Why Do We Think Our Birds are So Dumb?

I don’t think anyone will dispute the fact that birds are unpredictable.

 

I listen to the clipped wings camp and one of the things I hear repeatedly is “I keep my birds wings clipped so it doesn’t fly into a wall” Something caged bird keepers who clip their bird’s wings predict with absolute certainty.

 

 

Let me get this straight. You have an animal that can see things outside the range of human vision (light in the ultraviolet spectrum) but you don’t believe your bird can see an 8 or 10 foot tall plaster monolith with artwork hanging on it and have the flight agility to avoid said wall?

 

 

“My bird will hate that carrier, it’s too big and he’ll be scared”

 

How do you know this? Again a prediction with absolute certainty. You certainly won’t let your child select its car seat, but you’ll let your bird select its carrier (as the author scratches his head).

 

One more:

 

“My bird will never figure out that complicated interactive toy”.

 

Could it be because your bird spends eight hours a day in a cage looking at a wall with nothing to challenge its mind like an old person withering away in a nursing home?

 

So let me turn the tables – Can you tell me with accuracy the next time your bird will bite you? A lot of people here will say well “I watch for their eyes to pin”. Sunshine our Ringneck would get pinned eyes and squeal with delight as he received every serving of scrambled eggs. I never bought into that pinned eye “predicts” a bite theory. Pinned eyes predict excitement in both good and bad ways.

 

You tell me why your bird is acting “weird”. Could it be because of the new piece of furniture in the family room next to the birdcage?

 

I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s due diligence in caged bird keeping husbandry, but how many of us have acquired our bird keeping skills from bird forums and Facebook groups on the Internet? Do you think you are improving your birds chances to succeed over a long-term relationship or are you setting up the both of you for failure because all the books written about birds are so outdated which means you’re relying on nothing but anecdotal information?

 

I don’t say that lightly. Let’s face the facts, we all know birds can have remarkably long lives. I know a veterinarian who did an exam on a parakeet that was 26 years old – documented with the original Woolworth’s sales receipt from her 81-year-old human companion.

 

Bigger birds can live 30 – 40 – 50 years. Big Macaws and Cockatoos have been known to live into their 80s. We all know that (except for that parakeet story which was a remarkable discovery)

 

Sorry about not warning you, but I’m giving you some homework. Let’s all go back to our bird forums and Facebook groups and ask the question “How many here have birds that have been passed down for generations? How many people have grown up with birds that belonged to their parents or grandparents?

 

You will get a handful of people that have taken over bird stewardship stewardship, but for the most part caged birds that are not being killed by their human companions are usually being rehomed repeatedly because the reality of caged bird keeping never comes close to the expectations of cage bird keeping.

 

The second part of the homework assignment (I know many of you have already done this) is to reevaluate your relationship with the animal. Are the problems that you’re having with your bird (screaming, biting, aggression, fussy eating) the lack of understanding of how complex a pet you’re really trying to maintain (“Oh, he always bites me when strangers come over and I don’t know how to fix that” – a topic for a future blog post).

 

Are you taking into account if your bird is clipped that he still needs to exercise to compensate for the lack of calorie burning his body biologically anticipates? Are you helping build a strong healthy mind for such an inquisitive animal?

 

We have said repeatedly over the years that a parrot is basically a three-year-old autistic child in a feather suit who speaks another language. Imagine locking a child in a cage eight hours a day with three toys, what do you think the behavioral outcome would be after months or years?

 

So let’s give credit to these feathered creatures that can talk, think, solve problems, see light that is invisible to us and defy gravity, before we simply write off the creature with “my bird can or cannot do that.” Let’s think it through. We want the relationship with your birds to succeed as much as you do.

 

 

written by mitch rezman

approved by catherine tobsing

How Your Bird Benefits from Clicker Training 5 Minutes a Day

Find Bird Clicker Training Kits HereClicker training is a great way to teach your bird positive behavior. Clicker training is especially useful with problem birds and parrots because it can help in making positive changes with you birds.

Clicker training helps make your bird do something willingly. Clicker training has been used on dogs many zoo animals. Dolphins use something similar to clicker training except they use whistles instead of clickers which are heard better underwater.

The clicker actually acts as a “bridge” which is any sound that let’s your bird know they have done what they been asked and will get a treat for doing this. The noise that clickers make are consistent in the preferred over verbal bridges (i.e. “good bird”)

You’ll be using the target stick but the bird will not be allowed to chew on it. Along with the target stick you need a favorite food that they really really love. Something that you use just for training. To determine the food place several morsels of different treats before the bird and see which one to go to first. You should do this a couple times so you can narrow it down and then from that point forward only use the special food for training sessions.

The favored treat should be small and something the bird can consume in a single bite. Seeds should not have hulls so you’re not wasting time while the birds chews through the shell of the seed to get to the next portion of training. If you bird’s aggressive or a biter initially you have to offer the treats on a spoon. You don’t want the bird bite you because that will work against you during a training session.

Video – Building Trust with Your Bird
Make your training sessions brief, 2 to 5 min. unless you’re bird’s really have a lot of fun and always end it on a positive note. The first thing your bird is learning is something called “targeting” “Targeting” is when you place the target stick from a bird and then move it closer to their face very slowly. If he or she moves towards it and it comes in contact with it or bites it, click the clicker and give them a treat.

If you bird’s afraid of the stick the person you want to do is click the clicker for any movement towards the stick. If that doesn’t work shorten the stick by pushing it up your sleeve or behind your arm showing only the tip of the stick. As your bird approaches your hand “click” and then lengthen the amount of stick showing you up.

Once you get your bird to react positively to the stick you need to step things up and ask for more specialized behavior before the click or the treat. If you bird’s trying to bite the stick you have to begin clicking offering the treat when he touches the stick but don’t allow him to bite the stick.

If your bird is on the tentative side keep the sessions shorter and offer slightly bigger treat with each click. Once you make it through the targeting phase is time to actually get into some actual training.

So now what you want to do is get the bird to touch objects after you touch them with the stick. This can be a bird toy placed on the table. Touch the toy with the training stick and hold the stick on the toy. The bird we usually go for the stick. What you want to reward the bird for his touching the end of the target stick and the toy at the same time – “click” “treat”.

The next step is to touch the target and pull the stick away before he touches it. Initially your bird will probably go for the stick and if he does touch the object again and pull it back ever so slightly so your bird touches the toy not the target stick. Do this until he learns that what you touch with the stick is what you want your bird to actually touch.

Once you get through this fundamental training you can then move on to the fun stuff like teaching your bird to do tricks like ringing bells pushing a toy that wheels and perhaps even playing basketball.

Surprisingly a lot of bad behavior seems to go away when clicker training starts. You can also use the clicker to reward positive behavior. So you can use this for both screaming and biting – just make sure you don’t interact physically with a bird that bites until the biting stops.

You can do this by working with your bird while it’s in the cage through the cage bars. You’ll have to find your own rhythm with training given the time off here and there so little get bored. Sometimes taking the t time off will make it interesting again

Find Bird Clicker Training Kits Here

 

We’d love to hear what you think about working birds. Share your thoughts on our Facebook Fan page – here

Mitch Rezman
VP
Windy City Parrot, Inc

Improve the Relationship with Your Bird in a Snap

Find Bird Clicker Training Kits Here

 

I recently saw an ad on the Internet for bird training treats. What was interesting to me was in recommending a bird treats similar to NutriBerries. Don’t get me wrong we love NutriBerries and think it’s a great treat, just not for training.

 

Before I get ahead of myself when I speak of training when it comes to birds (horses and dogs do well with this) I talk about clicker training. We been saying for years that a anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes a day spent with your bird in a clicker training session will help to find a very positive relationship between you and said bird.

 

Clickers can actually help make an aggressive bird more cooperative. Think about it, birds are all about communication and clicker training is all about one-on-one communication. Just you and your bird.

 

A man shows parrots trained to tourists in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Clicker training is just that. It uses a small plastic device that clicks when you depress it. A clicker itself isn’t necessary, a tongue noise or snap of the fingers can be just as effective.

 

Clicker training works because it’s asking your bird to cooperate which will make him or her feel better when making their own choices rather than forcing them fit into your lifestyle. It’s like playing a game with a child and what child doesn’t like game playing?

 

Clicker training helps bridge the gap between you not understanding bird speaking your bird not understanding human speak and anyone even without experience can be successful at it. Clicker training will be a little less successful if bird does not have the proper diet, sleep cycle or a proper caged environment.

 

Clicker training can work with birds who are flighted or whose wings are clipped. When working with the young bird it’s best to wait until they are off hand feeding. If you acquire an adult bird is really no reason to wait for the bird to adjust. The sooner you start the better you’ll both be. To that point the age of the birds should not matter as long as the birds healthy

 

Clicker training can be used for everything from tricks to modifying screaming and biting behavior. If you have more than one bird, try working with one bird at a time allowing the other one to watch.

 

Because birds are so smart with very refined memories skipping a day or two or taking the weekends off isn’t a bad thing. Your bird should pick it up on the next session. By all means don’t force it. If you’re a bad mood your bird knows it and can see from your facial expressions or sensitive in the tone of your voice. Training session should be fun for the two of you

 

My goal here is not to teach you the art/science of clicker training but to help you help yourself by spending less time than you would to drink a cup of coffee in order to gain a listing positive relationship with your bird.

 

This is been a brief overview and I don’t want to steal the thunder of Melinda Johnson the author of a great easy-to-read book “Getting Started Clicker Training for Birds” found here. It comes complete with 150 page book, a clicker, a target stick some sample treats and a bonus CD offer 19 bucks.

 

If your are not sure about making that investment you can use a pencil or chopstick. You can use your tongue to click snap your fingers or just get the clicker itself – your bird won’t know the difference.

 

Here’s a great video done by a veterinarian breaking down the process and showing how an aggressive Senegal parrot stopped biting in two days.

 

 

 

Getting back to the treat thing, Melinda Johnson talks about it in chapter 6 of this clicker training book, keeping the treat small. NutriBerries – are small but the composed of a bunch of seeds which take too long for bird to break down with it’s beak.

 

A single piece of mango is tasty and the bird can finish it rapidly. If you are starting with an aggressive bird, a biter who will always go for your fingers, try placing the single treat (which could also be something like piece of papaya or coconut) in a stainless steel dish, reducing your finger exposure.

 

Millet has the attraction to birds the same way McDonald’s French fries has the attraction to humans. You can use a scissors to cut a very small portion from Millet sprig. (or use Millet bits from Higgins) You can place that small portion into the stainless steel dish, or you can use the 10 inch Millet spray (like in the video) using the length of the sprig to keep your hand distanced from a razor-sharp parrot’s beak

 

Regardless of the treats were tools that you use, clicker training is a no lose proposition for you and your bird.

 

Find Bird Clicker Training Kits Here

 

written by mitch rezman

approved by catherine tobsing

Wing Clipping is a Range of Options – Not Just a Choice

We talked about wing clipping adversely affecting your birds feet and that clipping your birds wings may cause your bird to scream more

One of my favorite things to do is “muddy the waters” will. Wing clipping is not simply a two-dimensional subject. It’s not just about should I clip my birds wings or not. Greg Glendell One of Europe’s foremost parrot behaviorists talks about the “quality of wing clipping” here

There is a broad spectrum of wing clipping. Severe clips, mild clips, bad clips – try pulling some parts off aircraft wing before the plane takes off – see how it goes for you. 

Read moreWing Clipping is a Range of Options – Not Just a Choice

Is Wing Clipping a Screaming Trigger?

Okay all you cage bird keepers whose birds have clipped wings, I can see all of you rolling your eyes from here. “What’s he up to now Virginia? How in the world can wing clipping and screaming be related?”

 

 

Today I have science on my side – and who can argue with science? From the blog “the Scorpion in the Frog… It’s in our nature” by Miss Behavior who’s real name is Sarah Jane Alger and she is a biologist

 

As a recent mother of twin girls she found herself being accused of “nagging” due to the additional pressures motherhood had placed upon her. As a biologist she knew that other species in the bird world vocalized in the form of “begging signals”

 

So some Spanish scientists trekked out to forest in central Spain found 71 pied flycatcher nests and started observing them using flycatcher cams. They split a group of flycatchers all of whom had recently laid eggs, into two groups, clipping one group’s wings making them flightless. The other group of flycatchers got a trim job just to keep them going from not too far.

 

Pied flycatcher on nestling box perch

 

Guess what? The birds that couldn’t fly at all (because of the total lack of independence) became far more vocal and subsequently received more attention from the males who normally were concerned with doing their “guy bird” routines (forging for one, flirting with other flycatchers – you get the picture). We now know that at least with the species (pied flycatchers) their “nagging” is based on their need to keep the families as well as themselves, safe.

 

Circling back to my original question. What if…… because your bird knows it wings are clipped, it does feel needier than a bird who knows they can fly at any given time. And what if that neediness can only be communicated by the bird, through screaming (communicating). Just sayin’

 

written by mitch rezman

approved by catherine tobsing

 

Some Realities of a Keeping a Flighted Bird in Your Home

Festical amazon parrot landing on white background

Mitch,

Are you saying you don’t keep your birds in a cage? Ever? Like they just roam around the house all day? How do you keep from stepping on them, what about electrical cords that might look like a toy to them while your not observing? What about things like china plates on a hutch they could fly into and hurt themselves? I would love to let them lose but how would I keep an eye on them say if their upstairs and I’m down? They get into EVERYTHING! 

Parrots are unique to other pets, it is really hard to make your house safe. I have thrown out my nonstick. Don’t self clean my oven. Put auto closing lids on the toilets, don’t use air fresheners etc…but making my house completely safe for them to roam unattended would probably take a crew of people to completely redesign the entire interior. Not that I haven’t thought of it, but even then I don’t think I could let one minute go by wondering what they were up to…why they were so quiet, and go check on them.

Read moreSome Realities of a Keeping a Flighted Bird in Your Home

How to Bathe a Bird 9 Ways to Sunday

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “if I had a nickel or dime for every time someone said something/something, I’d be rich.”

My phrase is “if I had a (name your denomination) every time someone called or emailed saying “I can’t get my bird to bathe,” well, here’s what the bowl on my desk looks like.
 

I’ve blogged about it, posted to Facebook, Pinned it and Tweeted about it but it seems to be a recurring theme. So rather than continue talking about it please take a look at nine videos on this Sunday morning. Don’t listen to me I’m not an expert, I keep telling you that but these birds are – expert bathers

 

 

 
 
 
Shop All Bird Bedding accessories at Windy City Parrot
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Shop All Bird Bedding accessories at Windy City Parrot

 
 

 

Shop All Bird Bedding accessories at Windy City Parrot

 
 
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