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|Basic flight training for companion parrots to remove the need for wing-clipping
Thursday, June 08 2006 @ 01:35 PM UTC
Contributed by: GregGlendell
Basic flight training for companion parrots to remove the need for wing-clipping.
By Greg Glendell
Extract from Greg’s revised Pet Parrots Advice Direct book. 2005.
This article explains how to dispense with wing-clipping of 'pet' parrots and ask them to learn some basic flight requests from you, so as to encourage your bird to fly, while you still have good 'control' and your bird can fly safely.
You will not find how to teach your bird these requests in any other pet parrot book. However, since birds fly (and should be encouraged to do so) it is important to teach companion parrots these requests. When you are at the stage where your bird is good with stepping onto and off your hand, you can teach these requests. Here, the bird should be able to fly, and fly quite well having at least reasonable control during landing.
Stay and/or Don’t land on me. This ‘Stay’ request does not mean the bird should ‘stay where it is’ but only that it should not come to you for the moment. Parrots should be encouraged to be active birds and not be forced to stay in one place for long periods since this can cause them to develop serious behavioural problems as seen with some ‘stand trained’ birds. To ask a bird to refrain from approaching you for the moment, try to make eye contact and then raise one hand, palm facing the bird and say “Stay”. Praise and/or reward the bird if he stops.
Once trained, birds will often want to fly to you and land on you. This is fine on most occasions but there will be times when you may not want the bird to come to you, perhaps when you need to leave the room without the bird following you. Here, you can use the 'Stay’ request and hand gesture as above so that you can ask the bird to refrain from flying to you. If the bird disobeys and flies towards you, keep your hand held up and say “Stay” again while you prevent it from landing on you using your raised hand as a barrier between you and the bird. The bird will soon learn to turn around and land elsewhere. When he does, praise/reward him promptly and then leave the room, closing the door behind you. “Stay” is a very important request and helps the bird understand when it can and cannot come to you.
Go, go (fly off me). This request is used to ask the bird to fly off you and land on another familiar place. Initially, teach this request by standing with the bird perched on your hand, about 1 metre (three or four feet) from its cage or any other place the bird is already used to perching on. Place something here which you know your bird really likes; perhaps a favourite food treat as the reward. Normally when the bird is on your hand it should be facing you so that you can maintain eye contact and read its body language. But for this “Go, go” request, you should turn your hand at the wrist so the bird is facing away from you and towards the familiar perch. At the same time, use your other hand, held lower down, to point to the place you want the bird to fly to, then say “Go, go” and swing the hand with the bird on gently but decisively in the direction of the perch or cage. The bird should leave you and land on the perch/cage top and get the reward. When he is happy to fly from this short distance, gradually increase the distance to the perch. Then, practise this request in other locations, until you can ask the bird to leave you wherever you happen to be. You can eventually fade out the provision of a food reward once the bird is happy to fly from you. If the bird flies off you having been asked to “Go” but then tries to return by landing on your shoulder, you can use the “Stay” request (which you have already taught the bird) to prevent this. The aim of the “Go” command is to ask the bird to fly off you and perch on another place and not come back to you. Once you have trained the bird to fly off your hand on command you can use the same phrase to ask him to leave your shoulder by flying off. To do this, just say “Go, go” then jerk your shoulder sharply upwards while aiming the bird in the direction of a familiar perch. Again, if he tries to return to you just after you have given the “Go” request, use the “Stay” command to prevent him from landing on you.
Off there. This is generally used as a safety request to ask a bird to leave a place where it might be dangerous for him to remain, such as the TV or a light fitting, or a high perch such as the top of a door. It can be difficult to teach some birds this request. When the bird does land on such a ‘banned perch’ approach it and wave one or both hands at it in a gesture which is unfamiliar to the bird as you say “Off there”. You can also try waving an unfamiliar but harmless object near the bird such as a handkerchief. The bird should not be allowed to fly and land on you as it leaves a banned perch; it should land on some other familiar place. When it does land on a familiar perch praise/reward the bird as usual, but do not offer too strong a reward. If you do, you may end up actually encouraging the bird to go to a banned perch so as to get a ‘reward’ after you tell him to leave. You cannot plan to teach this “Off there” request, but will need to await the ‘right’ opportunity, if or when your bird does land, mistakenly on a banned or dangerous perch. Ensure you and the rest of your family are 100% consistent about banned perches. Once you decide a certain place is off limits, it must always be so.
On here (fly to me). This is a recall request, asking your bird to fly to you on command. By the time you have taught the other requests, above, your bird will probably have bonded quite well to you. Indeed most trained birds want to be with, and actually on their trainer’s hand most of the time. However, you can reinforce the bird’s desire to come to you on a verbal command by rewarding him ‘automatically’ each time that he does already fly to you. Working with the bird when he is about to come to you anyway, is a good way to get him used to associating your verbal request “On here” with him coming to you by flight. So, each time you see the bird about to fly to you, hold your arm out and say “On here” and offer a reward he can see you holding in your hand (e.g. favourite toy or food treat). Give him the reward as soon as he lands, and combine this with enthusiastic verbal praise, perhaps scratching his head as well if he likes this already.
Other training hints.
Do not hold a bird forcibly by gripping its toes while it is on your hand. In general, birds should not be forced to stay on you by being physically restrained (especially by their feet!). Although hawks are often restrained by the falconer’s use of jesses (leg straps) parrots do not have strong feet as hawks do. If a parrot attempts to fly while being held by its feet you may dislocate its toes or other joints in its leg and this is very painful. Occasionally a trained bird will choose to leave your hand without being told to go and this is fine. If you need to ask the bird to come back on you, leave it for a moment then just calmly walk up to him ask him to “Step up” as usual.
Copyright, Greg Glendell 2005
See website www.greg-parrots.co.uk
Greg is a full-time parrot behaviourist based in the UK and he can offer advice to help birds with behavioural problems such as self-plucking, biting, nervousness etc.
|Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, June 19 2006 @ 01:24 AM UTC
|Please note our event in regard to wing clipping.
Sunday, JUNE 25th
Fly Day for Birds
Let your birds experience the gift of flight. Free fly your parrot in a large indoor gymnasium with high ceilings. Hugh Choi will teach you simple techniques to train your birds for outdoor flight. Even if you do not fly your birds outdoors, you can use these skills in the safety of your home for indoor flying fun for you and your birds.
TIME: 12:30 - 2:30 PM
LOCATION: Jan Hus Church
351 East 74 Street
New York, NY
(between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
ADMISSION: Members - $5
General Public - $10
For more info concerning wing clipping or wing mutilation (taken from text on our message board page) http://www.manhattanbirdclub.com
At the present time, there are strongly held views on whether to clip the wings of your companion bird or leave him flighted.
Proponents of wing clipping claim that birds in captivity do not need to fly since they have no enemies to escape from, do not have to migrate or obtain food, and that flying puts the bird at risk since he can escape from his home.
Others consider wing clipping cruel and a form of abuse, destroying the essence and spirit of a bird, and rendering him helpless and handicapped. A bird whose wings have been altered has limited ability to destroy your property and is easy to control, however, wing clipping is done for your convenience only, and has nothing to do with the well being of your bird, but robs him of his identity and independence.
One must consider that in this, the heart of the matter truly lies. A bird is an agile, graceful, soaring creature of flight. Wings and feathers are astoundingly beautiful to behold, and they are, in fact, the essence of flight. What is a bird, one might ask, without flight? What is a butterfly? What is a horse without legs to allow the breathtaking gallop, what is a fish without fins, a person without legs that walk, hands that grasp?
When humans bring birds into their homes they do so because they are beautiful and entertaining, however, we take from these creatures many things. We take away their natural environment—the sun, the rain, the trees, the sky, the airways. We take from them the companionship of their own kind: the natural understanding of their own kind, the comfort and sense of safety in the flock, the mate they select for a lifetime, the young they would raise and protect, love and care for, til grown. We take from them control of their own lives. We take these things away and give our birds a cage, toys, a diet we think is probably good for them, and finally—the grace of our attention. Taking so much from them, and giving so little in return, on our terms, do we have the right to take their wings—the joy and essence of their existence—as well?
This is the question. To decide the answer for yourself, you must look into the eyes of your feathered companion, and into his mind and his thoughts and his heart and the soul of the creature that, indeed, he is and was born to be. You must look at his beautiful wings, extended in the joy of flight, and decide, in your own heart, if you have the right to take the power of those wings away.
Some people clip their bird's wings believing it will force the bird to bond with them. Wouldn't it be nicer if your bird flies to you because he wants to, not because he cannot fly away from you, and he has no choice.
How does lack of flight affect a birds emotional health? In many situations, companion birds wait all day for you to arrive home from work, and for you to attend to them in your busy day. During the long hours of the day, frustration builds. Some birds feather pluck or self mutilate out of anxiety, frustration and boredom.
To truly understand the circumstances of a clipped bird, you might consider what life would be like for you if you were unable to walk and confined to a sofa (a perch in a cage), waiting through any number of hours for your friend (caregiver) to arrive and help you from the sofa to your wheelchair. Imagine then, trying to communicate where it is you would like to go without speaking a verbal language. Imagine your frustration when your friend fails to understand you. Imagine that this is your life, day after day.
Your bird has no means of expressing where he wants to go - on your shoulder, his playstand, in another room, by the window or with another family member, and he becomes entirely dependent upon your ability to recognize his desire of where it is that he would like to be He is at the mercy of his caregiver for his every need. By keeping him flighted, you are giving him the ability to make choices and be somewhat independent.
For intelligent creatures who are destined to be masters of their environment and are born with means of flight, wing clipping is a depressing state indeed. Even more so, if you consider that they cannot escape from threatening or dangerous situations should they arise.
Would you consider cutting off a toddler’s legs to keep her safe, yet that is what you are doing to your bird by altering him to make him fit into your environment and lifestyle.
Deprived of the rigorous activity of flight, companion birds often become overweight and lethargic from lack of stimulating exercise. Their muscles lose tone, and become flaccid. The heart of the bird, a muscle, grows unhealthy from too rich a diet, and too little stimulation. Very much like a person in a wheelchair who eats too much, the bird body slips into decline. Flying strengthens the bird's chest muscles and is a healthy and vital form of exercise. When you alter his wings, you prevent him from exercising the way that nature intended to stay healthy, which can lead to weight gain and illness.
How does the act of flight help keep your bird healthy? To answer this question, one must first understand how the act of flight, and the fact of being a bird, are related. The bones of a bird are thin, and some have air sacs. The internal organs of a bird are abbreviated, designed to keep a bird light, and comfortable while airborne.
The respiratory system of a bird is complex; it extracts oxygen from the air as it inhales, and exhales, and in addition to lungs, it has air sacs extending throughout his body, to keep the birds blood oxygenated during the rigorous exercise of flight.
The digestive system of a bird is composed of not one stomach, but three: the holding tank of the crop, the glandular stomach called the proventriculus, and the muscular stomach, called the ventriculus, or gizzard. These systems all work to keep a bird unburdened by food in its digestive tract as he performs the act of flight.
When a bird is involved in flight, even short flights, his body is performing in the way it was designed to perform. Physically, the birds muscles are exercised in a way that cannot be duplicated in any other activity, and all of the birds organs are allowed to operate, again, as they were designed to operate under the conditions that prevail when a bird is being a bird. There is no exercise in captivity that serves as an acceptable substitute.
It makes more sense to control the bird’s environment than alter the bird’s physical structure. There are safe alternatives to wing clipping if you are concerned about your bird’s safety and potential destruction of your household property. You can provide a safe place and time in your home for your bird to exercise where he will not be vulnerable to household dangers. This reduces the risks for both you and your birds, while providing an opportunity for your bird to fly.
• Keep windows closed, or have a screen barrier in place.
• Keep doors to the outside locked to prevent an unexpected visitor, or a family member, from entering.
• Close doors to the bathroom and other high-risk areas.
• If you do not have a kitchen door that closes, take precautions in the kitchen; i.e., no open pots of water or hot stoves, etc.
• Supervise your bird as he enjoys his freedom to make sure he stays out of trouble, and does not have interactions with other family pets who may harm him.
• Provide a specific flight area. In this regard, many people have a room that is bird proofed so that their bird may be allowed out, and yet does not have to be strictly supervised. A room such as this would have unplugged electrical wires, and non-toxic, bird-friendly furnishings.
Why should you deprive your bird the joy of flight and punish him because you do not want to take responsibility for his safety. If you will not accept the responsibility of having a bird in your home, perhaps you should consider not having a companion bird or getting another type of companion.
Birds are creatures designed around the act of flight. It is part of their genetic makeup and crucial to their life experience. It is no wonder millions of people are awed by these magnificent creatures and their abilities. Human beings have spent hundreds of years trying to emulate flight. Why? Because it is a fantastic and exhilarating gift and experience. Don’t deny your birds their birthright -- their inherent right to fly.
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