Progress update

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Black Headed Caique / Data / Living with Parrots / Parrot Enrichment / Uncategorized

I haven’t updated the blog in awhile and I have so much to report! I’ve met many of my goals and come up with a lot of new ones. Here’s what new with us:

  • We officially adopted Data, formerly knows as Jazzy. We figured he deserved a new name for his new life. We’d like to thank Phoenix Landing for all that they do and for helping us find this little guy. He is quite the character and we love him!
  • The Caiques got their very own deck aviary! My friends and family (organized by my wonderful husband) surprised me with an aviary for my birthday. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have one. Seriously, it is a game changer.
  • Data has gained a lot of new skills. He has learned several tricks, is slowly improving his flight skills, will take watery juice from a syringe, and has started foraging.
  • Rueben has become an expert at foraging! We have added a lot of cool hanging gyms to our living room and he spends hours at a time searching for food, playing with toys and most importantly NOT flying to us! Because of this he enjoys a LOT more freedom and all of us are happier.

That said there are still a lot of areas we need to improve upon. Here is my new list of goals:

  • Get Rueben and Data to the point where they can be out of their cages at the same time. Unfortunately Data will go after Rueben quite aggressively given the opportunity. We have not allowed him to actually come into contact with Rue but it’s also not fair to stress either bird out. Until Data can learn to station and engage in alternate activities, that do not include attacking Rue, it’s one boy out at a time.
  • Train Data to go into the carrier. He has made progress but he still isn’t as happy or as comfortable as I would like for him to be. He gets car sick and I think he associates the carrier with going in the car, so this one is going to take some work.
  • Work on husbandry skills with Data, to include: nail trims, being toweled, taking water from a syringe, and allowing me to put a flight suit on him.
  • Work on getting Data to eat chop (a mix of fresh fruits and veggies). Right now he will eat apples, grapes, bananas, and green beans. That’s it.
  • Significantly improve Data’s flying skills. He has made some progress but has a long way to go.
  • Significantly improve Data’s foraging skills.
  • Train Rueben to go into the back-pack carrier. He’ll go inside happily but when I try to bring the flap over his head to close it he gets terrified. I need to work on breaking this down and helping him feel comfortable.
  • Work on husbandry skills with Rueben, to include: nail trims, being toweled, taking water from a syringe, and allowing me to put a flight suit on him.
  • Teach Rueben to put puzzle pieces in the right spot, color discrimination, and prefect and expand his trick repertoire.
  • Prepare for baby Red Fronted Macaw to join the family sometime this winter! Stay tuned…..

If you made it this far I think it’s only fair to reward you with video of Data hanging out in the aviary and being adorable.


Improving Data’s flying skills

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Black Headed Caique / Data / Parrot Flight Training
Black Headed Caique on a perch eating a treat

Data working to get a nutriberry treat

This week I started working on improving Jazzy’s flying ability. Daunting for an uncoordinated lady with two left feet? Yes, but I’ve seen firsthand how much it has helped Rueben and I want Jazzy to be able to enjoy the same benefits that come from doing what he was born to do.

There are lots of ways to teach this skill but I’m just going to focus on what has worked well for me. Here’s a checklist of things I asked myself before starting off:

  • Do Jazzy and I have a good relationship built on positive reinforcement?
  • Is Jazzy healthy with his flight feathers fully grown out?
  • Is Jazzy comfortable stepping up on to my hand?
  • Is Jazzy comfortable in the environment where we will be training?

Luckily the answer to all these questions was yes, so I knew we were ready to start training. One caveat–I titled this post “Improving Jazzy’s Flying Skills” because Jazzy can fly a little bit if scared or if he really wants something but he will only go very short distances and prefers walking. I do not have experience with a bird that is not already at this level, and for birds without this ability it could take additional steps.

Step 1: Start with an easy peasy skill–step up from a perch

Here’s what that looks like:


Step 2: Move my hand slightly out of reach and reward effort (body language that looks like the start of flight)

I definitely missed some opportunities to click and reward here because I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. However, I promised to show my training straight up so here it is. (I was distracted because this was my 3rd attempt to get this on video–the first two went perfectly but my new remote-camera-activator-thingy didn’t work).


Step 3: Reward a hop onto the hand

I was careful at this stage not to ask for too much or allow Jazzy to go too long without a reward because that would have discouraged him.


Click here to learn more about clicker training. Click here to learn more about the technique of shaping.


Rueben takes a bath

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Living with Parrots / Parrot Body Language / Rueben
A White Bellied Caique perching on a tree stand after taking a bath

Rueben, all wet after bathing

The first time I saw Rue take a bath I thought he was having a seizure! Now that I know better I find it fascinating to watch all the bobbing, wing flapping and shaking involved. Watching video of your parrot engaging in normal activities is a great way to improve your body language reading skills. Not to mention Rue taking a bath is just plain cute.

Data’s new tricks

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Black Headed Caique / Data / Parrot Trick Training

I’ve been working with the boys quite a bit lately but something always seems to go wrong with my video. Luckily, things have been going much better with the Caiques than with my technical skills. Jazzy in particular has made great strides. His focus has improved leaps and bounds. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve been working on:

Stepping into a backpack carrier

Jazzy is scared of the carrier so I’m using my arm as a bridge and rewarding him for taking small steps towards it on his own. It’s really important that he calls the shots and gets to go at his own pace. I also have Avicakes in the cup holder inside so when he does venture in he finds some yummies right away.

Birdie basketball

What I love about this skill is that it helps Jazz with two of his biggest challenges: moving away from me/rewards and focusing on something other than me/rewards. We are really making progress!

Pushing a shopping cart

This one looks easy but in the beginning Jazzy wanted nothing to do with the shopping cart. Next step is to work on getting him to push it farther and for longer periods of time.


Happy training!

Rueben goes on a field trip!

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Parrot Enrichment / Rueben / White Bellied Caique
A White Bellied Caique perched in an acrylic carrier and eating treats

Rueben happily chowing treats in his carrier

The first year that I adopted Rue, I used to take him on field trips regularly. Over time I started taking him with me less and less. The past couple of years we’ve only gone somewhere together during trips to the vet. Not ideal. So when the opportunity presented itself to take Rue with me to visit a friend I hopped right on it. Since Rue hasn’t been on an outing in awhile I asked myself the following questions before deciding if I should take him with me:

  • Do we have a good relationship built on trust?
  • Does Rue enjoy going into a carrier?
  • Is Rue comfortable riding in a car?
  • Is Rue comfortable experiencing the types of things we’ll encounter at our destination? For example, new places, people, sounds, dogs, objects, etc.

Since the answer to all of these questions was “yes” I loaded Rue into the car and off we went.

White Bellied Caique in his carrier secured by a seat belt in the front seat of car

Rue has his seat belt on and is ready to go!

When we first arrived I let Rue get acclimated to his new surroundings while safely in his carrier. After about 40 minutes had passed, and it was clear he was comfortable, I opened the carrier door.

Rue decides to come out of the carrier on his own and earns a tiny piece of walnut

Rue decides to come out of the carrier on his own and earns a tiny piece of walnut

Rue happily hopped right out of his carrier and then we practiced some of his tricks (wave, spin, and flying to my hand from a close distance). My friends were impressed and Rue acted like he had lived in their home his whole life. I was most proud of how comfortable and happy he was somewhere new.

Nigel, my friend's superbly trained adolescent Collie, politely watches from a Rueben train from a safe distance

Nigel, my friend’s superbly trained adolescent Collie, politely watches from a safe distance

At the end of our visit Rueben easily hopped back into his carrier and we said goodbye. I was one proud momma. Here’s video of him loading up just before we departed.


For more information on how outings can benefit your parrot, check out the awesome Barbara Heidenreich’s webinar titled “Solutions for Parrot Behavior Problems Related to Hormones.”