Previously, I had shared a video of holding Kili outside of Truman's cage. I also began doing the reverse which is a bit more challenging because Kili is more likely to be aggressive in defense of her own territory rather than around Truman's cage. In the Truman Recall Training article I mentioned that I started rewarding Kili whenever Truman would come near her area. Now I had taken this a step further and would bring Truman right up next to Kili's cage. Usually this would result in her dashing across the cage, jumping onto the bars, getting really fluffy and big, showing her beak, eyes pinning, and making threatening poses and Truman. I had never seen Kili get this aggressive toward any human but clearly Truman was really really pissing her off
To diminish Kili's aggression toward Truman, I began rewarding her whenever Truman approaches her. I carry Truman up to her cage and before she gets a chance to start getting aggressive, I give her a treat through the bars. Truman just sits on my hand and watches; he doesn't need a reward. Also, I cue Kili to perform tricks which she does with zeal because she is such a show off. I hold Truman but I divert all my attention to her so that she doesn't feel jealous and thinks she is the center of all attention. I had been doing this process for the last few days and here is a video of how this looks:
Initially I planned to quarantine the two parrots for an entire month but I have long given this up as they had both landed on each other's cages when out. Kili has been healthy for two years straight and Truman had good results on all his blood work so I was not too worried about the parrots coming in contact already. At this point, I figured the gradual introduction and interaction would be more beneficial than harmful. There is much that Truman can learn from Kili.
I was trying to make the out of cage introduction to be very informal. I was going to put Truman on a stand at one end of the room and Kili on the other. Both parrots are flighted and I couldn't keep track of both so I quickly gave up on this idea as Kili was flying by and knocking Truman off his perch! I decided to try the time-tested method of training with positive reinforcement instead. I put Truman on his training perch and brought over Kili's training perch and put it a few feet away. I lined the perches in more of an L to make it more difficult for either parrot to fly at the other or land on the other's perch. I adjusted the height to make the perches approximately equal height but below my own eye level.
I had to immediately grab Kili's attention because she looked ready to pounce on Truman. I began cuing her tricks and providing hefty treats to keep her busy eating. After all, she can't bite if her beak is full. I figured I'd target Kili back and forth a bit to continue my behavior modeling attempt from the previous time. This was only the second or third session where I let Truman watch Kili perform the target touch behavior. This time it was up close and personal because both parrots were out of the cage and close together for the first time. Truman watched eagerly and I saw a certain anxiousness in his posture so I figured, heck why not let him try? I had never so much as shown him the target stick up close previously let alone train him the behavior. So I brought the target stick toward Truman for the first time ever and held it about 5 inches away. Knowingly, he made a few steps over to touch the stick like he'd seen Kili do just moments ago!
You may note that I had successfully target trained three parrots previously with relative ease, but never off the first try like this. Even Duke who picked up the target behavior after 5-10 times, wasn't walking over to touch the target stick until some more practice. Quite clearly Truman had learned the behavior to walk to touch the target stick simply by watching Kili. To test whether he understood the behavior by modeling rather than just touching the stick out of curiosity, I purposefully held it far enough that he'd have to walk over to it and surely enough he did. The three other parrots I target trained would only touch the stick if it was within immediate reach prior to learning to walk over to it.
To further test that Truman had actually learned the targeting trick rather than just one lucky shot, I had him do it many more times during this training session and he was consistently touching the stick. His attention varied but when I had his attention, he was very consistent about walking over and reaching to touch the target stick. I took this even a step further and had Kili target fly to my hand be showing her the stick over my hand. Then I had Truman do the same. It took a bit more encouragement but he caught onto this in this same first target training session. He picked up target training and target flying in approximately 20 minutes of training based on modeling when this same skill level would have normally taken several weeks to teach an unfamiliar parrot. Clearly this modeling method has much potential to offer and should make teaching tricks to Truman significantly easier than the first time around when I taught them to Kili with no model to show her what to do.
By keeping both parrots focused on training or eating their treats, I was able to prevent aggression almost completely. There were just two incidents in the half hour they were both out and neither bird came close to getting hurt. Once Kili flew at Truman and another time Truman tried to fly onto Kili's perch. On both occasions the parrots flew off their separate ways. I would fetch Truman but Kili would eventually come back on her own or I would recall her. Overall this was an extremely productive training session and the progress quite valuable. Truman learned a trick and Kili learned that she can earn treats by doing tricks around Truman but not attacking. Here is a video that shows all of this training progress as I videoed the entire training session and then picked out the good bits for you to enjoy.
I would like to try something different this time in terms of target training. I have already target trained three different parrots in the past and it was incredibly easy to teach as it is. Anyone that is looking for a demonstration of how to teach target training, you can check out this article. This time, I would like to see if I can teach one parrot the behavior strictly by watching another behavior perform the trick. I am curious if it would be possible to target train Truman without even food rewards but for him to do it merely because he sees the other parrot(s) in the flock doing it. Mimicking behavior may in itself be reinforcing for a young parrot.
At least there is no hurt in trying. The worst case scenario is that it does not work and I target train him using the typical clicker training method. But if it does work, the results may be interesting. To teach him, I will target Kili back and forth on a perch outside Truman's cage so that he can watch without being part of it. I intend to do this for several days to a week and then see if Truman comes to the target stick from some distance consistently on his own.
Another fantastic thing about this exercise is that it is bringing Kili closer to Truman but in a non-aggressive way. She definitely gets very territorial and looks aggressive like never before when I bring Truman past her cage. However, during the target training exercise, Kili wanted to show off so much that she did the exercise and additional tricks flawlessly. Kili was paying more attention to me than Truman and in the process was learning that she can earn treats around Truman by doing tricks which distracts from aggressive thoughts toward him. So not only does this set up the potential for Truman to model the behavior but it also prepares Kili to be introduced to the new parrot.
As a progress update, Truman is eating pellets on his own already and learning to climb around his perch. He's taken a few flights so far and he landed on my arm for the first time. He is getting stronger and more confident and both parrots seem very healthy and happy.