Kili and Truman are getting back together! It's been a long time that they've been apart. First it was a two week trial quarantine, then it turned into 2 months, and now it's been going on past a year. However, since Santina's rehoming to Lori, we have been working on reuniting the birds. We started by introducing Kili to Rachel because their health was showing greatest improvement and also because Kili did not have any bad history with Rachel.
A few months later, Truman got moved back to the bird room to rejoin the other birds. Out of the cage, we introduced him to Rachel first. Again, no bad history so this was a pretty straight forward introduction. It was mostly just a matter of feeding them lots of treats and food outside the cage at progressively smaller distances from each other. The goal isn't necessarily to make them friends but just to make sure that they can stay out of trouble and not hurt each other while out together.
Now the time has finally come to get Kili and Truman out together. We literally had to take them out of the cage individually for a while before this staged reintroduction. It didn't take any time since Truman moved back to the bird room that it was apparent that Kili wanted to get him. Just walking by her cage with Truman in hand, she would pin her eyes, growl, and lunge at the bars to try to get him.
Although Kili and Truman have become pretty tolerant of each other in the past, right now it was like starting over. Kili's aggressive Senegal Parrot traits were showing and her original animosity toward Truman was reignited. Any time Kili would see a picture (on phone or paper) of Truman, she would try to attack it. We discovered this when Marianna used some mis-printed papers from work of Truman's Tabletop Perch to line Kili's cage bottom. What started as a silly joke turned serious pretty quick. Kili was going apeshit on the bottom of her cage trying to attack through the grate! We had to remove the papers immediately.
Another scene was when we had company over and we were telling the story about the cage paper episode. Just to illustrate, Marianna took one of those sheets and approached Kili with it. Kili attacked the picture of Truman so quickly that Marianna didn't have time to react and ended up getting a bloody bite just from holding the sheet! This is when we realized that Kili would try to kill Truman the first chance she'd get. It's a Senegal thing.
I should point out that when I say they get into fights, it is always Kili doing the attacking. However, Truman is no angel either. Even after all these years he still hasn't learned to avoid provoking Kili. Truman lives in his own world and does not make any consideration for those around him whether that's pooping a cascade down my blinds or trying to take Kili's food. So while Truman does not actually attack or fight Kili, he certainly does know how to get her going. This is a problem. Although Kili will sometimes intentionally fly over to attack him, most cases of fighting are where Truman thoughtlessly comes toward Kili and she does a defensive offense.
It was really important to try to create a peaceful introduction and rebuild some of the tolerance I had previously developed between them using training. So I used a combination of two training techniques that I like for introducing parrots. What I did not do was the "grab controlled introduction" like I did between Truman and Santina. That method worked well between two birds that had no aggression to each other and I just wanted to make them more used to each other. This time, I have some problem birds that are going to get more agitated from being held or forced near each other. So instead, my goal is to make them avoid/ignore each other entirely. By getting them to focus on training instead of each other, it is my best chance to teach this very concept.
Both training methods for introducing birds (and this can be used on friendly just as well as birds that aren't friendly with each other) require the birds to be target trained and some Training Perches for the birds to stand on. The Training Perches are actually more important than you might think. Not only are they a convenient place to have the birds, they invoke a training mindset and get the birds focused on their tasks. The training perches are psychological in addition to physical in a way that classroom encourages learning. Ideally the birds should be trick trained so that you can cue them to do tricks. However, just being well target trained is sufficient for the introduction process.
The first training method is when you have two birds and two people. You can have more birds and more people that aren't involved, but for the sake of this method it's two on two. The first person takes the first bird to one end of a large room and begins training. The second person then brings the second bird to the other end of the room and begins training that one. Each bird is set on a training perch and kept busy with targeting and performing tricks. Each person stands facing their bird with their body blocking the view of the other bird. This keeps each bird focused on training and possibly even unaware of the presence of the second bird. Little by little, more and more of the other bird is revealed by allowing a glimpse from moving over. Also, if the birds are deemed indifferent to each other and focused on training, the perches can slowly be brought closer together. It may take a series of sessions to achieve results. The good news is that by having two people, there is always one person immediately next to each bird to keep it focused and protected from the other.
Since it appeared that Kili would jump Truman the first chance she'd get, we decided to use the above method for the first out of cage time together. Marianna trained Truman in one corner of the bird room while I worked with Kili in the other. This kept Kili's gaze on me and busy with the training. She was so consumed by the treats and training that she hardly noticed Truman. It also rewarded her handsomely for being around him. Furthermore, it ensured that if Kili slipped away from my reach, Marianna could be there to protect Truman.
It was really important that at least the first week of their interactions was provocation free. This way they learn the new order of things and their place in it (and that is without fighting or getting in the way). Then if something happens here or there later on, it will be an isolated incident and not setting the tone for how things will continue. The first session was a huge success.
For the second session, I went to the one person, two birds method. This is similar to the way I introduced Kili and Truman in the first place. I set Kili and Truman on two training perches and did target and trick training exercises with each. I use big treats so that the birds are kept busy eating for as long as possible while I work with the other bird. I don't want any bird to sit idle because it is less predictable what it might do if it isn't eating. But if they have food, I know they will focus on eating it until it is done. I started with the training perches on opposite sides of me, putting myself between the birds. This allows me to train each bird while providing separation and protection from each other.
As they improved, I moved the perches closer together and even began standing away from the birds so that they would have the opportunity to fight but would have a good incentive not to because of the training. In the beginning, it is all about preventing any fights/attacks in the first place. But to make further progress, eventually you have to give them the opportunity (but not necessarily the motive) to do that but a stronger incentive (treats, training, attention) not to do that. Then they truly learn the value of tolerance and even cooperation.
I would have Kili do the turn around trick and then look over and realize Truman was doing it as well. This was a great chance to reward them together for both paying attention and cooperating. It didn't take long that the two could sit on training perches in close proximity to each other. I will wait a few weeks before thinking of putting them on the same perch though.
Here's a video of Kili and Truman's reintroduction:
When you keep multiple parrots, particularly of certain species, they will eventually get into fights. The main thing is keeping these as painless and damage free as possible. Besides keeping the birds separate and never having them out together, there is unfortunately little you can do. But here are a few tips to minimize fighting:
-All birds in cage or out (if in same room as cages or they are accessible) -Don't clip wings, flighted birds can get away -Avoid provoking jealousy between birds -Give them tasks to do be it training, toys, or activity -Don't leave bored birds out when your mind is elsewhere -Keep competition for food/toys/attention reasonable -Know your species and how they get along with others -Avoid over exciting the birds -Keep your relationship friendly but don't encourage mating behavior -Manage hormonal levels through light, food, and resources -Socialize the parrots and take them out together to get used to cooperation -Use training to teach the birds to tolerate each other to establish a baseline compatibility -Keep interactions brief enough that they don't get too fed up with each other or bored to the point of wanting to fight
I really strongly discourage clipping when it comes to birds that don't get along or get into fights. I know that on one hand the fear of them getting in each other's way exists because they are more mobile. But on the other hand, and more importantly, flight lets them get away. The worst fights and greatest damage occurs when two parrots incapable of flight tumble on the floor (or one corners the other in a cage). Clipped parrots find ways of getting at each other anyway or can end up on the floor, this puts them in a helpless situation and makes them resort to fighting. At this point both birds have no choice but to fight as flying away isn't an option. When left out in the open, parrots will tend to avoid fights by flying away or fly out of the fight before things get too dangerous.
Here's a video of Kili my Senegal Parrot attacking the much larger Truman Cape Parrot. These sorts of fights end very quickly and impossible to predict. That's why it is rare to have them on video. It just so happens that I was videoing my Q&A video when this fight erupted so I have the footage to present to you. It's particularly interesting to watch in slow motion and realize what is actually going on. Otherwise it all goes down in the blink of an eye and the birds fly their separate ways.
Until recently, Truman didn't know how to eat soft fruits on his own! Whether it was corn on the cob, pomegranate, or grapes, Truman would only eat them if I peeled them a bit and stuck them in his beak. Imagine that! I giant beak like that which could crack an almond in half in a second, couldn't eat a grape!
If I stuck a grape in Truman's beak and didn't at least peal the skin a little, he'd drop it. In other words if I didn't get it started for him, he couldn't figure out how to get the fruit going. But a few weeks ago, I grew tired of all this and decided to teach him a lesson in figuring it out on his own! So instead of giving him something tasty like this at the end of a meal as a treat, I gave him a corn on the cob as his meal. The only catch is he'd have to figure it out on his own!
I put a piece of corn in Truman's bowl and left him at it. At first he was pissed that he couldn't get at the tasty kernels but since he was hungry he kept at it and figured out. Since then I've been able to get him to work grapes and other fruit without having to help him. What a big baby!
Now this time I took the birds in the yard where the fig tree is blossoming. Kili had never had a fig before and Truman only had one once in the aviary. Since the figs look like a giant grape, I think they both figured it out pretty quickly and began munching away. I think for a parrot this must be one of the most enjoyable experiences: peeling off mother nature's own right off the branch and making a big big mess!
The winnings of the first day of simultaneous training were short lived and things turned ugly on the second day. As Kili gained more confidence in herself around Truman, she decided to plant some more attacks. It is partly my fault as I began closing in the distance between the two parrots out of the cage, but this was to have controlled interaction rather than when I cannot intervene.
Luckily there was no damage done to either bird so I did not feel the need to intervene. To a certain extent I can encourage alternative behavior but on the other other hand they must solve their differences themselves. No matter how much I keep Kili away from Truman, ultimately she is going to want to show him who's boss. So I figure it is better to give her a controlled opportunity to do so rather than elsewhere.
One problem is that when I have both parrots out of the cage, out of nowhere Kili will just fly at Truman and knock him off his perch. This will send both birds flying but really achieve nothing. Sometimes Kili or Truman will get too close to the other and that will set off a beak sparring battle. Mostly they just point their beaks at each other but don't actually touch. They really don't bite each other so I don't see much harm in this. These little fights usually end with someone flying away or I target Kili away from the fight. I don't think I've had to break up a single fight though and I much prefer to cue more acceptable behavior than force the fight to stop.
Although it may seem that the rivalry has increased, in reality this is not so. It is merely that I reduced the restraints that prevented it previously. Instead, I am working on creating peaceful interaction and alternatives to aggressive behavior. I want the parrots to choose not to fight or at least not hurt each other rather than to continuously monitor them or keep them physically separated. Ultimately I'd like to be able to just open both of their cages and go about my own business without the fear of them injuring each other.
Part of the reason that I chose a Cape Parrot was strategic in terms of flock dynamics. Although a small bird, Kili has a large personality so acquiring another parrot smaller in size would be dangerous. I already had problems with Kili trying to attack Duke when she had just began to fly. Kili would be older than the parrot I would acquire so I had to find a baby that would have some pre-existing advantage for self preservation from her. Thus a larger and better flighted baby was the answer. Although Kili is more aggressive and better at flight, Truman is larger and can stand his own ground. Furthermore he has a more complete set of flight feathers and can ultimately outfly her. By having these pre-existing advantages, I think Truman is a fair and equal rival for Kili and this will keep both parrots in place. In theory, as Truman matures he should be able to dominate over Kili, however, because of early establishment of flock dynamics and Cape Parrot temperament, I expect the parrots to remain evenly matched with neither one being superior or more dominant.