I took Kili and Truman to the park today in the usual manner wearing their aviator harnesses. First I flew Truman using the long leash and he did an outstanding job with over 20 flights. Not only did I call him back and forth the length of the leash from the same perch, I ran around to give him more distance to fly. I had him go to different benches and places in the park. He's been getting pretty good lately, but this was by far his best day.
Before I go any further, I must very sternly warn you: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Don't do it. Don't think about doing it. Just don't. With extensive research, 5 years of very extensive training experience, and a very special circumstance, I knew that this was something I could safely do. I didn't think it was going to be ok, I knew it (which I'll explain further). This is not a training guide or a suggestion of what you can or should do. You simply shouldn't do it. I'm not sharing this to be a role model but simply because it is something I've done. This is not something parrot owners should be doing with their pets. Watch this video in full and you will lose any thought about taking your pet parrot outside unrestrained (even if it's clipped!).
Now when Kili's turn came to fly, in the spur of the moment I decided to take her harness off and let her fly unrestrained! It's not a decision that came lightly but it wasn't something I set out to the park to do. At that moment, I simply KNEW that Kili would do what I was expecting. I could sense absolute and complete motivation from her. Sometimes her motivation is good and sometimes it is bad. In that range it is often hard to tell if she will really choose to perform or not. However, this time I was able to sense the most intense motivation from her with certainty.
A combination of factors lead to this unmistakable motivation. First of all I weighed the two parrots in before heading to the park and found that their weights were pretty low (still well within healthy range), lower than most park sessions. However, this is not something to exclusively gauge motivation on. Motivation, particular outdoors, can be affected by many factors. Temperature, humidity, wind, distractions, and other birds can play a big role. I've already noticed in the past that my parrots get especially motivated to eat (regardless of weight) prior to rain or thunderstorms and sure enough there is a thunderstorm forecast for tonight.
I can also have a good idea how the second bird will fly based on the first. Usually either both birds fly well or both fly poorly. When it's too hot, both don't want to fly. If there are too many distractions, it usually affects both birds. But today the circumstances were just perfect. The temperature was warm but not too hot. The wind was near calm. The kids at the park were a well behaved audience. This plays an important role because sometimes there are obnoxious kids that distract or bother the birds. Today I saw that they just tagged along but did not get in the way. Given the right group of kids, they actually can motivate the parrots to fly better for their attention.
Given all of these optimal conditions, I knew that it would be no challenge for Kili to do a perfect job harnessing flying all over the park. Having flown her extensively at home, in theaters, in a large gym, and in the park on a harness, I have had enough previous experiences where I experienced this "perfect motivation" that I knew today was the day. I don't remember the last time Kili "flew off" outside and I depended on the leash to save her. After years of socialization, desensitization, and going through this same flying routine at the park, I knew this was going to be like any other day minus the harness. Rather than take Kili to some desert or special place to freefly, I knew she was safest flying in the same park where she is accustomed to flying on her harness. If she can fly outside with the harness without a hitch and can fly in large gyms without a hitch, thus I know she can do this outdoors unrestrained as well.
HOWEVER, there is still the risk. Even if most of the time she does everything right on harness or indoors, there is absolutely no room for error outdoors. If Kili were to end up outside the park, there's no telling where she could end up. Senegal Parrots are particularly unsuitable for outdoor freeflight because they are small, quiet, and green. If one were to get lost in a tree, it would be damn near impossible to find. While some kinds of parrots could be lost and then found again, with a Senegal it's closer to all or nothing which is why I've avoided freeflight all this time.
But after so much routine and habit of harness flying in the park, I felt confident that even if someone were to scare her (which almost certainly wouldn't happen cause she's seen it all over the years), that she would either fly back to me or to some perch in the park. I didn't even fear her going into a tree because she has had opportunities to do this in the harness as well. But out of training and habit, she has learned only to land on the benches and low fences. I know that she simply would not consider landing elsewhere. I could not stand the thought or even the chance of losing her. But this day the circumstances just so happened to be that I knew it couldn't happen.
I took Truman off the leash extension and was about to apply it to Kili's harness. This was the moment when I decided that she would fly without it instead. I put the extension in my pocket, got Truman up on my shoulder, asked the kids to back up and make some more room, got some treats out, and then proceeded to take Kili's harness off. This was probably the most nerve-racking moment of truth and my hands were shaking a little. It was not that I was afraid she'd fly away but it was just something difficult to get myself to do. It was like taking the step out of an airplane to jump with a parachute, it was the moment of truth. I heard folks gasp as I took the leash off. People really couldn't believe what I was about to do. I took Kili's harness off and left it on the ground while I took some steps away and called her.
She instantly flew over to me and got a nice treat prior to returning to where she had perched. By this point I was too focused on the training session and almost forgot that she was untethered. I ran around the park calling her and flying her to different places like she would while wearing a harness. I never had to call more than once because her flight recalls were perfect. She came every time without delay. She got big treats but still not every time. Since she normally flies for a variable ratio reinforcement schedule, I felt no reason to change this now. I did, however, give her bigger and better treats than usual to reward her especially for doing such a great job. I was able to recall her for longer distances than I usually can with the limitation of the leash length. I tried to avoid taking my eyes off of her but I did at moments while stepping away or looking around. But this was ok because it was no different than when she is normally harnessed. She did not do anything she would not have done while wearing the harness which made me certain that I had interpreted her behavior correctly.
I continued to fly her for nearly 20 recalls to different locations in the park, almost no different than if she were harnessed. We did many back to back recalls where she flew multiple times to get just a single treat. I was going to end things early just to be extra safe. I reached in my pocket to get more treats to reward her for putting the harness back on but I could sense her eagerness to keep going. So instead, I had her play flighted fetch unrestrained. She did such an outstanding job flying up off the floor with the ball without the added weight of the harness. I also had her fly to the floor to play dead (again uninhibited by the cumbersome harness). I finished off the session with a few more flight recalls for big treats and then put Kili back in her harness for one final treat. I did not bother flying her any further in the harness and took this as a good opportunity to end the session and go home. Kili got her dinner extra early to celebrate doing such an outstanding job flying. She even had leftover training motivation by normal training time to outfly Truman for some extra treats!
It was a really exciting experience and I am so proud of her ability. She has always proven me right whenever I took chances flying her in challenging environments whether it was on big stages with unreachable ceilings, in gyms, or on the harness. I have a good feeling for when she is motivated, and especially when she is a sure shot. It was a lot of fun and a good experience, but I will not let it cloud my judgement and make me think I can just do that any time. I will continue using a harness (possibly with similar exceptions under the right circumstances) when I take her out to eliminate risks of loss entirely. Losing her simply is not a chance I can take. However, this experience has taught me a lot and I think to Kili as well. We have strengthened our bond and she has proven how capable she really is. Most importantly, doing this even further reduces the likelihood of ever losing her in a circumstance where she could inadvertently find herself unrestrained outside.
Edit: Some Afterthoughts. Although I made no specific preparations for this flight, all of Kili's life we have been preparing for this. I was always taming/training her (and especially when it comes to indoor freeflight and outdoor harness flight) to be able to safely recover her should she end up outdoors. She has been trained to fly down from high places, she has been trained to turn around and come back to me, she has been trained to think on the fly. All of these skills gave me the confidence that she could fly her way back to me and stay within the confines of the park.
Furthermore, there's the endless desensitization and socialization. She's extremely used to everything going on at the park and none of that scares her. I still have a video of her at the park from a few weeks back I have yet to share to show this. I can set off a cap gun right next to her and instead of getting scared she can rationally think through doing her trick. I really can't think of what can spook this bird or what has in recent years. The birds of prey factor was still present but to the same degree it is present for harness flying so that was not something extra to consider. If there was one place Kili could do a flawless job, it was at the park she always flies at.
I did not feel like I was evaluating risk, it was more like evaluating opportunity. Up till then, I always saw the idea of freeflight strictly as risk. However, during this special encounter and the motivation I observed, I felt confident (to the 99.9% degree) that Kili would not fly off in the first place. To compound that, I felt confident (99%) that if she were to fly off, that she would fly to me or remain within the confines of the park. The long harness I fly my birds with affords them the opportunity to fly up and get stuck in a tree and even out of the park at times. Yet they just don't do it. It's not because the harness holds them back but because of the safe places and altitudes they have learned to fly at. Kili did not need a leash to keep her flying between me and the park benches. I also feel that this exercise helps ensure that if she were to accidentally get loose, that she would find her way to the park and I'd end up finding her sitting on a park bench doing tricks begging passerbys for food.
This was not the scariest endeavor I have undertaken with Kili which is also a big part. Having her on the huge stage (like 80+ ft high ceilings) for America's Got Talent with unknown/unrehearsed lights and noises going off had me much more worried. And although we were inside a building, the places she could get lost should she fly off were endless. It was also my first encounter where the stakes were so high regarding a fly off. She didn't perform that well but she didn't contemplate flying off which was a huge deal. Flying her in the huge gym with 60ft rafters and plenty of those high places to land was also a scarier time. I was less certain of the outcome in that gym than I was at the park. Although she would remain confined in the gym should she fly off, I had absolutely no idea how I'd be getting her (and moreso Truman) from those places. At the park, I have seen exactly what she would do countless times with her harness. I try to fly the birds such so that the harness never actually confines them by moving around myself to allow for slack.
I was not out to prove anything or show this to anyone. I did not do it for the purpose of sharing it online either. Just in retrospect I thought it was an interesting story. I was just there in the moment and I knew this was something that could be done. Kili was poised to fly to me no matter what so I realized it really didn't matter if she was harnessed or not.
Kili's first outdoor freeflight was nothing like I might have pictured. There was no safety line, no netting, no transmitter, no pre-printed "lost parrot" fliers (although I do have one made up on my computer for each parrot but more with the mindset of in case of an accidental house escape), no helper or spotter, no camera. I did not even tell anyone in advance to be available just in case. I did not come to the park with the intention of freeflying and this was probably the best part of preparing both myself and the bird. We just did everything exactly the same as we would normally do so it wasn't unpredictable or frightening. In fact it was very predictable. The relationship and training experience holding Kili in my vicinity was far stronger than any harness! This is the main reason I feel safe using the harness in the first place.
All that said, I still have anxiety over all this and will continue to use the harness for my own peace of mind. I am glad her skills are there and perhaps under the same perfect circumstances we will repeat this. But for the most part, I will opt to keep using that lifeline that lets me sleep at night knowing my parrot is alive and well.
Kili & Truman paid a visit to New York City. Even though they live in New York City in the borough of Brooklyn, they never really had the occasion to visit any of the crowded touristy spots in Manhattan that outsiders come to think of as New York City. Upon some reflection I realized that the trained parrot duo has been to many other cities including Phoenix, Chicago, and St Louis. But they had not really been around New York that much. So the birds hitched up in their Aviator Harnesses, swiped their metro cards, and were off for their first grand adventure around the Big Apple.
The parrots handled the 8 hour non-stop excursions like champs. The expedition began in Brooklyn where the birds boarded the subway to head to Manhattan. Getting out at 77th Street, the parrots got to pass Park Avenue as we headed over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Folks admired the birds on the steps of the Met on their way into the art gallery. On our way to Central Park, a couple from Spain wanted to see the parrots. They explained in Spanish that they have a parrot named Lolita back at home.
Truman especially liked Central Park. He was taking in the sights and sounds of the natural haven amidst a bustling city. Everything was blossoming and the beautiful weather left no denying that spring is here. After crossing the Bow Bridge, the parrots ordered a hot dog from a hot dog stand. They didn't care much for eating dog but they did enjoy its buns. A piece of soft pretzel really made their day. While devouring lunch, the birds listened to some jazz musicians playing in the park and Kili even dropped them a coin for their efforts.
Leaving the park, we hit the busy streets of midtown. The birds admired the Plaza hotel and agreed that they could get used to that kind of lavish lifestyle. Proceeding down 5th avenue, Kili did a bit of window shopping. She was admiring the lovely feathers around some of the outfits in the displays. Some fire trucks blasting their horns zoomed by to the scene of a car accident but the birds were unmoved. We continued down the bustling streets with the birds loosely sitting on my hand or shoulder. They were entirely unbothered by the crowds and in fact enjoying the attention.
We passed through Rockefeller Center and made a stop across the street from Radio City Music Hall as Kili & Truman put on a little show for passing children. From there we continued westbound and stopped by the Ed Sullivan theater where not long ago Kili performed on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Then we came to Times Square, one of the busiest places on Earth. Kili & Truman were not in the least bit freaked out. The dazzling lights and infinite crowds sooner intrigued the parrots than caused any alarm. In fact they were so relaxed that they had no problem showing off their favorite tricks to huge crowds of onlookers. Kili played dead right in the middle of the pavement of Times Square. Perhaps viewers thought she died of the overwhelming experience of being in such a place but sure enough she was "just restin" cause she was up and in my hands in no time.
From Times Square it was a short walk over to Bryant Park which lies behind the NY Public Library. The parrots pretended they were pigeons and sat on top of the lions guarding the library. We continued down 5th Avenue and passed the Empire State Building. We kept going south while making stops along the way so people could meet the parrots. There was a souvenir shop with a giant Uncle Sam and Truman just had to stop to perch on his giant finger. It made Truman look small like a Senegal Parrot but with the wrong colored head!
We kept heading south until we reached the Flat Iron building in Madison Square. This building was once the tallest in NYC. The birds hopped on the subway to head downtown. During the brief train ride, they entertained commuters with their tricks and antics. Getting off at Whitehall, we were at nearly the southern most tip of Manhattan. Kili and Truman rode the bull on Broadway and then posed for pictures with the Statue of Liberty. After leaving Battery Park, we briefly headed north in the direction of the nearly completed Freedom Tower but then turned east toward Wall Street. The birds checked out the New York Stock Exchange and even dropped off their "taxes" at the treasury.
Next, the trained parrots headed to City Hall, the operational center of the city. This was a convenient place from which to begin their journey home. We headed across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Brooklyn while scenes of the city remained behind us. Some Italian tourists managed to bike across the bridge and make it to Brooklyn so Kili & Truman posed on their handle bars for pictures. We ended the trip with a walk across the Promenade with some final views of the city.
The birds traversed 10 strenuous miles of city streets riding on me. Without toys, cage, or carrier, the birds depended on me as their perch and transport. They met hundreds of people along the way and got to take in all sorts of sights and sounds of the city. When they got home they were spent. They did no make a peep for the rest of the evening and I got to relish in the absolute silence.
Since I got Truman back in 2010, both of my parrots have been on a Roudybush Maintenance Pellet diet. Before that point, Kili had been on a Purina pellet diet that she was weened on at the store I got her; Truman was on Pretty Bird. I did not want to feed two separate diets and nor was I thrilled with either. I was faced with the choice of what diet both of my parrots would be on from then forward.
Let me begin by saying that I don't know much about parrot diet and nor does anyone else. Anyone who says they know everything about parrot diet actually knows little. The most respectable people that I have talked to about parrot diet fully admit that we know very little and to take it with a grain of salt. The problem is not only that little research has been done but also that there exist over 300 species of parrots that all have vastly different diets. For starters we are dealing with parrots from 3 isolated continents, 2 different families, and over 90 generas. Habitats range from lush rain forests to savannahs and deserts. Clearly different parrots are eating completely different foods.
Now let's add the fact that none of the foods we feed to captive parrots are anything they would encounter in the wild. Whether it's fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds (with few exceptions) these are entirely human foods and have nothing to do with the foods these birds would naturally encounter. For this reason, you can't argue that an apple or sunflower seed is a natural food for parrots while a pellet is not. The parrot would eat neither in the wild. So instead of trying to find the foods that are natural to a certain species of parrot (actually impossible because they aren't cultivated and cannot be sourced), the next best solution is to learn their nutritional requirements and appeal to those. Though there are variations in nutritional requirements, they are far more similar across species than specific foods consumed.
Before I can make the case why I chose Roudybush, I have to begin by explaining why pellets in the first place. You see, parrots are picky eaters and tend to eat the most caloric foods while leaving behind the more nutritious ones. The reason for this is pretty simply, in the wild the highly desired foods are seasonal and limited. Eat those first while they are available and when they are not, revert to the other stuff. The seed mixes we can buy are already premixed. So the supply of sunflower seeds or whatever else never runs out as it gets restocked daily. Furthermore, the vitamins and minerals are simply sprinkled on the seeds and not actually in them so who knows how much the bird is actually getting? On the flipside there also exists the possibility of a parrot overdosing (which can be as dangerous as not getting enough) by eating too much of a certain seed or drinking water with vitamins mixed in. Pellets on the other hand are thoughtfully balanced. Since the parrot is eating the same thing in each bite, there is no chance of getting the wrong amounts of things while ensuring that the bird gets a healthy dose.
One thing that really convinced me that pellets are a superior food for parrots was a discussion I had with Truman's breeder about pellets vs vegetables and fresh foods. She is a firm believer that pellets are food and everything else is just play stuff. In other words, pellets are for health and the other foods are just fun/tasty for the birds but not important. She explained to me that she used to be a firm believer in giving fresh foods to the birds and would spend hours every day preparing them until her mother became ill. She had to take a year off from the breeding business to care for her mother while entrusting her birds to the husband. The birds would be canned during this period and just bare essentials done until her return. What this meant was no more time consuming fresh foods. The birds were put on an all pellet diet. After a solid year on nothing but pellets, the birds appeared healthier (not only to the breeder but the vet as well) but more convincingly yielded greater offspring. Unlike beliefs about which foods may or may not be better, this is actually some very objective evidence. Since learning about this, I never again felt bad about leaving my parrots on just pellets when I'm away and predominantly feeding them a pellet diet. When I feed vegetables to my parrots, it's to make them lose weight and not to make them healthier.
Some people try to go with all natural or less pellet dominated diets. The problem I have with these is how do you know what to actually feed your parrot, in what quantity, in what balance, and how to ensure they are actually eating that and not other things? It seems to me that most people just make up what they think is healthy and feed it to their parrots rather than actually basing it on any rational evidence. For example I've heard great arguments for why frozen vegetables are healthier than fresh and the other way around as well. How am I to judge which arguments have better merits? Instead I feed a bit of either to the birds but only as supplement to pellets which are actually proven to work.
Pellets provide ample and balanced nutrition. Once accustomed to them, parrots eat them whole heartedly. My parrots have never been on seed or other diets, but when viewed by vets they are always complemented on having a very healthy appearance. On the flip side, looking at similar parrots that are on unhealthy diets, the difference is quite apparent. So given that I am very convinced that pellets are the best diet available for parrots, the big question when I was getting Truman was which pellet to use? I had no special attachment to Kili's Purina pellets except that was what she was weened on so I continued using them out of habit. Truman was weened on Pretty Bird but I did not want to use a colored pellet. All the silly shapes aren't necessary either, a hungry parrot will eat regardless how entertaining the food looks.
I researched different pellets on the market before coming to my decision. I ruled out colorful and sugary pellets up front. Not only is it safer to avoid using colored foods but also it allows you to monitor droppings for abnormalities. Sugary pellets and other globby treat ball type products were out of the question as well. The last thing a captive parrot needs is refined sugar. They already have more energy than they can expend sitting in a cage and flying in the confines of a home, so getting hyper off refined sugar is not only detrimental to their health but also their behavior. If you are unsure if what you are feeding your parrot is sweetened, I urge you to taste it to find out. If it's sweet, you should probably look for an alternative. Also, keep in mind that sugary pellets are more prone to spoilage or causing yeast infections.
When it comes to healthy, unsweetened, and actually researched pellet brands, the list becomes greatly narrowed down. Simply put, many pellets on the market are junk. It was pretty easy to eliminate the pellets I did not want to use but much more challenging to pick the one pellet to feed out of a few good ones. I considered organic pellets but found that the benefit comes at a disproportionately greater cost. I eat non-organic processed food with preservatives so I figured (as long as it's not detrimental) my parrots can do the same. Roudybush in my mind is the best of the non-organic pellets and I didn't feel like having organic soy or corn really makes that much of a difference through all the processing and treatment it undergoes anyway. Furthermore organic food is much more prone to spoilage and has to be used quicker. I think organic food can potentially do more harm than good because it can carry bugs/diseases resultant by the lack of preservatives and pesticides. This means it is more critical to use organic food quickly and older food is best discarded and replaced. This makes the cost of organic even higher than just the package cost.
Roudybush comes out ahead in the bird food market as the optimal balance of good nutrition, research, quality control, preservation, and cost. It is one of the more expensive pellets but quality seems proportionate to cost. Yet it is still far cheaper than organic or specialized diets. Roudybush pellets have been in use since 1981 and have gone through rigorous research and testing. I feel that for such long living birds, having time tested results is essential. We may not know long terms side effects of newer diets on kidneys/livers of parrots. Having a diet that has been researched and successful for this long is evidence I'll take any day over a hunch feeling that something is a healthy food for my birds.
Here are aspects of the pellet that makes Roudybush superior.
· Nutritional balance is achieved through years of study · Pellets contain no coloring · No sugar/sweeteners · Bird safe preservatives prevent spoilage/toxins · Steam Pelleting yields less nutrient loss and greater concentration than extrusion · Good shelf life · Time tested (going on 32 years)
I have heard complaints about the ingredients such as corn/soy basis. However, I have not read evidence for why this is bad or a better substitute. Thus in the meantime I do not have a problem with this. It's not surprising that my birds like Roudybush pellets though because they love corn. At least, unlike eating corn straight, the pellets ensure that they get a balanced nutritious diet in the process rather than just empty calories.
The place where I disagree with Roudybush (and really all the pellet manufacturers) is the concept of freefeeding the product to parrots. Of course the manufacturer has no reason to tell you otherwise because they make more money from all the overfeeding and waste. My biggest problem is with the overeating, followed by the mess, and only in last place the excess cost. The excess cost of spilled pellets is not the end of the world but still something to consider. The mess of unnecessarily spilled pellets is a bigger pain because it requires frequent cleaning. Watch the time lapse of Kili & Truman eating their pellets at the end of the video and you will see how they neatly eat over their dishes. All crumbs fall into the dish (remember there is a grate at the bottom of the cage so anything spilled elsewhere is gone forever) and then the birds lick their dish clean not leaving a single crumb. I find feeding medium pellets (which are considered suitable for much larger parrots) optimal because it allows me to count the pellets out quickly. Kili gets 5-10 per meal and Truman gets 5-20 per meal depending on weight. This is a quick amount to count out and it encourages the parrots to use their dexterous feet to hold them.
Roudybush Maintenance Pellets are the type that I would have no hesitation in recommending to other parrot owners. I feel that it is a safe, reliable, healthy, beneficial, affordable, and nutritious diet. It is the best balance of price, quality, and benefit in the market. It may be difficult to find in stores but order in bulk online, freeze, and use at your pace for greatest savings.
I am happy to share that Roudybush company values the training and educational work I am doing with parrots and has agreed to sponsor Kili & Truman with their favorite brand of pellets. I had already made up my mind and been using their pellets for several years now. But lately I've begun capitalizing on Kili & Truman's fame by getting manufacturers to sponsor them. I was thrilled that Roudybush agreed because it was already my first choice diet.
In addition, I ensured that my favorite rescue would also be taken care of with a matching contribution. Not only will my flock benefit, but so will the parrots at GingersParrots rescue. Up until six months ago the parrots had been on all kinds of diets, not to mention colorful/sugary ones. But since my first visit to the rescue, I have convinced Ginger not only to try Roudybush but also to consolidate all of her birds onto the same diet. I got her birds to try some of the pellets from Kili & Truman's stash and most of them took right to it so conversion was a non-issue. She didn't try converting them off the colored pellets because she didn't think they could do it. All it took was actually trying and now her flock is on a much healthier standard diet. So I'd like to thank Roudybush for caring about the health of rescue parrots.
Here is a video of Kili & Truman receiving their first sponsored package and enjoying their Roudybush pellets followed by GingersParrots getting their first shipment.
My pet Senegal Parrot Kili performed on the Late Show with David Letterman on Tuesday November 13, 2012. She played off her maternal skills by holding her toy baby, pushing her around in a stroller, and then rocking her asleep in her crib. We had a lot of fun and a great time on the show.
Now for my loyal readers I will offer a play by play analysis of how the trick went. Right after coming out I shook Mr Letterman's hand with my right with the bird on it because clicker and treat were tucked in my left hand. I had to keep Kili's foot clamped with my thumb while speaking to the host not because the bird wanted to get loose but because she was dying to do the trick. She was like "would you just shut up already and let me do my thing!? GAH!"
When David brought up the age thing about the bird outliving me, I didn't feel like getting into the specifics about how Senegal lifespans are closer to 30 years so I just left it at "I hope she doesn't outlive me!" for the folks paying attention. So when David brought up quirks/ticks, they showed Kili up close being all jittery, however it had nothing to do with this and all to do with the fact that she could see her props and was trying to rip herself loose from my hands and do the trick already. At one point I had to cup her against me to distract her and get her to stop seeing her trick. It took no effort to get her to do the trick because by the time all talking was done, all I had to do was let go and like a horse at the start gate of the Kentucky Derby she was off!
Few realize this, but Kili picking up the baby with her foot is a whole trick in itself because parrots don't naturally do this. Normally they pick things up with their beak and then transfer them to their foot if they have to. Kili dropped the baby but quickly picked it back up to continue. Getting Kili to stay in the position and show how she holds the baby is also a challenge because she'd prefer to run along and continue the trick. The table top was a bit slippery but Kili managed to get by and push the stroller all the way across. She didn't realize to stop until she hit the crib though. This was mostly the result of an unfamiliar surface that she didn't get to practice the stroller push much on.
Kili was posed with a major dilemma at the finale of the trick because she pushed the stroller up against the crib. She would not be able to put the baby in from the stroller side as she'd normally be accustomed to. But being the brilliant bird that she is, Kili simply walked around the crib and placed it from the other side! She finished off by rocking the crib a few times and waving goodnight to the baby (however, the camera angle doesn't really show this). She ended the whole thing off by flying back to me and got a sizable piece of almond as a reward.
I intentionally stayed back away from the table and had Kili fly to/from to show the lack of involvement on my part, keep my hands off, and let Kili show everyone what she can do! After it ended Kili flew back to the table because she was looking for a comfortable place to chew her almond. I wanted to give her a big reward for doing a big job but later regretted it because it took her too long to eat and it was hard to get her to stay on my hand. Finally there was that awkward moment where Letterman was like "oh you're back? There's always the guy who won't leave." That was really a gaffe on the show's part because I was told to walk off stage after shaking the hosts hand at the end but as I walked off the stage manager told me to go back out to watch the instant replay. Thanks a lot guys for playing me the fool when you can't even keep your procedure straight!
After leaving the stage I got a banana and grape from the salad bar to reward Kili. While she was chowing on those I also threw in a load of pellets. She didn't know what to go at first and was thrilled to have everything. She rolled the banana around in the pellet powder and made her own treat out of it! The look on her beak was hysterical as all the pellet powder was sticking to her banana covered beak! I wanted Kili to celebrate her job well done by feeding her as much as she'd like to eat. So unlike the normally moderated portions, here she could eat as much as she want and she did! I left the carrier open but she wouldn't come out because she was so thrilled at her special meal. She porked up 21 grams (nearly 20% of her empty weight) without blinking an eye and might have kept going if I hadn't eventually taken away the leftovers. She was bloated beyond belief and looked like the slightest squeeze of her belly and she would pop. What I found even more astounding was that when we got home (and I went to train Truman, business as usual...), Kili still wanted to train and did a few flight recalls despite the fact that I didn't expect anything at all from her. She recalled to go back in her cage for one final pellet!
Kili got the greatest meal of her life after nailing her performance on the Late Show
Thanks to everyone for watching and being supportive of the training efforts to date. I hope you enjoyed our performance. If an average guy like me can teach his ordinary parrot all these tricks, then there is little doubt in my mind that any and every parrot owner can develop a simple loving/caring relationship with their parrot. Your parrot doesn't have to be the world champion performer but by applying comparable techniques including positive reinforcement training, taming, socialization, flight, food management, steady schedule, love, and patience you can have the same relationship. The greatest victory of all of this is the relationship that I have with this bird. A few years ago she was becoming a biter and difficult to manage. Now anyone can hold her, I can travel with her, and she is just a wonderful pet. My blog, forum, and store are here to help you so please take advantage. Private consultations are available.
Here is Kili watching herself on TV (we got home in time to see it air):
This was Kili's second year going to the street carnival (they skipped a year and the one prior to that Truman was injured and couldn't go). Even though she hadn't seen this sort of activity in two years, it was like she was there just yesterday. For Truman it was the first time going to such an event but it was not a big deal to him either. After all the socialization at the park, shows, and other opportunities, there is little that can phase Truman (even bells ringing, balloons popping, hands touching, and all the other mayhem you can expect at a street fair).
So for the extent of the week the carnival lasted, I tried to bring my two parrots there every evening to get them as many interactions with other people as possible. In the span of this week they had been petted, held, and put smiles on the faces of hundreds of people. Kili greeted people with "hellos" and Truman got fluffy for head scratches. While I would not recommend just taking your parrot straight out to something like this on the first try, once socialized, it's an excellent challenge for them. It is a lot of fun for everyone! Onlookers enjoy seeing parrots, the parrots enjoy seeing onlookers, and it's a way for you to get out with your parrots and spend one on one time with them. It's a wonderful bonding experience because the parrots cling to you for safety and entrust their lives to you. Sit back and enjoy Kili and Truman's experiences at the street carnival this year:
Kili & Truman visited the street fair nearly every evening
They love eating carnival foods and do tricks for a bite of corn
Everyone enjoys handling the birds because they are so friendly and cute
Truman absolutely goes bonkers for funnel cake and will do any trick or flight perfectly for a piece