I’m acclimating just fine…

Posted by Raz on Dec 30th, 2008
Dec 30

thank you very much.

Now leave me alone so I can nap.

piper culcha

[Piper @ San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park]

We have been doing a lot of outings over the holidays to help acclimate Piper to the Big Wide World, and also to give Carly more opportunities for socializing outside of our flying time when it can be a dangerous distraction if she sees someone interesting just out of my sight. We used to do a lot of this kind of thing before she started free flying, so it’s no wonder she tries to find opportunities to visit people. Another “Doh!” moment for me.

Since our retraining efforts began last month, she has gotten much better about staying within a safe range at the beach, but still gets distracted by socializing in the park where the flying itself is less interesting, there are no gulls to play with, etc. So we are going to train very hard at the beach with the aim of “super-duper generalizing” of the recall behavior (as Barbara H deems it). This is a perfect time for it since the number of people is very low there right now, and will be increasing over the coming months as the weather warms. Automatic incrementing of level of distractions.

At Seaport Village at San Diego harbor yesterday Carly had a Red-Headed bonanza. She got to be held by a RH guy, a little RH girl, and an older RH lady. And then there were ducks.

carly & ducks

More pics here: Social Outings


Posted by Raz on Dec 25th, 2008
Dec 25

8 month old Piper has gotten into the spirit of giving this Christmas. He is trying to give Carly some of his dinner — or shall we say, regifting it. Never seen this before from Piper!

Happy Holidays 2008

Posted by Raz on Dec 25th, 2008
Dec 25

It’s been raining most of the day so we’ve been indoors except for a short jaunt between showers.


Which for some of us gets booorrringgg after awhile ….


Best wishes for a great 2009 everyone!

Happy Hatchday to Carly!

Posted by Raz on Dec 21st, 2008
Dec 21

She came out of her egg 4 years ago, at Majestic Wings aviary in Brenham, Texas.

Here she is just under 2 months old in February 2005, the week we met, at the bird store.

baby carly

On the agenda today: a little flying, scrambled eggs, and trying out her new battery powered car speakers for my iPhone tunes. (Car radio speakers fatally ill and inoperable; earbuds unacceptable to bird who wants to sing along.)

New remarks on Bird Tricks by Sid Price

Posted by Raz on Dec 12th, 2008
Dec 12

Due to more unethical activity associated with the Birdtricks.com’s extensive marketing operation, Sid Price has recently published two blog posts about the issue.

One is a guest post at Best in Flock, Don’t Fall for Deceptive Bird Training Tricks .

The other is a follow-up on his own Avian Ambassadors Bird Training Blog,
Bird Tricks to Avoid

Many web site domains are actually owned directly, others are affiliates, and still others are now refusing to disclose ownership information which has normally been easily accessible by a web search.

As a part of my research on Bird Tricks marketing strategies I discovered that Womach Productions the owners of the Bird Tricks web site has in fact some 70+ Internet domain names (Internet locations) registered. This one fact alone explains in part how they have raised their Internet visibility. Now there is nothing wrong with this strategy; for anyone whose primary goal is a money making scheme using the Internet it is a great idea. The actual number of domain names registered to Womach Productions may well be even higher because as I researched various web sites I found a new trend, hiding access to the data records of who actually owns the site.

My web site name and blog post titles are being used by these web sites as a marketing tactic also, without links to the actual content posted here. Information requested from the site owners for identification has not been forthcoming, so there is no verification whether they are directly owned or affiliates. The Birdtricks operation claims that they do not own the domains, and cannot control any affiliate sites that receive compensation from sales of their products. However even without ownership, the marketers do have the sole control over who they allow to be affiliates and earn income from.

The bottom line is the training information being promoted on these sites is at best of poor quality, at worst antithetical to reputable professional training standards.

Please spread the link to this post or Sid’s posts directly, in your blog, forum, or by email. This will help spread the word about how to spot those self-proclaimed trainers and/or affiliates who are just out to make money by exploiting a targeted “niche market” they think will be too naive to notice.

Harnesses: Coming Soon!

Posted by Raz on Dec 9th, 2008
Dec 9

I’ve been promising people for a long time that I’d post information about the harnesses I make. Well, photos have been taken and I should have something written up this week by end of March. (really!) I’ll include instructions for both designs of neck straps: over-the-head loops and around-the-neck buckles.

I found a very well behaved model for the job also.


Here is a page with more photos of this particular model, showing how it’s constructed.

Update soon!

Flying with Pigeons & Seals

Posted by Raz on Dec 5th, 2008
Dec 5

OK, the seals weren’t flying.

Carly and I visited Children’s Cove, the sheltered beach along the rocky shoreline south of La Jolla where the harbor seals hang out. I let her fly there for a bit, and it was quite an experience. She loved diving down the small cliffs of the cove, and was joined by a large flock of pigeons. Much harder to spot the African Grey in a flock of 50 pigeons than in a group of seagulls!

The brown lumps on the beach are seals.


More photos….

Training a Bird to be Petted

Posted by Raz on Dec 3rd, 2008
Dec 3

The previous comment on using flooding to make a bird accept petting is similar to a discussion that has been going on recently on Barbara Heidenreich’s Good Bird Group. A question was posed about how to “train” a bird to allow a person to pet it. Although no one there was considering using anything but positive reinforcement to achieve that, it still brought up an interesting point: do you really want to train this behavior? Or do you want to set up the environment and build your bird’s realtionship with you so that he feels free to initiate it himself? This was my musing on the topic…

This reminds me of the previous discussion about training and touching a bird. I don’t know quite how to express this without sounding judgemental, which is not my intent at all. But I think this gets to the core of what we expect of these pets that are essentially wild animals.

What’s the purpose of getting her to let you scratch her head? Is it for her or for you? Typically birds bow their head for a scratch because they like how it feels. Clearly not all birds do, so why push it? To me there is a huge difference between asking a bird to give me her foot for a nail trim (something that isn’t pleasurable — though not painful — but still a necessity) and having her bow her head and ask me for a head scratch. The initiation on her part is what the latter is all about. Most of the time if I initiate a head scratch with my greys they don’t want it. I don’t see the point of training them to allow it if it isn’t usually pleasurable enough for them to ask for it on their own. They might “learn” to like the behavior because it earns an external reward, but to me that misses the point of what a head scratch is all about.

I have two cats, a male that loves belly rubs (unusual for a cat) and a female who doesn’t. I could probably train the female to allow it, but for what purpose exactly? What’s so fun about giving the male a belly rub is that he wants it. That’s also what’s so magical about a bird asking for a head scratch — even more so because these are wild animals, not ones who have been bred for thousands of years to be companions for humans.

It kinda reminds me of little kids being “trained” to allow grandma to give them a big kiss when they don’t really want it. It’s clearly for the benefit of the grandma, not the kid. I just think it’s important that we ask ourselves what our motivations are in training sometimes.

How Not to Tame a Bird

Posted by Raz on Dec 3rd, 2008
Dec 3

Sid Price just posted on his blog about the practice of “flooding” as a training technique. It is is response to the Birdtricks people posting recently about the so-called success of the method (which they call “perching”) with a blue and gold macaw. In this instance, the person put the bird on a chair back in between a wall and a refrigerator, so it could not escape, and forced it to be petted with a stick until it complied. This is a classic case of teaching by force, and through learned helplessness. They claim this method is good because it can be done by beginners who are not good at reading parrot body language. They also fall into the old, old trap of thinking that parrots must be dominated, and not allowed to make their own choices. In this antiquated training philosophy — utterly discredited by behavioral scientists — the birds are viewed as trying to “intimidate” people by biting.

Perhaps we should be teaching beginners how to read parrot body language instead, and earn their trust, and not how to just force them into submission? Birds learn to bite because it gets a message across — namely “NO!” to whatever you are doing. The Birdtricks method essentially says to the bird, your wishes do not matter, what matters is that I want to pet you whether you like it or not.

Submission is not the same as trust. It works not by building trust, but by breaking spirit. The result — at best — is a compliant, passive bird (likely with other behavior issues) not an active, trusting companion.

Sid’s post here: The Real Secrets of Training Success and Where to Find Them.

There are many articles by Dr. Susan Friedman and others on how real behavioral scientists and reputable trainers address these issues. See listings in the Training Directory (Most of this information is also free — not only free of charge, but also free of hard-sell marketing tactics that treat consumers like 2-year-olds.)

Bird Bopping for the Holidays

Posted by Raz on Nov 24th, 2008
Nov 24

I was chatting with a friend this weekend about his son’s school, STAR Academy in Los Angeles, which is affiliated with the exotic animal rescue organization STAR Eco Station which I hope to visit sometime. Junior and senior high school students learn to interact and care for parrots and other species as they are rehabilitated for adoption. We got to talking about birds and music, so if anyone dares listen to Christmas tunes already, here’s Snowball the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo dancing in some excerpts from his Christmas medley. (Good stuff really starts about half way in!)

Snowball is also a rescue bird, an 11 year old who was relinquished to the Bird Lover’s Only Sanctuary because of behavioral problems. He has bonded with the owner, and she is keeping him. He’s also turned into a great fund-raiser for the sanctuary. His commercial endorsement contracts include Soba water from Sweden:

Goes to show what a little knowledge and patience with training can do. I notice on the sanctuary web site, Barbara Heidenreich’s Good Bird training site is listed in her favorites. You can purchase the whole Snowball Christmas DVD for a $15 donation to the sanctuary.

(Carly is also fond of bouncing her head and making drum sounds to music, but her sense of rhythm is from another universe!)

Anyone considering a great gift for a parrot lover, please check out some of the wonderful conservation and rescue organizations to the left which offer memberships, sponsorships, and other gifts to help fund their work.

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