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help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Want to teach your bird talk? Learn about and discuss methods for training birds to vocalize and mimic different sounds on cue.

help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Esskay93 » Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:51 am

Hi all,

So harry my eclectus parrot (3 years old) loves making other bird sounds. Here in Australia he gets to listen to a lot of the beautiful species we have living outside our house. He has some really sweet magpie impersonations as well as other birds he hears outside. Unfortunately one of these birds is a family of crows that live in my area. Harry has picked up on their cawing and has his own loud, high pitch, repetitive imitation of it. He's rather good at sounding like a crow, it but it's just terrible and is high pitch and painful to hear, especially as he's now incorporated it as 70% of what I call his "bird call" routine (his favorite sounds to sing, which he repeats throughout the day). He gets very happy making this sound along with his magpie, lorikeet and red wattlebird sounds (and the occasional failed kookaburra attempt) but unfortunately it's so very difficult to live with.

His buddy Oscar (also an eclectus) also hates the crow sound and gets rather quiet and upset when Harry's going on. Oscar is quite the chatterbox and talks to me most of the day (speaks really well actually!) but shuts up and goes as far away from Harry as he can during Harry's crow impersonation. Sometimes he interjects with an adorable soft whistle to try to shut him up! So I don't think Oscar is a fan either unfortunately

So I was just wondering if anyone knows any good ways to help discourage this sound? Harry is clicker trained and does get clicked and rewarded when he says nice things like "hello" or his adorable magpie chirp. Unfortunately he keeps on with the crows as I figure it's probably quite self reinforcing. I'm not at all interested in any positive punishment methods which people keep suggesting. Someone on another forum has suggested having a remote controlled bright light in front on the cage which you flash and use to pretty much blind him every time he makes the crow sound. I've also had someone suggest flicking his beak each time, which I don't like the sound of at all. I'd rather use positive reinforcement!

I'd love and appreciate any suggestions :)
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Wolf » Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:46 am

There is no such animal as positive punishment as punishment by its very nature is a negative reaction to something that is not wanted. Flicking a birds beak is abuse and only leads to unwanted behaviors later on. Bright lights can be quite painful and could lead to eye problems as well as possible behavioral problems as well.

Un fortunately I don't know of any surefire remedies other than not reacting to this and waiting it out. I have tried answering with a desired phrase or a more desired whistle but, must admit that the results are favorable only part of the time.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby marie83 » Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:38 pm

Your right don't bother with the beak flicking/light flashing. I would just work on encouraging the sounds you do like/can tolerate more and completely blanking the crow sounds. Not guaranteed to work but I think it's the most likely thing.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Esskay93 » Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:25 pm

Hi, just to clarify, positive punishment refers to the ADDITION of a PUNISHMENT (eg beak flicking) as oppose to negative punishment which regards to the SUBTRACTION of a REINFORCER (eg removing a child's tv right) I stay way clear of any form of punishment training! My methods are positive reinforcement, ADDING a good reinforcer eg treats praise. I am not interested in punishment training! That's why I came to this forum because I know the horrible effects of punishment training (I'm a dog trainer) firsthand and it is not the way to go. Just wanted to clear that up coz it sounded like there was some confusion.
For now I think I'll follow your suggestions and reinforcement the good behaviour and ignore the sounds I don't like, and hope that helps the problems haha.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Wolf » Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:41 pm

No there is no confusion at all, as a former horse trainer, I am well aware of the term. Just because someone labels something as such, it does not make it so. Punishment in all of its forms and under all of it names does only one thing and that is to create fear. You can never trust anyone or anything that fears you. If your training methods are through positive reinforcement than the addition of punishment negates what you may have accomplished. I stand by my original assessment of this practice.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Michael » Fri Apr 18, 2014 11:24 pm

Wolf wrote:Punishment in all of its forms and under all of it names does only one thing and that is to create fear.


Not quite. In psychology/training terminology punishment means nothing more than reduction of behavior. Theoretically there can be punishment without increase in fear. Well for starters most negative punishment needs not to drive fear. Furterhmore positive punishment can be along the lines of nuisance rather than outright terrifying or harmful and not drive fear.

Beak flicking or bright lights are not necessarily punishment either. In psych terms the concepts of reinforcement and punishment can only be established through results. My parrots actually enjoy when I tap on their beaks and encourage it in play. Flickering lights could be fun for the parrot if not excessive and it might decide to make even more noise to play "clapper."

When it comes to eliminating undesirable vocalizations, there is only one tool: extinction. If you ignore it and don't let it get to you, usually the bird gets bored and moves onto something else. Rinforcing desired vocalizations helps put more of the intentional and attention seeking noise into the desirable sound category.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Wolf » Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:34 am

You know Michael, I have two 90 lb. dogs that are just entering adulthood and we play. They love to play hard ,so it get pretty wild and they are big enough that I don't hold back. When the two of them are play attacking me in unison I have hit and kicked them as hard as I can. It doesn't hurt them, it doesn't phase them, they want more. But if I express displeasure either vocally or by body language, they act as if I just tore their guts out. So I can relate to you statement about beak flicking and so forth. I also doubt that you can do these to the degree as to modify behavior without creating enough fear to damage trust. Fear is fear but does not always exist as terrifying, it also has milder forms and some types of fear can be beneficial, such as preventing you from acting in such a manner as to lose ones life.

Last that I knew punishment was behavior modification accomplished by the denial of a desired/ pleasurable thing, or by the addition of painful stimuli, or through the induction of the fear response. Perhaps, like many things that I am familiar with, I too, am outdated. When I actively studied psychology and when I was taught how to teach animals there was no such thing as positive or negative punishment, there was only punishment or reward. I think that time will show that attempting to introduce punishment into a teaching situation such as training has already proven itself to be Seriously lacking, just look around you or read the headlines. So I am quite certain that it will do so again, in the fields of animal training/ teaching. I still must stand on my original statement.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Michael » Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:28 am

Sorry I didn't get back to you on this. I started writing a response before that got lost and haven't been able to answer since. Let me point out that I refer to the Skinner definitions of reinforcement, punishment, positive, and negative. Under this definition it is not implied that "punishment was behavior modification accomplished by the denial of a desired/ pleasurable thing, or by the addition of painful stimuli, or through the induction of the fear response."

In operant conditioning theory, these concepts are measured by results and not by predictions. If you hit an animal and it increases behavior, that isn't punishment. That is positive reinforcement. Hard to come up with examples of this but they do exist (masochism for example). Likewise if giving a treat makes the animal less likely to exhibit behavior, that would be positive punishment. If stop giving treats would increase behavior, that would be negative reinforcement. If stopping hitting an animal decreases unwanted behavior, that would be negative punishment. Your head must be going in circles but simply put punishment isn't measured as doing something bad but as reduction in behavior. Reinforcement will result in increase. Negative of either form is to take something away to achieve reinforcement or punishment. Positive is to give something to increase reinforcement or punishment.

Thus, we must focus more on results and outcomes to gauge if what we are doing is punishment or reinforcement. If a parrot enjoys getting sprayed from a bottle and increases behavior asking for it, that is reinforcement. If it hates it and avoids doing things that get it sprayed, that's punishment. In both cases it is positive. You see it's not all just treats and hurt. There's a lot of in between stuff that you cannot assess without seeing the results. If your dogs enjoy wrestling with you and every time they are well behaved you wrestle with them, you are using positive reinforcement. Meanwhile if you did that with a dog that doesn't like that, it would be positive punishment.

Oh and I just wanted to add that many people misunderstand these concepts and end up working against themselves. This is why I talk about "ignoring" unwanted behavior rather than attempting to punish it (of course while developing alternative desirable behavior). Bird bites, owner says "no." Well if the bird doesn't bite anymore, then it was punishment. If the bird continues to bite with the same frequency in the future it was irrelevant. And if the bird bites more frequently to get a reaction, then it was positive reinforcement. I never did anything to punish birds for biting (maybe just the occasional shake off the shoulder for ear nipping) and they don't bite. This was effective. If people have a "punishment solution" for biting, it isn't really punishment if the biting still continues to happen requiring them to use it. This is why we need to zoom out and look at results instead of what we perceive as good or bad.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Wolf » Mon Apr 28, 2014 11:20 am

While I am not sure that I am in agreement, or disagreement without further consideration, of your view on what constitutes punishment or reward, I am in agreement that we need to make our evaluations based more on both long term and short term results and outcomes.
Part of the problem with this trending towards the over complication of what is or isn't positive/ negative reinforcement and what is in actuality punishment/ reward is with the viewpoint held by the trainer at the time and what precisely were the goals and what was the outcome.
For instance, when I advise a person to tell their biting bird "No " or " Gently", I also recommend an action such as remove the bird or the body part to stop the biting ( negative/punishment type reinforcement ) or leave the bird/body part where it is to increase the non biting behavior ( positive/ reward reinforcement.
For my part, I am capable of and often do use both means and in fact most of us use a combination of both in almost all of our interactions and for the most part these overly complicated terminologies, while useful for theoretical examination only tend to confuse the majority of the people that they are intended to help. I am normally more interested in the increase in desired behavior more than in the reduction of the undesired behavior ( my point of view/ intent ).The interesting thing about all of this is that in nearly all cases the reduction of undesirable behavior leads to an increase in desired behavior just as the increase in desired behavior leads to a reduction in undesired behaviors.
This is why I still stand on my previously stated point of view. I will concede that this merits a more in depth re-evaluation on my part based upon more current information.
I also want to thank you for continuing this discussion, thereby allowing others the opportunity to present their points of view and opinions. This is, to me one of the most beneficial ways to learn new and or different things.
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Re: help discouraging Harry's crow imitation

Postby Michael » Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:14 pm

Ok, don't worry about terminology. I just want you to come out with the realization that these concepts are determined not by our perceptions but by the outcomes. It doesn't matter if you think a sunflower seed is a treat. If behavior does not increase as a result, then it was not positive reinforcement and in other words a waste of time.

When it comes to saying "no" to biting... if you find yourself saying it less and less frequently, eventually not at all, then it may be working (but can't rule out coincidence). On the other hand if you're still finding yourself saying it the same amount, then it is useless and doing nothing (except creating a perception that you told the parrot not to bite). Or if biting actually increases because the parrot loves to push your buttons and make you talk, then it is positive reinforcement and you really screwed the situation up.
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