blogs!)

Besides facilitating flight training right away, I have also been very attentive to Blu Lu’s eating and weight. When a bird transitions to a new home, that dramatic change in environment can also cause a bird to eat a bit less. This is because the bird may not be feeling comfortable and is more focused on paying attention to the new surroundings and circumstances. Blu Lu responded to pine nuts even at the breeder’s house. So I was able to weigh her as soon as we arrived at my home. She easily stepped onto a scale to get a pine nut. I then started positioning her food bowl right next to the scale when she was out in the mornings so she would simply perch there to eat. Her weight fluctuated in the 20 -30 gram range at most. And has leveled out around 600-615 grams. I also paid close attention to the quantity of food she was consuming and types. Because she is a young parrot it is especially important she is eating a healthy, plentiful and varied diet. This can help set the precedent for the rest of her life.

We have also been working on meeting new people, being receptive to touch, harness training and more! I will save those for upcoming blogs.
I am a big fan of the Bird Endowment for many reasons. One being that I trust their funding goes directly to helping Blue Throated Macaws. When you order products from Good Bird Inc you will notice an option to donate to parrot conservation. All the money collected has gone to The Bird Endowment. And it is that time of year to send them a check! If you would like to donate to the Bird Endowment, please consider pressing the optional donation button for parrot conservation when you make your next purchase. Thanks for supporting parrot conservation in the wild and positive reinforcement training for companion parrots!

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright Good Bird Inc 2010


Chris Biro said...

Hello Barbara,
Great video showing you training some indoor flight. I loved how you let everything happen at her pace and rewarded her for every correct response. I hope people will follow your excellent example of training to and from a perch indoors. Good job. I hope you will share more videos of her doing more flying. Chris Biro

Ann Brooks said...

Blu Lu is adorable, Barbara! And blue throats are such a joy to train, you must be having as much fun as her. I like the perches you have attached up high on your walls too, what a great idea! Ann, Phoenix Landing

Clive Jeffrey said...

Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing your very helpful blog and video! As they say a picture paints a thousand words, so a video must be close to a million! I am looking forward to using what you teach with my birds
Clive Jeffrey

Dee said...

this may seem like an off the wall comment, but i notice you have a very nice home, and with perches everywhere, how do u keep up on with the birdy bathroom breaks? my M2 is trained that she only goes on her cage perch (there are special potty mats there)...but having multiple perches around your house...uggghh.. share the secrets please.

Barbara Heidenreich said...

Hi Dee,
Then tend to go where they are perched so I just have inexpensive throw rugs under the perches that match the decor. I have plenty on hand so a set can always be clean. I have more about prepping your home for a flighted parrot in the spring 2010 issue of Good Bird Magazine.
Hope that helps!