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Dancing Senegal Parrot


Type: Senegal Parrot
Genus: Poicephalus
Species: Senegalus
Subspecies: Mesotypus
Sex: Female
Weight: 120 grams
Height: 9 inches
Age: 16 years
Caped Cape Parrot


Type: Cape Parrot
Genus: Poicephalus
Subspecies: Fuscicollis
Sex: Male
Weight: 330 grams
Height: 13 inches
Age: 14 years, 4 months
Blue and Gold Macaw


Type: Blue & Gold Macaw
Genus: Ara
Sex: Female
Weight: 850 grams
Height: 26 inches
Age: 12 years
Trick Training Guides
Taming & Training Guide
Flight Recall
Go through Tube
Turn Around
Flighted Fetch
Play Dead
Piggy Bank
Climb Rope
Ring Toss
Additional Top Articles
Stop Parrot Biting
Getting Your First Parrot
Treat Selection
Evolution of Flight
Clipping Wings
How to Put Parrot In Cage
Kili's Stroller Trick
Camping Parrots
Truman's Tree
Parrot Wizard Seminar
Kili on David Letterman
Cape Parrot Review
Roudybush Pellets

List of Common Parrots:

Budgerigar (Budgie)
Alexandrine Parakeet
African Ringneck
Indian Ringneck
Monk Parakeet (Quaker Parrot)

Mexican Parrotlet
Green Rumped Parrotlet
Blue Winged Parrotlet
Spectacled Parrotlet
Dusky Billed Parrotlet
Pacific Parrotlet
Yellow Faced Parrotlet

Peach Faced Lovebird
Masked Lovebird
Fischer's Lovebird
Lilian's (Nyasa) Lovebird
Black Cheeked Lovebird
Madagascar Lovebird
Abyssinian Lovebird
Red Faced Lovebird
Swindern's Lovebird

Lories and Lorikeets:
Rainbow Lorikeet

Sun Conure
Jenday Conure
Cherry Headed Conure
Blue Crowned Conure
Mitred Conure
Patagonian Conure
Green Cheeked Conure
Nanday Conure

Black Headed Caique
White Bellied Caique

Poicephalus Parrots:
Senegal Parrot
Meyer's Parrot
Red Bellied Parrot
Brown Headed Parrot
Jardine's Parrot
Cape Parrot
Ruppell's Parrot

Eclectus Parrot

African Greys:
Congo African Grey (CAG)
Timneh African Grey (TAG)

Blue Fronted Amazon
Yellow Naped Amazon
Yellow Headed Amazon
Orange Winged Amazon
Yellow Crowned Amazon

Galah (Rose Breasted) Cockatoo
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Umbrella Cockatoo
Moluccan Cockatoo
Bare Eyed Cockatoo
Goffin's Cockatoo

Red Shouldered (Hahn's) Macaw
Severe Macaw
Blue And Gold Macaw
Blue Throated Macaw
Military Macaw
Red Fronted Macaw
Scarlet Macaw
Green Winged Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw

Glossary of Common Parrot Terms

Tom Sawyer Your Parrot

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By Michael Sazhin

Monday February 4th, 2013

Tom Sawyer your parrot into doing what you want. Want your parrot to try a new food? Or to accept a new toy? Or to step up reliably? Or to fly to you when called? Why is it that our parrots manage to pick up on everything we don't want them to do and then serve little interest in doing what we try to encourage? For this, Tom Sawyer offers a great lesson and plays a marvelous role model!

Recall how Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer made his friends pay him for the opportunity to whitewash his aunt's fence and thus completing Tom's chores for him. Instead of paying (with toys and food) his friends to do his work for him, Tom made the work so lucrative that his friends agreed to pay him just to have the chance to try it. Well this unlikely literary lesson comes in very handy for parrot training!

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing itónamely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. (From Chapter II of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain)

Tom Sawyer Text

I have noticed the same effect to work marvelously on my parrots when it comes to training. Doing something directly for a treat is "work." Believe it or not, often times our parrots will be more willing to do stuff without getting treats!. Now isn't that something? You save money on bird food and the bird returns the favor by doing more tricks/good behaviors for you? Well that's the Tom Sawyer effect for you.

I have several examples to share with you. First a more illustrative recent one and then some others that have worked very well in the long term. Lately I've been working with Kili on some new tricks and desensitizing Truman more to being grabbed. The downside to working on these new behaviors with the birds is that if I spend a lot of treats working on non-flight stuff with them, then they will fill up and not want to fly recalls for practice/exercise. A large portion of my parrot training involves flight because I think it's the best exercise and bonding experience but teaching new tricks seems to be mutually exclusive. But it's not!

I got Truman, who has a reputation for being a really stubborn bird, to fly more flight recalls that he was not getting any treats for at all for the opportunity to be grabbed than he would when he gets treats for flying recalls only!!!! Not only did he fly more flight recalls in this process but he also flew them reliably on the first time without any hesitation. Likewise, Kili's recalls have been rock solid and I can use my treats only for working on the new tricks. When I don't have to spend treats on flight, I get the benefit of knowing my birds got some much needed exercise, are dependable fliers, and have lots of treats left over to teach new tricks or behaviors with. The amazing thing is that the birds end up doing more work to get the same amount of food or less than if they just flew the recall for the treat directly.

I have found this method so effective that I even took it another step forward with Truman's grab training. I have Truman flight recall to my hand, then I put him down on his cage (that he lately doesn't like being grabbed from which is why we are working on it), then I grab him but don't give him a treat for that either, and finally I let him do one of his tricks on my hand to earn a treat. Since the birds are more eager to fly or accept handling for the opportunity to do something easy to earn food, I am turning flight recall and grabbing into something I don't have to ever reward with food. For several weeks now the birds have barely received any treats for flying recalls. Instead, they earn an opportunity to perform a trick to earn the food.

I suspect that in their little bird brains they see flight as a difficult way for earning treats but doing tricks as an easy one. So they treat flight as a means of coming over but performing the trick as the easy way to earn a big treat. In other words flying recalls for treats is work but flying over to do a trick is simply coming over to get started. Or it's just more fun to do it the Tom Sawyer way.

Before you have an "aha moment!" and post a comment saying that the birds are getting treats on a continuous interval whereas before I had them on a variable ratio reinforcement schedule, NOPE! They are still on a variable ratio reinforcement schedule which makes this all the more exciting! So a single treat may be rewarding the following sequence with Truman:

1) 50ft flight recall
2) Short flight from hand to cage
3) Grabbing off of cage
4) 50ft flight back to perch
5) Stay until called again
6) 50ft flight recall
7) Short flight from hand to cage
8) Grab from cage
9) Wings Trick
10) Receive reward and fly 50ft back to perch

If getting Truman to do all of the above for a single pellet isn't pulling a Tom Sawyer on him, I don't know what is. Note, the food management level used is comparable to what was done before applying this method.

Now that you are convinced that this is a useful strategy, here is how you can apply it to your own parrots. First and foremost this should apply to stepping up. My parrots never get treats for stepping up at all, yet they do it 100% of the time when asked. Why? Tom Sawyer. The birds have to "white wash the fence" for me by doing the work of stepping up for the opportunity to find out what they'll get to do. Sometimes it's the chance to do a trick, sometimes it's to watch what I'm doing, sometimes a head scratch, sometimes getting groomed, etc. However, since they never get treats for stepping up, this ensures that they won't refuse to step up when they don't desire a treat.

Another place where this applies marvelously is for coming out of the cage. Better yet, I've taught my parrots to station to get to come out. Basically what this means is they climb down to an easy to reach perch for me to take them out rather than me bending my back and my arms into a pretzel to get to where they are. Whenever I come up to the cages, they climb to the perch nearest the door and wait to be taken out. They never get a treat for this, yet they pay me with this work for the opportunity to come out and see what they have in store.

Chaining tricks, variable ratio reinforcement schedules (random rewarding by giving a treat once in a while), and requiring multiple behaviors to earn one treat gets the most exercise for your bird, the most reliable presentation of behavior for you, lowers the dependence on treats, ensures the parrot will behave well anytime/place, saves you treats, reduces your parrot's overeating habits, and ensures the best relationship between you. Now go thank Aunt Polly for giving you this task and put your Sawyer skills to the test by seeing how much more behavior you can get from your parrot for less food.

Parrot Wizard Bird Show & Seminar DVD

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By Michael Sazhin

Tuesday July 24th, 2012

I'm pleased to announce to you the release of the Parrot Wizard Bird Show & Seminar DVD Set! You probably have already heard about the seminar I held in Phoenix, Arizona. Well I won't tease any further, anyone has a chance to see the performance now as I am releasing all the footage on DVD.

The seminar was an outstanding chance to present to parrot owners the application of taming/training to have well behaved companion parrots. I was able to discuss and demonstrate endless interesting topics without constraint.

The 5 hour seminar opened with a bird show. Dressed as the Parrot Wizard, I entered from the back of the room and paced around the anxious crowd with a Senegal Parrot on my hand. I made a few laps of the room showing off this bird before setting it down and calling Kili and Truman to the front of the room. They swooped over everyone's heads and landed on my outstretched arms. The birds performed their extensive repertoire of tricks without much hesitation and Truman thrilled everyone with his Boomerang flights. I walked around the audience with the parrots so they could see some of the tricks close up or volunteer to assist with them.

Parrot Wizard Seminar DVD 1

After the parrot tricks show, I disrobed and began the seminar. I talked about a lot of advanced trick training and answered questions specific to trick training. I explained the process of teaching many tricks that I haven't made online tutorials for such as play dead, ring toss, slide, and boomerang. Then I went on to demonstrate how easily I can harness my parrots and explained the entire training process. I finished the first half of the seminar by explaining why taming/training is so important for companion parrots beyond just amusement.

Parrot Wizard Seminar DVD 1 Back

During the intermission, audience members got to meet Kili & Truman in person. I was not prepared for such a flood of fans and couldn't control the endless outreach of hands toward the birds. Yet they were unbothered and just dealt with it. Their extensive socialization was really paying off. The parrots stepped on hands and posed for pictures while I answered numerous questions.

Parrot Wizard Seminar DVD 2

The second half began with a special introduction by avian veterinarian Dr. Todd Driggers. He discussed the importance of training for a parrot's psychological well being and compared the idle parrot's life to unemployment. I was very pleased to have the full support of a highly respected vet in the Phoenix Valley. I hope this helped convince people of the necessity to follow my training approach. And if for no other reason, then for the health of their companion parrots.

Then came the best part of the Seminar. I went back to basics, using rescue parrots for the demonstrations. While I had sufficient confidence in my guys to perform, it was entirely unknown how the inexperienced rescue parrots would behave. Luckily, they were very cooperative and were able to demonstrate a week's worth of training progress in front of a live audience for the first time ever.

Parrot Wizard Seminar DVD 2 Back

I worked with an untrained rescue Cockatiel. By the time of the seminar, the only experience he had was a week's worth of target training in the cage. I had never taken him out of his cage until the Seminar. In front of a huge live audience I targeted him around in his cage, then eventually onto my hand, and then out of the cage entirely. This was the first time he had come out of the cage in his known history. I showed everyone how I was teaching him to target for anyone and not just me by having audience members come up and succeed in doing the same.

Next I worked with two rescue Senegal Parrots (a male and a female). Again, only demonstrating a week's worth of training progress, I was able to show how I taught one of them to turn around and the other to be grabbed. Audience members got to interact with these recently wild rescue birds as well as see training improvement before their very eyes. I wrapped up the seminar with a discussion about motivation and how to get parrots to willingly cooperate with us.

What you may find interesting is that I performed the entire seminar without planning it out. All I had was a basic idea of the general topics I wanted to cover and the performance but otherwise I winged it entirely. Even the opening show was chosen at random as I went. The only thing that was previously choreographed was the opening entrance and flight recalls. This keeps my birds on their zygodactyl toes and presents a genuine presentation of their skills. They don't just remember a routine, they can perform any of their tricks as requested.

The biggest reason I could not plan my talk in advance was because, the week leading up to the show was so extensive that I could not predict how much the rescue birds would learn nor what I would learn from them. I wanted to give my audience my freshest and most complete outlook on parrot behavior so I let the experience of training 8 rescue parrots during the preceding week drive my seminar. Being unprepared worked in my favor. It gave me the chance to jump around from topic to topic without constraint. I allowed the audience to help me steer the course of discussion and make sure their curiosities were foremost answered. I was able to get audience participation, answer questions, and share countless anecdotes about specific parrot themes. I think this collective mayhem will just keep you captivated and entertained despite the substantial duration of this video series.

Parrot Wizard Seminar DVD Combo

It may seem strange that the seminar and DVDs begin with the most advanced stuff and then work their way back. However, this was mainly done to maintain the order of the parrots involved. You see, Kili & Truman were the highlight of the opening act so I wanted to make the most use of them in the first segment. This is why we focused on demonstrating flight, harness, and advanced trick training in the first half. Since the rescue parrots weren't used until the second half, I saved all the basics and fundamentals for then. For the same reasons, the DVDs begin with advanced results and then return to how to teach them.

I hope you can buy a set of DVDs from the Seminar so you too can feel like you were there and learn everything the audience got to experience. While you don't get the same interactive experience as a live seminar, a major benefit of the DVD is that you can watch it in smaller spans and rewatch parts of interest.

Like the seminar, the DVDs are really meant to be purchased in a 2 part series. However, for people who only want a specific disc, they are also available separately. It is possible to watch the 2nd video alone for learning basics of parrot taming & training or to watch the 1st video alone to enjoy the show and discussion of advanced tricks, flight, and harness. However, I would really like to encourage everyone to just buy the 2 disc set to see the entire Seminar start to finish. Individual DVDs can be purchased for $19.99 + s/h or the entire set for $29.99 plus the same price of shipping as a single DVD. The combo is like buying one DVD and getting the second for half price and free shipping.

How to Socialize Parrots to Guests and Other People

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By Michael Sazhin

Tuesday July 3rd, 2012

Socialization is crucial for companion parrots because if not for what we teach them, they're wild birds. All too often a parrot will bond to its caretaker or someone in the family and then be aggressive toward everyone else. If you think about it, this makes sense. The parrot gets everything it needs/wants from this individual while everyone else is erratic, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous.

Guests, visitors, and strangers are possibly the worst people from the parrot's perspective. At worst they come and invade their territory, scare them, and make them feel helpless. At best, they leave them alone while diverting their owner's attention away from the parrot. Either way, there is nothing to be gained by the parrot and everything to be lost so it's not a wonder parrots typically don't like company. This is why socialization through a positive reinforcement approach is essential. Here I will outline the steps I take with my birds and suggest you do with yours when introducing any new people.

First, never take the parrot's tameness for granted. Just because it steps up for you and doesn't bite (if it does, you're going to have to go back to basics before introducing others) does not in any way mean that it will behave this way towards strangers. Hopefully the parrot has a history of training and positive reinforcement from you which gives it reason to be around you. Or perhaps it's just used to you and nothing else. Regardless, don't take this for granted and invite others to handle your bird straight out because most likely this will result in failure, bites, and worst of all encourage your parrot to be aggressive towards people.

Here are my 12 steps toward introducing people and having a well socialized parrot that will step up for any person:

1) Ignore the bird. More importantly have your visitor ignore the bird. The worst thing that could happen is your visitor gets excited that you have a parrot and goes straight to the parrot cage upon entry. The parrot doesn't know what to think of this but is safer to get defensive than wait to see what happens. Even if the parrot doesn't get a chance to attack your guest, it will still develop a bad first impression that this individual is potentially dangerous. So instead, it is best to pretend the parrot doesn't even exist for the first 10-60 minutes. The visitor should avoid eye contact or walking straight toward the parrot. Otherwise the visitor should just go about things as though you didn't have a parrot at all. I usually tell people that I'll show them the parrot later but for now something else. This shows the parrot that the guest is harmless and avoids setting a bad impression. This gives the parrot a chance to watch within the safety of its cage without feeling trapped by an approaching stranger.

2) Let the bird loose. Let the parrot out of the cage and choose whether to approach or not at its own pace. Again, don't allow the visitor to impose upon the parrot. Ideally the parrot should be flighted and given the chance to fly closer or retreat at its own comfort level. Most likely in no time it will approach out of curiosity or come to you for security. By letting the parrot set the pace rather than the guest, it's guaranteed that it won't have reason to be terrified.

3) Show how to handle parrot. You must realize that most people have never handled a parrot before and don't know how to. Even the ones that have still probably don't know how to handle your parrot so assume you must start from scratch with anyone. This is best because then the way guests approach your bird will be similar to how you do and familiar. Show your visitor how you approach the bird, how it steps up, how you pet it, etc. Don't give people the opportunity to treat your bird like a dog or child. They have to understand that this is an intelligent free willed animal deserving respect and admiration.

4) Human perch. Let your visitors first contact with the bird be as nothing more than a human perch. Guide your visitor into holding their arm or finger out to accept the bird and do nothing else. NEVER let them just reach in and have the bird step up. You can't be sure what they'll do and the bird especially. Many times this will result in a nasty bite but if nothing else, will assure the bird that it's safest to just avoid strangers all together. It's a great idea to target train your parrot beforehand and then use the targeting method to target the parrot onto your visitors hand and then back off. Again, remember that the first time on someone's hand should be uninvolved. The person should not pet or handle them yet. Showing the parrot that it can stand on random people's hands without anything happening is far more reassuring than something unpredictable going on. If the bird doesn't target or is well capable of going on other people's hands, just put the parrot onto their hand. Use your hands to keep their attention and deflect a potential bite. Don't give an opportunity to either visitor or parrot to get scared. If one gets scared, the other is sure to become scared too and ruin everything. A scared, biting parrot will make a human scared; by the same token, an unsure human will scare the parrot into biting.

5) Tricks. The bird should be trick trained beforehand. This is yet another reason why trick training is so useful. Have your visitor cue tricks from your parrot and reward it with treats. This is fun and exciting both to visitor and parrot. Allow the visitor to present bigger treats or the best ones you refrain from using too much. This will help the parrot overcome the unfamiliarity and even look forward to visitors instead of dreading them. This is a fun, safe, hands off approach to use positive reinforcement with the parrot for socialization.

6) Step Up. Only after going through the prior steps do you actually allow a new person to request the parrot to step up. What we did was build a certain level of trust in the bird before having someone actually move their own hand toward it. By the time you think it's appropriate for a visitor to approach the bird for step up, the bird has received good things and nothing bad so it's worth a try. My preferred way for having my parrots step up for visitors is by surrounding the bird with tricks..My parrots are accustomed to receiving treats after performing a trick. Thus I have the visitor cue a trick, then while approaching with the treat, ask the parrot to step up to get it. The parrot already knows it earned a treat so it might as well step up to get it. This gives the parrot less reason to doubt motives. After a few successful step ups as such I switch it around. I have the visitor get the bird to step up first for the opportunity to preform a trick for a treat. Thus the parrot learns to simply always step up to earn potential opportunities and not exclusively when a treat is in the hand. Again, it's good to go through these stages with your parrot yourself before completing them with visitors so that the parrot knows what to expect.

Petting Cape Parrot

7) Petting. Now that the parrot is comfortable being on hands, we can introduce hands for petting. Remember that people don't know how to handle or pet a parrot so you must show them the way your bird likes it. This is not a time for experimental petting. If your bird won't end up liking it then it will avoid allowing people to do it in case it's bad like that again. I have my parrot perch on my hand and hold its beak between my fingers. This teaches it a submissive pose, puts a buffer between biting guests, and it tells it what's about to ensue. I begin by scratching my bird's neck the way it likes and then having the guest reach in and join together. Then I take my hand away and allow them to continue. Since the parrot was enjoying it from the start and the visitor did nothing more than continue it, the parrot allows it and even enjoys it. This creates a reason for the parrot to look forward to visitors and not dread that they will manhandle it in some terrifying way.

8) Bird Potato. Play bird potato with one or more guests by randomly passing the parrot around between people and handling it. Mix tricks, scratches, step ups, and breaks randomly so the parrot just becomes accustomed to as many people and hands as possible but always keeping it desirable for the parrot.

9) Grab training. Teaching the bird to allow itself to be grabbed by different people is not only useful when that needs to be done (grooming, vet, boarding, emergency, etc) but also builds a greater level of trust. If the bird will trust someone to grab it and not bite, then it will especially feel safe and not bite just standing on their hand. At first this process may take days or weeks so work with someone familiar but eventually the more people you follow these steps with the easier and quicker it will go. Have the visitor come as close to the bird as it allows and give a treat. Then the visitor should progressively bring the hand closer to the bird without touching and then give a treat. Eventually the visitor should be able to touch the bird for a treat, cup it, and finally grab it for a treat. In the long term have visitors grab and carry the bird to other parts of the room, grab it on/off the cage, and give treats and mixed intervals. The parrot will just become accustomed to being handled by people as a normal activity.

Repeat the above steps with as many people as possible at home. Once the bird is ok with at least a few people you can begin trying the next approaches.

10) Private Outings. Bring the parrot on private outings with not too many people. Take the parrot to dinner with family, over to a friend's house, etc. Start with smaller events that can be controlled before going to things that are more bustling. These are great opportunities for the parrots not only to meet new people but also to become more at ease with people they already know. My parrots can get more bossy at home but when out they are much nicer to other people. This is a good opportunity to continue the socialization process and mend bridges. People that were previously enemies can become friends in unfamiliar places.

11) Public Outings. Once the parrot is used to some people and places you can begin taking it on outings to public places. Parks, malls, streets, carnivals, etc are all great opportunities for your parrots to learn that people are harmless and good. Inevitably people will want to handle your parrot and they will be willing to listen and do as you say. This is your chance to guide the interaction as you have done at home and ensure that interactions with other people will always be good. Since the parrots are busy taking in all the activity of being outside and not within their own territory, they will be less likely to protest. Since humans have always been a safe thing before and the new unfamiliar ones are being presented in familiar ways, the parrot will cooperate. Again it is your responsibility that the parrot does not bite or scare people and vice verse. However, successful public outings like this will make your parrot infinitely more robust and social towards people and changes in their life.

Parrots at the Park

12) Uncontrolled Random Interactions. It's inevitable that at some point or another someone will handle your parrots not in ways that you would recommend. Most likely this has already happened previously and set things back a lot. Well once you reach this last stage, it should be ok for this to happen sometimes. Ensure that the parrots are not hurt but as long as it's not harmful, allow people to handle them in random unpredictable ways. Every now and then someone will just run up and touch my parrots at the park or pet them in ways I wouldn't recommend. But the parrots realize that this is harmless and get over it. If you always shelter your parrot from this, then of course these unpredictable interactions will be terrifying. But once your parrot is already well socialized, allowing some of these to slip by now and then just makes them more robust and prepared to deal with things you could never have foreseen to prepare them for.

Remember that every person is different and that every interaction will make your parrot more social. At first control the interactions very closely to ensure that they aren't too much for the parrot but over time challenge your parrot with tougher less predictable situations. Even when you achieve a socialized parrot, continue to maintain it or over time it will again become too comfortable with you and not with others. Encourage interaction with family members, friends, and strangers that is always positive to the parrot but also always fun/safe for humans. Don't give humans the opportunity to scare the bird but also don't give parrots the opportunity to bite people and make them afraid of birds either. Lastly here is a video of how Kili and Truman have been socialized with Jamie:

How to Properly Clip a Parrot's Wings (Don't Clip at All)

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By Michael Sazhin

Tuesday April 3rd, 2012

While browsing parrot videos on youtube, I inevitably end up coming across videos pertaining to wing clipping. Believe me, I don't go looking for them, they just seem to find me themselves. I am always surprised by how common and taken for granted wing clipping of companion parrots is. Even more so I am shocked by the ridiculous myths that are circulating regarding it.

I compiled the following video from some of the horrific clips I've seen on youtube (pun intended). I didn't go out of my way looking for the most brutal ones. I think people who have posted them see nothing wrong with it and from the sample I've seen, I think this is pretty representative of how brutally most people clip their parrots.

I have always been a major proponent of keeping companion parrots  flighted, however, I have not put all the reasons into a single article until now. I would like to not only demonstrate why it is bad to clip your parrots' wings but also why it's good to keep them flighted. To be fair, I'll also cover some of the challenges owners of flighted parrots should expect. Nonetheless, I think the reasons for keeping parrots flighted far outweigh reasons for clipping.

My personal experience of living with and training parrots spans a clipped parrot, refledged parrot, and a never clipped parrot so I think I am equally qualified to discus any of these stages. So onto the main topic, how to properly trim parrot wings? There is much discussion about whether to clip the primary or secondary feathers. How many feathers should be clipped? Will my parrot hate me if I clip its wings? And many other similar questions. My answer is that the right thing to do is not to clip a parrot's wings in the first place but instead analyze the motives for clipping and then achieve them in less intrusive ways than clipping the wings that are specifically directed at those issues.

Clipped Senegal Parrot
Kili was clipped when I first got her. Like most parrot owners, I didn't know any better.

On the other hand Truman was never clipped. It took a great effort to find a breeder capable of this.

Parrots, like virtually all birds, have feathered wings that are used for flight. Millions of years of evolution of the avian and psittacine biology have led to these highly effective flighted bodies. Birds are evolved for flight in many different ways beyond just the wings that are apparent to the uneducated eye. Birds, like their dinosaur ancestors, possess hollow bones, air sacks, and higher metabolisms. These anatomical systems allow for the balance of weight and energy required for flight.

I think most people would agree that it would be cruel to always keep a cat or dog locked up in a small kennel without the chance to walk and run around for exercise. Likewise, even if a parrot isn't always caged but has its wings clipped, it is unable to attain the level of exercise necessary for its physiology. The health of the clipped parrot is as much jeopardized as a human or animal entirely denied of physical exercise. Obesity, cardiological, respiratory, and muscular problems are just some of the issues associated with parrots denied of flight. This is a good time to point out that a clipped parrot and an unclipped, but always caged parrot that has no room to fly, are in practically the same predicament. I will use clipped and unflighted interchangeably to mean parrots that are entirely denied flight whether by clipping, caging, or other means.

In flight, a parrot not only has to perform strenuous contractions of its pectoral muscles for flapping, but also many peripheral muscles for balance and direction. In order to keep up with the intense aerobic respiration necessary to keep those muscles moving, the bird needs to make full use of its heart, lungs, and air sacs. Thus many muscles and organs are used and exercised by a parrot in flight.

The problems of clipping are not only physical but also psychological. Without the rigorous mental stimulation of flight, clipped parrots are more likely to develop behavioral problems such as feather plucking, screaming, and biting. Think about it, an animal with the anatomy and metabolism evolved for flight has way more energy than can be consumed by any means other than flight. In a clipped parrot this unconsumed energy leads to obesity and/or behavioral issues associated with restlessness.

Feather plucking is often (but not exclusively) associated with insufficient mental stimulation, aka boredom. Flying is no less mentally challenging than physically. Believe me on this. Even without being physically strenuous, piloting gliders and airplanes is a mental exercise like no other. After a few hours of flying, I feel like my brain was reinserted after being bounced around in a game of badminton. Flying not only involves thinking about a lot of things quickly but also planning ahead. Our feathered friends have to think where they are going, how to get there, how to navigate obstacles, avoid predators, prepare for landing, calculate the landing, and have backup options in case it doesn't work as planned. That bird brain has to work harder in a few minutes of flight than spending all day with toys, feeding, and tricks. So you see, clipping wings not only causes a physical but also a mental handicap to a parrot.

Flying Cape Parrot

Clipping a parrot's wings immobilizes a parrot which causes it to depend on humans for transport. People think that's a good thing. They believe that this makes a parrot tamer, more manageable, and like people better. Wrong. Just because the parrot cannot get away from things it dislikes does not make it not dislike them. Screaming and biting can be largely associated to the clipping problem. Parrots have a fight or flight reflex. Really it should be called flight or fight because they will typically opt to fly away than fight. The clipped parrot learns to bite the owner to avoid handling or things it dislikes. A flighted parrot flies away instead. To the lay parrot owner, biting may seem preferable over flight. Hey, at least the biting parrot remains within reach while the flighted parrot can get away. However, with training, flight is more manageable than biting. A parrot will fly where it wants, so if you can just change things such that the parrot wants to fly to you, problem solved. Biting on the other hand is very difficult to undo once it is learned. Once a parrot learns that biting will get it what it wants (to be left alone, not to be put into cage, etc), it is very very difficult and painful to eliminate this. To eliminate learned biting, it is necessary to accept hundreds or thousands of bites to convince the parrot that this will not affect your behavior when it is already convinced that it can.

Screaming is yet another problem that clipping is partly to blame for. The screaming parrot in the cage is a different issue, however, out of cage clipped parrots learn to scream to get the owner's attention. In the case of a flighted parrot that wants to go some place else, it will simply fly over there. However, a clipped parrot placed on a high stand is helpless and cannot go back to its cage for a drink or over to the owner without human attention. Thus the clipped parrot can learn to scream to get the owner to come over to take care of its needs rather than attending to them on its own. Also, to me it seems that parrots are more prone to screaming when they have a lot of energy. After a good flying session they get tired and tend to be a lot quieter.

I am going to present many reasons I have come across for clipping wings and present alternatives.

Clip the parrots wings so that the parrot will love you.

The parrot has no reason to love you whether you clip its wings or not. It probably has even more reason not to if you're so selfish that you want to cause such an atrocious physical and mental handicap. The best way to achieve a parrot's love is to do things that it likes (or train it to like things it may not naturally like) and treat it with respect. By treating a parrot in ways that it likes ensures that it will want to fly to you and be around you. You cannot force your pet to like you, you have to earn it. Not clipping the wings provides the most genuine feedback. If your parrot regularly comes to you, you know it really wants to be with you and not because it is forced.

Clipping wings is necessary for the parrots own safety.

This is the biggest load of bull I have to listen to from all over the place experts and beginners alike! First of all, I don't think anyone truly believes this and that it's just a cover up for other selfish reasons. But I will for the moment assume that people really think this and go line by line dispelling this fundamental myth of parrot ownership. Rather than addressing this classic line, I'm going to break it down to specific safety concerns that clipping is purported to address.

I clip my parrot's wings so that it doesn't fly away when I take it outside.

Many people who have never once seen their parrot fly indoors have been shocked to see their clipped parrot flying away outside. There are several reasons why clipped parrots magically seem to be able to takeoff outdoors. Wing clipping normally involves cutting the tips of several primary feathers. The primary feathers are a bird's means of propulsion moreso than lift. Primary feathers are more akin to a propeller than a wing on an airplane. Without thrust, a parrot cannot fly up or straight. However, it can still glide on its remaining secondaries and wing surface area. While the clipped parrot cannot glide or control its flight as well as an unclipped one, it is still able to do this to an extent. Indoors this usually means that a parrot can only fly a limited distance. Outdoors, there are three elements that can cause a clipped parrot to fly beyond any capability observed indoors. The adenaline rush of a major startle could give the parrot strength to flap harder than usual and overcome some clipping. Wind is the biggest cause of clipped parrots becoming able to fly outdoors. Wind replaces thrust as the source of air moving over the wing surface initially for a clipped parrot becoming airborne. By taking off into a headwind gradient, dynamic soaring occurs where additional lift is gained by increasing winds. Also winds can be deflected upward by trees and buildings, creating even more of an upward push. Worse yet, the wind drifts the parrot across a large distance, but being clipped it lacks experience or control to solve this. The parrot could end up in a tree, fall into water and drown, or get hit by a car. Don't be complacent and think that this is only a problem on windy days. Thermals can form without wind and suck the helpless parrot upward should it take flight. People have been shocked by how high or far their clipped parrot has ended up when it unexpectedly took flight outside. Whether clipped or not, companion parrots should be properly caged or restrained when taken outdoors.

It is necessary to clip parrot wings so they cannot fly out of doors and windows.

Once again, even a clipped parrot has some flight and gliding capability. Sometimes it is just enough for something terrible to happen. This is why rather than using clipping (which isn't foolproof for preventing fly outs), it is important to solve this by keeping windows/doors closed while the parrot is out. Whenever doors or windows need to be opened, the parrot should be away in its cage. This is the only way to guarantee its safety.

Parrots should be clipped to prevent them from falling into toilets, sinks, and other sources of water.

I hear this all the time, yet it makes absolutely no sense. A clipped parrot is more likely to "fall in" by accident without escape than a flighted parrot. A flighted parrot can control its flight so most likely would not be in danger of this situation. I can tell you from personal experience that my parrots have never gone into sinks/toilets even when possible. They are scared and uninterested in them. They are less likely to fall into them than a scared clipped parrot without control of its flight. There still exists the possibility of doing it out of curiosity which really can apply to any parrot. Clipping wings is no guarantee that the parrot doesn't end up in the bathroom. Keeping toilet seats closed or better yet bathroom doors closed solves this danger without clipping parrot's wings.

Parrots need to be clipped or they can fall into a boiling pot of water while cooking.

I see absolutely no good reason for a parrot (or any pet) to be out during cooking. Besides boiling water, cooking usually involves knives, fumes, and other things that can be dangerous to any any parrot. The one and only case I have heard of a parrot falling into a boiling pot of water was a clipped parrot though. Parrots should be put away and attention given toward cooking. But if we're going to talk about theoretically who is safer, it's probably the flighted parrot as it can fly away. A clipped parrot fell off someone's shoulder once and landed right in the pot. Once again, clipping is not a solution at all (and possibly a greater threat). Common sense and safety precautions must prevail.

Parrots must have their wings clipped or they will fly into walls/windows and break their neck.

This myth I have only ever heard professed by people who have always clipped their parrot's wings. My parrots fly around the house and I don't have this problem and nor does anyone else I know with flighted parrots. If anything, it's the clipped parrots that end up crashing into things when they gain a few feathers without practice or experience using them. I guess owners take this as proof that parrots can't be trusted to fly and go right back to clipping them without even giving them a chance to get better. My parrots did take some harmless bumps while learning to fly but have practically never crashed again since then. Once a parrot is a capable flier, it can think on the fly and avoid walls and windows. As an extra precaution it is good to keep windows shaded, however, once parrots learn about windows they can fly in such rooms without knocking into them.

Parrots can become victims of other pets (cats/dogs) if they aren't clipped.

Parrots are at risk around other animals whether clipped or not, period. Despite people's hopes and desires of keeping both in harmony, parrots just are not compatible with carnivorous pets who instinctively see them as prey. Clipping may actually put a parrot at greater risk of not being able to fly away but keeping them flighted does not save them either. I have heard of more cases of parrots being killed by cats/dogs than most other kinds of accidents combined. Don't look for excuses, don't think if it hasn't happened that it can't, don't add a parrot to a household with a cat/dog/ferret, don't add a cat/dog/ferret to a household with a parrot. This really is a case of choosing one or the other (or keeping them entirely apart, like dog outside).

If I don't clip my parrot, it won't stay on its perch.

Well duh! Neither would you. Naturally a parrot wants to move around, explore, and do different things. No matter how much food, toys, and exciting things you put on the perch, it's not enough to keep a parrot sufficiently mentally stimulated. Of course when it is unsafe or impractical for the parrot to roam your home, it should be in the cage. However, for the time it is out, it deserves to have some freedom getting around. I don't know why people think it is fair for a cat/dog to roam a house all day long but that a parrot should be clipped and sit on/in it's cage 24/7. If clipping is the only thing that it is keeping it in one place, then you can imagine mentally how much it is missing out on when it can't go anywhere.

I don't want my parrot pooping all over the place so it is best to clip the wings.

This practically is not an issue for a potty trained flighted parrot. Almost all of the time my parrots fly back to their perch to poop. In fact this may be cleaner than a clipped parrot that just goes wherever it is because it doesn't have the option to fly to its designated pooping location (such as when it is on the owner).

If my parrot could fly, it won't want me to put it back in its cage and fly away.

The root of the problem would exist regardless if the parrot is clipped or not if it does not want to go back into the cage. The flighted parrot would fly away, the clipped parrot would bite. Either way, something is not right and you would be hurting your relationship with the parrot by forcing it. Instead of clipping (or forcing), use training and feeding schedules to make it such that your parrot wants to go back into the cage and it's like you're doing it a favor.

If my parrot could fly, I wouldn't be able to put it away in the cage as punishment.

Sure shows what a bad idea it is to use the cage as punishment? Most likely it just encourages more biting anyway so it's for the better not to do this in the first place.

Clipping parrots' wings does not hurt them

It is true that the actual scissor to feather aspect of clipping wings does not hurt them. Many times parrots are hurt in the grooming process but even that can be done gently enough (or even trained to participate in) that this may not hurt. However, the parrot is likely hurt in other physical and psychological ways. Its health is hurt by the lack of exercise, it's mind is hurt by helplessness, and it's body is actually hurt when it falls down. Often times clipping is done severely on purpose not only so that the parrot couldn't fly but also so it would be self-punishing to even try. This can lead to bruised or fractured legs and sternums.

Flighted parrots can get killed flying into ceiling fans.

Yes, they can. I don't know what parrot owner in their right mind keeps those things around. If not entirely remove it, I would at least suggest disabling the wiring so it can't be turned on by accident. There are plenty of alternatives like closed box fans, air conditioners, and those new bladeless fans. It's a reasonable enough sacrifice to make for the safety of your pet and not a good excuse for keeping them grounded. I hate to think anyone is choosing a fan over their pet and if they are I really pity the way they must treat it in other regards.

Flighted parrots just end up in the cage all day.

This isn't true or at least doesn't have to be. Or rather it should be the same as with clipped parrots. Even clipped parrots require supervision when they are out of the cage. After some time they will get bored of staying on the same perch (as would a flighted parrot that might just fly over to another) and begin to scream for attention, hop off, or find other ways of driving the owner nuts. I think it is just in the parrot's nature to get bored of things and want to explore so clipped or not, the amount of time the owner can tolerate them being out shouldn't change too much when going from clipped to flighted. Some just have more patience for these things than others. However, during the transition stage things can fall out of balance which usually encourages people to go back to clipping. The time when a parrot is figuring out what it can do with its wings isn't necessarily representative and you have to move past it to get to a truly flighted parrot. My parrots get about the same amount of time out of the cage as they did when they were clipped (some of them). It is limited moreso by my schedule than anything else but when I do spend all day at home, I still keep their out of cage schedule similar to what they should normally expect.

Clip a parrot in the beginning and let it fly later.

Some folks on the edge of encouraging flighted parrots still suggest an early clip (including breeders that fledge and have flighted parrots). The most popular time to clip (weenling coming home) is probably the worst time to do it. Developing parrots need to learn flight and how to appropriately use it in the human environment during this stage more than ever. They learn quickly and get hurt less because their bones are still flexible. This is like a toddler learning to walk. Not being able to fly in this critical stage may cause some permanent physical and mental abnormalities. The parrot that got to fly throughout its first year will have an advantage over the one that didn't down the line. Most importantly, this is the most pointless time to clip a parrot because the just hand raised fledgling is eager to go to people and eager to learn. This is the best opportunity to teach it life in the human household while still having its unquestioned trust.

A partial trim is a good intermediate compromise.

Some people suggest cutting just 2-4 primaries so that the parrot retains a level of flight but flies less. I don't like this idea because it seems the parrot would have to flap disproportionately hard to stay airborne and cause stress to its wings and system. It is definitely more natural to be flying with full feathers. If the owner is ok enough with the parrot to be mostly flighted, then clearly flight safety precautions have been made so there really isn't much reason not to just go all the way. Parrots will get into mischief no matter what so you may as well accept that there is no magic solution and it's part of who they are and what we like about them.


I know people are going to come up with some specific exceptions and try to argue that it's ok to clip all parrots on the basis of these rare ones so I'll just bring up some cases where clipping may be inevitable. Some parrots will be born with deformities or develop certain injuries throughout their life that may prevent them from safe flight so these cases should be left up to the vet. Parrot rescues are overwhelmed with other people's unwanted parrots and it is often impossible or dangerous to keep them flighted. Under the circumstances those parrots are already getting the best they can expect considering the situations they are coming from. Still, rescues should strive to home out those parrots to friendly homes where they can be kept in their natural flighted state. However, with such an overwhelming number of birds being displaced, they often have to do whatever they can for minimal survival for these unfortunately unwanted animals. I cannot blame the rescues. It's the people who screwed up the parrots to begin with that are at fault.

Then there will be animal hoarders who just want to collect as many different parrots or animals as possible. They can't keep parrots flighted amidst a household zoo of animals. The problems here lie far deeper than just clipping vs flight so I'm not going to get into them. The only point I have to make is that people shouldn't mix parrots with incompatible animals and shouldn't acquire more animals than they can provide outstanding living conditions for. Likewise there are circumstances of children owning parrots that want to keep them flighted but the parents do not allow them. I don't know what the parents were thinking allowing them to get a bird in the first place then but another reason why I don't recommend parrots for children until they are in complete control of their circumstances.

There will also be some circumstances where people bought and kept a parrot clipped for a long time and are considering flight. Yet their household and circumstances truly prevent them from keeping them flighted no matter how much they would like to. Again, it is still worthwhile to try to go as far as possible in preparation for having the parrot flighted, brainstorm with other people what can be done, etc. But, there will be times that it is still not possible to go that final step. However, this is not justification for most people not to try or make excuses. Everyone thinks they can't do it but most often it is because they haven't tried or haven't tried long enough. I simply cannot believe that such a vast number of parrots have to be clipped by extreme household circumstances. Just because exceptions may exist does not mean we shouldn't all strive not to have to be them.


Now I'd like to go over some of the challenges. Flighted parrots do require some training, vigilance, and bird proofing. However, none of these concepts should be unfamiliar to owners that clip. If they are, they are probably going about parrot ownership in the wrong way. The vast majority of bird proofing should already be in place regardless if the parrot can fly or not (such as avoiding teflon, closing doors, closing windows, not cooking with parrot out, etc). Just the finishing touches and supervision are all that's needed beyond that. Even clipped parrots can end up on the floor and electrocuted while chewing a cord so owner vigilance is required either way. And finally training. Even clipped parrots must be taught basics like step up, targeting, and being held. Adding flight recall is just once further step and really the culmination of the other skills. It should almost come naturally if you can provide the parrot the necessary motivation to be around you. There are plenty of minute details and perfections to flighted ownership that I won't get into here because I have discussed them before and throughout. Accepting these challenges should just be a natural part of bird ownership. If owners genuinely care about their companion parrots, the benefit of knowing how much better off your parrot is far outweighs the extra effort in keeping them flighted.

Senegal Parrot Flying

Many people resist keeping flighted parrots. I'm not completely sure why but my guess is that they mainly fall in two categories: people who simply don't know/realize that keeping parrots flighted is safe and possible, and people who just don't care about their parrot. I think the sad reality is that most people who clip their parrots fall into the second category. Whether it's because they prize their possessions more than their pets or because they just selfishly want a decorative talking animal that doesn't get in the way... I really pity their parrots and find it a total shame that they acquire them in the first place. These people will resist, make excuses, distract, and ignore good reasoning. But they won't have the guts to admit that it's their fault and they are to blame and not the parrot. I cannot change their minds. But for everyone else who clips their parrots and is reading this article, please take these reasons into consideration. Don't take this decision lightly. Think it trough and seek help of others. Please feel free to discuss this and your specific case on the parrot forum. Think it over. Work in little steps toward making your parrot flighted. Even if you don't think you can achieve it 100%, just taking the steps to bird proof as much as possible, use harnesses outside, using flighted precautions, etc will at least ensure more safety for even the clipped parrot. Then all that will be left is figuring out the last few unique issues to getting your parrot safely flighted. There is always a solution. The only question is if it's worth it to you?

Finally I would like to end this article by expressing just how truly remarkable it is to have flighted parrots. This is a large part of the reason I chose to have birds. It is just absolutely thrilling to watch them effortlessly get around on their wings or feel the breeze as they swoop right over my head. We should appreciate, marvel, and envy their flight and not take it into our hands to be taking it away from them. Here's a video of my parrots in flight.

Note all the flights in the video are trained/cued flights and it may seem like that's the only kind of flying my parrots do. This isn't true. They do fly at will or on cue to me outside of training sessions or just where they want to go. It's just very difficult to capture because it is spontaneous. The only way to reliably demonstrate their flight to an audience is when it is on cue. But rest assured they do fly as they wish at other times.

Your Parrot's Worst Enemy vs Good Parrot Behavior

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By Michael Sazhin

Wednesday June 1st, 2011

This is a story of why rather than how to train your parrot.Of course there are many threats and enemies to our parrots' well being and happiness, however, one stands out in my mind as a major hindrance to this is an owner who makes excuses rather than do what is right. There is a psychological term for this called cognitive dissonance. This is when a person truly believes one thing but tries to rationalize it a different way. Sometimes this is to avoid responsibility, difficulty, or simply to try to save face in a losing battle. For example, parrot owners are pretty well informed that chocolate is a toxic food to parrots but if an owner slips some chocolate to a parrot thinking, "one time isn't going to kill him" is an example of cognitive dissonance. The owner knows that it's not safe to do but tries to come up with an excuse for doing it anyway. It is possible that one time kills the parrot but even if it doesn't, testing this out with full awareness of the possible consequences is irresponsible.

Certainly there is a distinction between cognitive dissonance and ignorance. Ignorance in itself could be dangerous (giving a parrot chocolate without knowing any better), however, an owner who frequently engages in cognitive dissonance is establishing a higher long term risk to the parrot's well being. Ignorance can be solved with learning or at least trial and error. If an owner who has been giving chocolate to a parrot unaware of the danger learns that it is dangerous and stops, at least the risk will not continue. However, an owner that tries to rationalize doing the wrong thing, will continue putting the parrot at risk for the rest of its life. The examples can range from trite to lethal but the problem of an excuse based attitude prevails throughout.

Since this blog is mainly focused on parrot training, I will look at more training based exampled of cognitive dissonance and try to take a behavior based approached to solving them. There are two different attitudes I often see regarding untame parrots. There are the people who identify the problem and come to me (likely through putting in the effort of searching the internet) asking for advice how to tame them. This is a logical way of doing things and will hopefully empower the owner to take the training steps necessary to tame the parrot and develop a better relationship. A better relationship is always better both for parrot and owner because the parrot is less likely to get lonely and develop health issues, the owner is more likely to enjoy spending time with the pet, and if there are no such problems, the owner is far less likely to rehome the parrot. A good parrot/owner relationship is always a winning situation. Now on the flip side I will come across (whether it's during online discussion, at a parrot store, or in people's videos) owners blaming the parrot for everything. I constantly hear things like "the parrot is mean," "the parrot wants to be dominant," "I want to let the bird be a bird," "I don't have time to train my parrot," "the parrot doesn't want to come out of its cage," etc. Not only are these excuses untrue, they are detrimental to progress because it gives the owner a reason not to try. If the owner doesn't try, then of course nothing will get solved. I'll take a moment to dispel these common myths in hope of convincing people that they can move past them or other excuses:

The parrot is mean - The parrot isn't necessarily being mean, it is biting in self defense. It is likely defending itself, mate, or cage territory. These things can be solved through proper training because it will teach the parrot that you are no threat and that biting doesn't solve things. Furthermore we can change their cage set up or take them to a different room to resolve territorial aggression for training purposes.

The parrot wants to be dominant - People think that parrots bite when they are higher than a person because they want to exhibit dominance. Mine don't. They will fly down to me from high places or I can reach and have them step up without ever biting. People use dominance as an excuse to blame the bird rather than to realize that the bird just enjoys being in that place more than being with the owner. A very common event where this kind of biting happens is when the parrot is on top of its cage. The owner tries to get it to step up but the bird bites a lot. The owner assumes the parrot is trying to be dominant when really it doesn't want to step up because the most likely thing to follow is getting put in the cage. Many owners let their parrots sit on top of their cage for a long time and only use step up for putting them away rather than doing something more enjoyable than sitting on top of the cage (which of course for many parrots is a big thrill). The parrot simply learns that biting the hand will make it go away and then it can go back to enjoying sitting on top of the cage.

I want to let the bird be a bird - There is no point in using this defense because the bird isn't in the wild, it's in a home. This is already unnatural. The purpose of training and bonding is to give the human and parrot the greatest enjoyment and best lifestyle possible in the unnatural home environment. There is no need to compete with nature, instead, if we can find the most successful and least intrusive ways of providing for our companion parrots' health and well being, we are successful. Of course we need to balance our own sanity and preserving our homes so there obviously needs to be compromise. The beauty of training is that it teaches/convinces the bird that the things you want from it (which may totally be unnatural like stepping on a human hand) are what it wants anyway.

I don't have time to train my parrot - If someone can't find 10-30 minutes a day to train their parrot, I doubt they have time to give it adequate care at all. Most owners will spend a few hours a day with their parrot so reorganizing that time to include a little bit of training is pretty easy. The important thing for basic training and taming is consistency rather than duration. The kind of taming/training required for a good relationship requires more days and routine of practice rather than length of individual sessions. 10 minutes every day will go a longer way than an hour once a week. The amount of time you save on dealing with parrot nuisance/problems will outweigh the time it takes to do a little training (cleaning poop from unwanted places, excessive destructiveness, biting, refusing to go into cage, etc). If you chose to have a parrot as a pet, it should be both in your interest and responsibility to find some time to spend with it every day.

The parrot doesn't want to come out of its cage - Well duh! If the parrot hasn't been out of its cage or hasn't had a good time when it was out, of course it won't want to come out. For many untame parrots their only human experience was people grabbing them at stores to shove them in boxes and moving them around. Unlike domesticated animals, parrots are pretty much wild animals. The only thing attaching them to humans is what they had learned. It may be hard to convince a parrot to come out the first time but if you use some in the cage training methods you can make it want to come out by following a target stick or you can force it out and then make the out of the cage experience so wonderful that it forgets being forced out and starts to like coming out. Until it comes out and has a good time, it won't have a reason to want to come out.

So as you can see, there are real solutions to real problems. Excuses don't get their parrots or owners anywhere. Taking a problem solving approach, doing some research, and patiently applying it is always the way to go. Excuses/rationalizations can come both for doing something or not doing it. Mainly training related excuses are for the purposes of not doing it. On the flip side, owners will make excuses for justifying things they do that they know to be wrong. The one excuse I absolutely hate the most is "I clip my parrot for its own good." This is an excuse plain and simple. When someone says that, what they really mean is "I clip my parrot for my own good." Most owners of clipped parrots fear that their parrot won't want to be with them if it can fly away, that they won't be able to train it if it's flighted, that it will poop everywhere, that they won't be able to put it away, that the bird will get hurt, that the bird will get lost, etc. However, I believe that with a little caring, sacrifice, patience, and training, almost any household can keep flighted parrots.

Now I realize there will be exception cases of injured parrots that maybe shouldn't fly or parrots at overcrowded rescues that can't afford to keep them flighted, however, these are exceptions and really shouldn't apply to most companion parrots. I believe the quality of life improvement for the parrot being flighted far outweighs the convenience of it being not. Some benefits include extensive exercise, lower stress (and healthier plumage as a result), better safety, lower or eliminated chance of feather plucking, greater mental stimulation, and most of all: freedom of choice. Birds naturally flee what they are scared of in the wild by flying away and they can explore the things they are afraid of at their own pace. Clipped parrots are constantly forced into interactions whether they want them or not and whether the owner is aware of them or not.

By giving out parrots greater amounts of choices (even if we teach them to make the choices that we want), many behavioral byproducts of eliminating choice are avoided. Like I previously mentioned about the case of a parrot that knows how to step up biting instead of stepping up to avoid being put away, the lack of choice is causing stress on the parrot (and possibly biting or displeasure with the owner). If on the other hand going into the cage could be a more positive experience, the parrot would choose to go in. If going in the cage is what it wants, it won't bite the owner who is trying to have it step up.

The biggest problem with parrot training is getting the parrot to want what we want from it (whether it's performing a trick or going into the cage). If the parrot already has everything it wants, then it is difficult to find something it wants even more to motivate it to do what you want. People who spoil their parrots (constant and extensive supplies of food, toys, and attention) are more likely to revert to punishment for undesired behavior rather than using positive reinforcement for desired behavior. This may appear effective in short sight but is terrible in the long run. For example using the cage as a means of punishing a parrot for unwanted behavior such as screaming is counter productive. First of all, if the parrot likes its cage, going back may not be much of a punishment. On the other hand, if the parrot dislikes its cage, then it will try to avoid ending up in the cage by biting. In an attempt to reduce screaming, punishment could lead to flying away from the owner or biting the owner to avoid being put away. Even if the parrot is small enough that the owner feels unaffected by the bites, the parrot is likely still going through the stress of being forced to do something against its will.

Michael and Truman the Cape Parrot

So ask yourself, would you prefer your parrot see you as a wonderful provider of good things or the bad person who takes good things away? Performing the role of punisher doesn't discipline or teach the parrot any kind of respect either. It just teaches it to try to avoid the person who punishes it all together. When I talk about being a tough owner, I do not mean forcing the parrot to do things against its will. Being tough is more about having the patience and self control to resist giving into what the parrot wants when its behavior is unacceptable. Being tough is wanting to take out a parrot to play with it but not taking it out because it is screaming. Being tough is ignoring a bite when it happens. But being tough is not putting a parrot in a cage for biting, this is just being vengeful (without regard to the actual long term effectiveness of the consequence).

Something that peeves me is when an owner expects a parrot to like him or do what the owner wants merely for the fact that the owner paid money to buy the bird. Or even for doing things like putting food in the bowl, water in the cup, and cleaning the cage. The simple fact is that the parrot has no correlation between these things and the owner. Food just shows up in its cage daily no matter what. The parrot doesn't learn to be on good behavior in order to get food. A more successful approach is to shift the presence of good things to coincide with the owner and good behavior. This is what training is all about.

Using some basic food management as well as managing other favorable resources isn't deprivation. It's just a shift in the timing so that they can be rewarding. So instead of letting a parrot eat 100% of its food in the cage, perhaps feed it 80-90% in the cage and then let it earn the rest from you for good behavior. The only thing is that motivation is highest at peak of hunger so it is more effective to train the parrot using the first 10% of its meal as the reward rather than the last 10. I'm not going to spend too much time getting into how to use effective food management and management of other favorable parrot resources but instead I will show some ways that a trained parrot makes a good pet.

My parrots step up for me automatically and unlike in the training videos where I explained teaching step up, I never give treats just for stepping up. To someone who doesn't know, it would appear that may parrots just obey and always step up without reason. However, there is a reason and a very good one. The parrots have learned to trust my step up requests because they inadvertently lead to desirable things (positive reinforcement) indirectly. If Truman steps up, I may walk over and show him something interesting, I may pet him, or I may cue him to perform a trick and earn a treat. Regardless, step up is likely to lead to something favorable for the parrot and never anything undesired. Since I make even going back to the cage a favorable experience, there is almost nothing bad that happens as a result of step up so my parrots step up very willingly.

This is why trick training is so useful even if you aren't particularly interested in the tricks themselves. Trick training sets up an atmosphere for learning and also teaches both you and your parrot to work toward better behavior. Training never ends and it is important to always expect your parrot to do better. This keeps it learning and doing more and more good behavior for fewer and fewer treats. At first you may need to give a treat for every step up. However, when you've taught your parrot to wave, you could have it step up without a treat for the opportunity to stand on your hand and wave to get a treat. At first it's just a trick chain but eventually the basic tameness becomes second nature. Your parrot may get used to being held or touched for the training of certain tricks (such as wings) and later on this proves helpful for routine maintenance behavior.

My parrots are excited to come out of their cages because being out can lead to treats, petting, flying, talking, and other things parrots enjoy. So I know that coming out is in itself rewarding and can be used as reinforcement for good behavior. I make sure my parrots aren't screaming, and in the case of Kili says hello, before I even consider letting them out. I taught Kili to say hello when she wants to come out instead of screaming by letting her out a lot of times after hearing her say hello (she got the hang of it realizing that saying hello just gets her out some of the time). I upped the requirements from there to also being on a perch to be let out. It's kind of hard to get Truman out of the canopy of his dome Cage so instead of chasing him around the cage to get him, I figured he's the one getting the special treat of coming out so I'll let him do the work. I used to open the door and hold my hand near the closest convenient perch and he had to climb down to it. Now when he sees me coming to let him out he goes there himself and it's a signal to me that he would like to be out. I never let the birds climb out of their cages on their own. The only way they come out is by stepping up. Thus I am giving a super reward for step up (the reward of getting to come out) at least twice a day, every day for the parrot's lives. This is such an easy way to reinforce step up and get credit from the parrot without creating any additional deprivation. The parrot already has to spend time in its cage so the deprivation of out of cage time is naturally present. I'm not suggesting putting the parrot in the cage on purpose to teach this, but since it is already anyway, let it be to your advantage.

Petting Cape Parrot

Some people can't pet their parrots because they are scared and don't know it feels good. By using some basic taming/training techniques, the bird can be taught to accept touch in return for food. Once it is used to being touched and no longer scared, you will have the opportunity to pet it the way it likes and develop an alternative primary positive reinforcer to food. But without knowing what petting is like, the bird won't let you so it can't know what it is missing. So food can be effective for taming these other methods of reward. I don't think it is necessary to withhold petting just to be used for training, however, it is important not to do it during or after undesirable behavior. For example don't start petting your parrot because it bit you when you stopped to make you continue. As long as bad behavior isn't going on during petting, you are already rewarding behavior alternate to bad (like biting, screaming, etc).

Now of course what we perceive is bad behavior may well be natural behavior to parrots in the wild. Biting enemies and screaming to flock mates are survival tactics highly rewarding in the wild. Since these are harmful to our pet/human relationship, it is best for us to use training to avoid these. They may not be entirely avoided with positive reinforcement training, however, the more non-bad behavior that you can reward, the less bad behavior can occur. When you spend 20 minutes training tricks, that is a concentrated dose of good behavior learning for your birds. They learn that shaking their head, waving their foot, or showing their wings gets them what they want. By learning effective methods of getting what they want, they are also eliminating some ineffective methods (that are more natural and effective in the wild). Then the things they learned in training help the rest of the time when they are out because good behavior is differentiated from bad. And as long as the owner avoids rewarding bad behavior outside of training, the learned stuff carries over outside of training to lead to a well behaved parrot.

There is so much I can say about how resource management and training leads to well behaved, healthy, happy parrots but instead I will just share a video that shows how I can spend time with my well behaved parrots outside of training time. While I may spend 30-60 minutes a day teaching flight recalls for treats, at other times I can recall my parrots just for the sake of hanging out but they already know what to do from training. The same applies for step up, going in the cage, petting, and virtually all other "good behavior" from them. By constantly challenging my parrots and setting higher requirements for rewards, the easier things or things previously learned become routine and are maintained through indirect rewarding. Over time this good behavior begins to look natural and it's easy to forget the true source of all of it: parrot training!

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Trained Parrot is a blog about how to train tricks to all parrots and parakeets. Read about how I teach tricks to Truman the Brown Necked Cape Parrot including flight recall, shake, wave, nod, turn around, fetch, wings, and play dead. Learn how you can train tricks to your Parrot, Parrotlet, Parakeet, Lovebird, Cockatiel, Conure, African Grey, Amazon, Cockatoo or Macaw. This blog is better than books or DVDs because the information is real, live, and completely free of charge. If you want to know how to teach your parrot tricks then you will enjoy this free parrot training tutorial.
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