My foundation for parrot training involved a good introduction to basic training methods and behavior analysis, and a program of regular practice of flight skills and recall. It is a great way to interact with and exercise your parrot indoors or in an aviary, and can also be the first step in outdoor freeflight training. The steps below outline a sequence for getting started.

An article on Carly’s training for outdoor flight is also in the Spring 2008 issue of Good Bird Magazine: Carly Gets Her Wings: Flight Training an Unfledged African Grey Parrot (pdf file). The step-by-step process for recall training is described in the Summer 2009 issue, Training Your Parrot to Recall.

I. Learn and practice basic positive reinforcement training methods.

A great place to start is Melinda Johnson’s book Getting Started: Clicker Training for Birds. The Clicker Training Library on Karen Pryor’s site is also very good, and her book Don’t Shoot the Dog is a training classic for all species.

II. Get acquainted with some of the other parrot training literature:

III. Behavior problems?

These should be sorted out as soon as possible. The articles above are a great start in working with your parrot, and just doing basic clicker training of simple tricks can also help change the dynamics of your relationship for the better.

My favorite resource for learning how to improve behavior through a training partnership is the book Don’t Shoot the Dog (not just for dogs!) And Clicker Training for Birds is a perfect step-by-step companion book for starting to explore training games with your bird.

IV. Get hopping and flapping!

When you are getting a grasp of basic training methods and ideas, and have had success with training some simple behaviors, start working on flighted recall indoors.

The following guides provide a basic outline of steps to use for training flighted recall with parrots (including beginning flight skills for clipped birds) and for food management. Please explore the Training Resources page for much more information.

Step-by-Step Indoor Recall Training for Parrots (pdf)

Food Management for Training & Health (pdf)

Important note on outdoor freeflight:

If you think you would like to continue on to do outdoor flying: these steps are fundamental prerequisites to any free flight training. They must be completely mastered in a variety of indoor environments, and the parrot’s flight skills must be sufficient to deal with outdoor challenges.

Outdoor freeflight is an advanced behavior, due to all the many, many uncontrollable factors in the environment. To be done safely it is imperative to thoroughly understand training theory and methods, and have sufficient practice with them that you can evaluate and deal with unexpected challenges literally “on the fly” as well as in daily training sessions.

before attempting outdoor training, as well as to plan a program for making the transition outdoors.

Whether flying indoors, in an aviary, or preparing for outdoor freeflight, a consistent training routine with daily practice is essential for developing a confident, responsive bird. And don’t forget: enjoy the process!

Training Resources

learning how to train for improved behavior, flight and enrichment

Before investing time or money in training materials, learn to discriminate what is high quality and what is not. Poor training can be worse than no training. The first two articles are by the past president and president-elect of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators; the last are my own observations on freeflight training advice:

Good Bird Magazine
Barbara Heidenreich’s magazine with a wealth of information on positive reinforcement training for companion parrots. Barbara has worked extensively with zoos and free-flight programs and is the past president of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators.

Dr. Susan Friedman: Articles on Bird Behavior and Operant Conditioning
Using principles of operant coditioning and positive reinforcement to train and solve behavior problems.

Sid Price’s Training Blog
An interactive blog for questions and answers about bird training by Sid Price of Avian Ambassaors, and the president-elect of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators.

Don’t Shoot the Dog
By Karen Pryor. Essentials of understanding and applying positive reinforcement training, for any species (even human!) Highly recommended.

Clicker Training for Birds
By Melinda Johnson. How to use positive reinforcement methods for training and enrichment. Highly recommended.

Natural Encounters Training Library
Excellent articles by bird trainer Steve Martin and others at NEI on a wide variety of avian training topics.

Food Management & Training: The Mouse Went Down the Hole
Detailed article by Cassie Malina from Natural Encounters about use of food and weight management. Includes a good example of a daily weight and training log.

Strong Foundations & Adjustments: Keys to Training Success
Sid Price article on consistency in training, while recall training a Pied Crow.

Parrot Behavior Lessons & Problem Assistance
Susan Friedman’s group of Applied Behavior Analysis students can help one-on-one with strategies to solve problem behavior. Mini-lesson series introduces the concepts of Applied Behavior Analysis with examples from the world of companion parrots.

Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training Library
A large library of articles on using positive reinforcement training, with birds and many other animals.

International Assn. of Avian Trainers & Educators. Many excellent training resources for members.