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Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Discuss topics associated with teaching birds to fly. Training parrots recall flight, target flying, and other flying exercises.

Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Postby zazanomore » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:18 pm

In the past month, Einstein has really grown as a flier. His flight feathers are pretty much all grown in, and we've been working on flight recall daily.

A little habit Einstein is getting is flying away when he knows it's time to go back in the cage. If he could, I'm sure he would spend the entire day on me. But as soon as he realizes he is going back in the cage, he flies away and perches on top of the budgies cage. I then get him to step up, and we walk over to his cage, and he's off again.

Lucky for me, he usually gives in, and we only repeat the cycle at most 5 times.

He doesn't do it all the time. Just sometimes. It makes me really feel bad for my mom, because it reminds me when I was little and we used to go to the beach, and my mom would spend ages trying to get me out of the water so we could go home.

Does anyone else have this problem?
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Re: Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Postby Michael » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:37 pm

Nope. My birds fly to me when it's time to go away!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt4lpdVpmfg

It doesn't work 100% of the time but it's pretty reliable. I'd say they come simultaneously on the first call 50% of the time, at some point when I call them back the other 40%.

The key is to make going back to the cage super rewarding (and routine). My birds love going back to the cage because they know it's meal time. They only get to eat upon going back to the cage. They don't get meals out of the cage and they don't get meals at other times in the cage. All their meals come upon successfully flight recalling to go back to the cage. This is why this is actually one of their most reliable flight recalls.

There are occasions where they just don't want to go back and don't recall, but they are so tame that I can just go and have them step up (or grab) so that they don't fly away. This happens really rarely but did happen this morning with Kili (she seems to be having trouble flying again for some reason so I think she just doesn't want to fly rather than not go away).

Your parrot has a choice of whether to go back or not (unlike when clipped). You have to make going back sooo awesome that the choice should be obvious. Now you see that keeping a flighted parrot is not merely a choice but a lifestyle. Now think of the disdain a clipped parrot would feel being helplessly forced to be put away under the same circumstances when it did not want to. Difference is that now it has a choice and if you don't make going back to the cage rewarding, what you have going on will only get worse. The parrot will learn that as long as it outflies you, it won't have to go back into the cage. It is very important to change this before it becomes a routine thing.
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Re: Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:10 pm

Michael wrote:Now think of the disdain a clipped parrot would feel being helplessly forced to be put away under the same circumstances when it did not want to. Difference is that now it has a choice and if you don't make going back to the cage rewarding, what you have going on will only get worse.


I'm not sure you meant "disdain", did you? At any rate, I beg to differ. A clipped parrot can say "No!" almost as effectively as a flighted one. For one thing, it CAN in fact fly away, even if it only gets across the room and not into the next room. It can refuse to step up or be picked up or it can latch onto the cage door and climb away from you. As a final line of defense, it can bite. So I don't really think this is all that different for a clipped bird than a flighted one. We, too, try to make going back rewarding and rewarded (although we do keep food available at some level at all times, and may feed in the cage if the bird was not out when the food was prepared). We've trained a command for stepping down onto the perch to go home.

In addition, you could "force" a flighted bird by carrying it with your hand cupped over the back so the wings can't extend. I think your way is better -- train the activity and make it rewarding -- but especially a small bird can be held such that it can't just fly off.

I'd be a lot more influenced by pro-flight arguments if it weren't painted as the only alternative to badly handling a clipped bird. Much of what you attribute to clipping often seems to be manhandling or forcing a bird, and that's not necessary or desirable even if the bird is clipped. A bird should not HAVE to fly away to be understood IMO. Sorry if I'm hijacking the thread but this one really caught my eye.
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Re: Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Postby Michael » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:35 pm

Yeah, disdain was the wrong word. More like downbeat, upset, etc.

You are right that bad management practices can also lead to "behavioral problems," really just the bird sticking up for itself, even when clipped. However, a clipped bird can still be grabbed through the biting, toweled, or forced in other ways. A good flier can get around and outfly the owner for quite a while. Point is forceful techniques are more likely to be successful and be used by an owner of a clipped parrot than an owner of a flighted parrot. The clipped owner does not realize that he or she is upsetting the parrot by putting it away when it does not want to.

I remember when you just joined the forum, you complained that scooter was troublesome to put away. Wasn't it for the exact same reasons as in this case? Except that since he was clipped it was easier for you to force him back into cage without realizing that this was the cause of the nippiness prior to going back?
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Re: Pitfalls of Owning a Flighted Parrot

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:03 pm

Michael wrote:I remember when you just joined the forum, you complained that scooter was troublesome to put away. Wasn't it for the exact same reasons as in this case? Except that since he was clipped it was easier for you to force him back into cage without realizing that this was the cause of the nippiness prior to going back?


I would not have said I was "complaining" more that I wasn't quite sure how to address the issue; I took the point that his nippiness was saying "I'd rather stay out" and I did use the principle that I needed to make going back more rewarding. I rarely actually forced him, and he was in general much nippier at that time and would nip as soon as he realized I was going to ASK him to go back. I don't think I've ever just grabbed him and plopped him in there -- about the farthest I go is tipping him toward the perch so it is easier to step onto it than not. I also discovered somewhere along the way that he's much more comfortable going back to a higher perch than a lower one, which also helped. He's never been shy about being handled, so holding him has never represented a negative other than to the extent he might rather be doing something else at a given moment. It would probably be different if he weren't VERY tame from the get-go.

I don't know if it is THAT much easier to "force" a clipped bird, really. If the bird is loose and you can't catch him, that's one thing, but once you have both hands on your bird (assuming it's not a Hyacinth macaw or something really huge) I think you can "force" a flighted bird just as easily as a clipped one, by physically holding the wings or using a towel. And in either case, you'd only do it out of necessity -- there are times when you just plain have to get the job done, but I think it is our job to minimize those. One of the things I wish I had more practice with, actually, is emergency restraint and capture techniques. I'm reluctant to practice because it does involve force, but the day will come when someone is injured and I need to at least force the issue enough to inspect the damage and get into the carrier for the vet without delay if needed.

This is a little OT, but I think when you operate with the philosophy that the bird has choice and has the option to say "No", you have to accept that at some point the bird might, in fact, actually choose not to do what you are requesting. No matter how appealing you've made the right answer, it is possible for something else to be even more appealing. At that moment you have to deal with the ramifications of granting choice -- in some cases that means you don't get to do what you want (e.g. the bird stays in his cage instead of coming out) or it means the bird doesn't get to do what it wants -- and then you are facing coercion of some sort, the degree depending on necessity.

I also think is is quite possible for a parrot to be naughty and to decide not to do something it understands is expected. This has to be carefully distinguished from not doing a thing because they don't understand or are afraid or uncomfortable. But if it is really a willful act (and do we agree they are smart enough to be willful in the same way a very small child might?), at that point you either have to try to make the expected response even more rewarding than ever before, let the bird "get away with it" or take some sort of action to discourage the misbehavior.

I guess if I were the OP and I thought my bird had simply decided that it is clever to avoid going home, in addition to making the cage more rewarding, I might also restrain him gently long enough to get my hand into the cage door to ask for a step down, the successful completion of which to be amply rewarded. Yes, this is a degree of "force" but getting out of doing something by flying away seems like a bad lesson to reinforce, too. And I think even a flighted bird could do what Scotty fairly often does, which is to attempt to refuse to step up away from a fascinating location or object. He will display with beak banging and not acknowledge the "Step up" command, but so far w have always been able to prevail by persisting in asking and not being intimidated by the apparent refusal. The subsequent obedience, we reward, but the first line of defense is responding to "NO I won't" with "Yes, do this thing". It becomes almost negative reinforcement.

Is it the general consensus that obedience is not to be required?
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