Piper Comes Out!

Posted by Raz on Sep 1st, 2011
Sep 1

My boy Piper is growing up and getting used to the world. He is the one I rarely took out because he behaved so skittishly around new people or environments, and has shown little interest in going with us. (No flying to the door to come along, like Carly does.) I decided early on to just let him take things at his own pace, and I didn’t know if he’d ever change his preferences. Now he and Carly love the new digs, and both want to be outside all the time. They play outside on the stairs, we do training down in the courtyard every evening, and they can hang out in the trees. I think the way it is semi-enclosed felt comfortable to Piper. However, he has also become a great fan of flying in the nearby park — big rambunctious flights, high and fast, with lots of screaming. For some reason he has never had a big problem with learning to fly down, even though he hasn’t been outside that much. He will often make a few passes if he gets going too fast, but doesn’t hesitate to take the plunge. Perhaps flying like a kamakaze inside my old apartment got him over the fear of crashing. (He certainly crashed often enough.)

In addition to the flying, he is becoming friendly with new people. The other day he was seriously flirting with a neighbor woman on the stairs. We’re talking kisses and the whole nine yards. Fergus the cat was getting quite pissed off at the shift in attention. He is also getting much more comfortable around men, as well as larger groups, and he often goes with Carly and I to the neighborhood pub now. Here they are making out on the stairs:


His behavior change seems to be closely related to the new environment, though I’m not sure exactly why. But I think we’re all happier and more relaxed here, so that may have something to do with it. I would not have thought that moving away from a large, suburban greenbelt area into the heart of the city would be an improvement from the birds’ perspective, but this little piece of garden heaven in the city is unique.

And did I mention there are palm nuts on the property?! (That’s the tree in the background, one of many in the neighborhood.)

palm nut

As with Carly, I’m glad that I let him take his time with this and “come out” when he felt comfortable. He is actually the same age now as she was when she first started flying at the beach. She showed no interest in getting off my shoulder there for 3 years, including 6 months when she was flying outside at home. It is possible both could have been pushed harder in their training to acclimate sooner, but I personally find it much more interesting, and respectful of the animal, to let them find their own pace. We’re not doing a show, and this is all about their enrichment, not mine. I must say though, it is great to get madman Piper doing some vigorous flying, for the sanity of the whole household!

Playing on the stairs… (Piper goofing, Carly sneaking, Fergus being sneaked upon.)


Acclimation adventures, cont.

Posted by Raz on Oct 21st, 2009
Oct 21

I don’t always take Piper into stores like I do with Carly, because of his tendency to freak out at things.  I try to pick times when it’s not too busy.   But late last night, making a quick stop at the neighborhood liquor store (greeting: “Hi Bird!” — whether I have a bird with me or not) I took both kiddos in with me.  The 5 police cars in the parking lot should have been a tip-off.  There were not just MEN in the store, in a tight space (recipe for freakout), but Many. Big. Loud. MEN. With guns.

Which according to Piper is fine.  Just no big loud men with beers please.


Exotic Middle Eastern Garments

Posted by Raz on Oct 3rd, 2009
Oct 3

A package arrived today from afar: genuine Omani Tinkwear. After custom tailoring to Piper’s size, we attempted the first modeling session. The dreaded head loop that he grew to despise on a previous harness took about 5 minutes to train. I think ShanLung laces his harnesses with drugs.

We’ll see how it goes from here. Definitely is soft and light. Many thanks ShanLung.

There was an interesting comment on the earlier discussion about acclimating Piper. Erin wrote:

I’ ve trained working dogs for ages and some of your story of Piper reminds me of this one pup I started up a few years back. Keen little dog , but unfortunately the first time I turned her loose on sheep it was a wreck by pure act of fate. Turned the pup off by sucking the confidence out of her and made her real up tight about sheep. I tried and tried to get her back interested with miserable out comes. Finally, I gave up in a way I’d tie her inside the 10 acre field to the fence line where she could see me and watch me work all the other dogs. After months of this one day I looked over there and noticed she was finally looking at the sheep with her pre wreck intensity, ok she was practicality foaming at the mouth to work. So I cut her loose and she was on those sheep and never looked back. So perhaps “forgetting” about Piper and let him just kick back and watch Carly be comfortable outside flying and you work with her while out there may get his little mind thinking it is ok. I know too from decades of starting young horses sometimes if training just wasn’t going the way I’d like I’d just shelve the horse for a length of time to give his young mind a chance to working things out. Physical maturity doesn’t alway denote mental maturity, also my female horses and dogs have always been faster to mentally mature and much more focused work ethic right off the start. Looking forward to see how this shapes up for you.

I’ve been thinking along these lines myself, having seen Carly go through similar phases. When we started flying outdoors she had no inclination to fly at the beach, never gave a single signal that she wanted to do anything other than sit on my shoulder, even though the macaws were flying. Then after about 6 months, one week she started doing her “wanna fly” motions that I’d become familiar with at the park and she was good to go. (We started small of course, with short recalls.) But I think it was much better for her to make the decision herself.

Piper comes out to the beach with us on a leash and rides on my head quite contentedly. Same around the park/pool where we live. When we’re able to generalize the locations so that he is calm in many more situations, and when it is clear he wants to be outdoors, we’ll start thinking about doing some outdoor flying. In the meantime, let’s hope he likes his exotic new duds.

Sep 21

Continuing on from the last post, it has been a very uneven path with Piper acclimating outdoors. At times he has become very relaxed, and at one point was flying to the door when I was getting ready to go out, so he could come along. But it takes very little to cause a setback — anything from a new spook outdoors to not having had the opportunity to take excursions for a week or so.

I have heard comments from some that the reason I was not freeflying Piper sooner is because I don’t use weight management (although you are never supposed to control weight on a bird under 1 year old!) Piper’s recall is excellent indoors, as well as outdoors in our routine locations when he is on a harness (short 8-10 ft recalls). His focus is usually better than Carly’s, and as with her we time training sessions before meals to optimize food motivation. (Actually, I’ve rarely seen Piper NOT motivated by food, dinner or not!)

Acclimation is one part of training, and for us this is the hardest part. One of his early freeflights resulted in an extended chase by crows (off and on for hours) and that didn’t set us up for quick success for sure. His manner of flying after that was not relaxed, and seeing him flying with Carly was a huge contrast; one was a bird relaxed and aware of her surroundings, the other was a bird in a state of fear, flying straight and fast with unpredictable turns. Increasing his comfort level outdoors became a primary concern.

I’m reminded of a list that Sid Price presented once, in a talk entitled “It’s Not the Scale, It’s the Balance.” It’s also in his blog article on Food and Weight Management. On one side you have a training challenge, things that work against a bird’s motivation. On the other side you have a set of tools you can use to accomplish the goal, that increase a bird’s motivation.

Things that affect the motivation of the bird include not only its desire for food (its degree of hunger) but also:

  • The reinforcement history of the bird.
  • — Does the bird fully understand that the executing the cued behavior will result in a desired reward?

    — Has the trainer always been honest in their reinforcement of behavior in the past or for example was a large visible reward offered by the trainer to elicit a behavior switched out for a small treat when the behavior was completed?

  • What is the relationship like between the trainer and the bird?
  • Does the trainer have a history of positive rewarding experiences with the bird?

These are just a couple of the things that contribute to the “will perform” side of the balance. Meanwhile on the other side of our imaginary balance are all the things that are telling the bird not to perform the behavior.

  • Is this a new or poorly trained behavior?
  • Is the bird physically capable of performing the behavior?
  • Is the trainer being clear communicating what they are expecting of the bird? Clear, concise, consistent cues are essential components of this clear communication.
  • Is the bird in good health and not exhausted by behaviors performed earlier in the training session?
  • Is the bird in a novel environment with new distracting noises and/or sights?
    Generalization of behaviors in varied situations is an essential step in training any bird. When entering novel situations a trainer should relax their criteria for the behavior and build the bird’s confidence.

The key is to use the right tool for the job. That first involves identifying the problem by looking beyond weight as the only option. If the real problem is environmental distractions, lowering weight is a very inefficient (or even ineffective) way to solve it; it could take a very large reduction to overcome the problem when it could more directly and ethically be solved by eliminating and then gradually increasing the distractions. If the problem is an unreliable new behavior, repetition is by far the most effective solution.

Another ethical consideration I have pondered also concerns Piper’s acclimation outdoors. Even after a year of going outside regularly he is still much more relaxed, animated, and playful indoors. He is rarely eager to go out, though once we are walking on the beach or sitting at the pool he sings and whistles. When we come home from work, he gets animated and sings when we turn into our driveway, and increasingly so as we park the car and walk up the path to our apartment. He’s the only animal I’ve ever had who actually appears to get excited about going home.

So I have had to ask myself, with all the risks, why train him to freefly? With Carly I decided early on I would go as far with flight and recall training as her skill and comfort level allowed, and I would do everything possible to minimize the risks. It was always about her enrichment, not about me wanting to do this as a sport. With the inherent risks of freeflying, should it be encouraged in a bird who seems to be just fine without it? I don’t have an answer to that yet. I believe it is certainly wrong to push a bird in that direction if it’s a poor candidate for freeflying, whether that’s because of poor skills, an unsuitable temperament, or whatever. So like with Carly — initially NO skills — I’m going to take this at Piper’s pace and see what happens. (Another post from Sid related to this is The Right Bird for the Job — The Right Job for the Bird. I have seen these decisions in play with the birds in the San Diego Zoo show, with everything from performing talkers to flying behaviors.)

The first few months Carly took walks with me on the beach (while still young) she was only relaxed if she was on my “shore side.” Now she dives over the waves, chases seagulls, and buzzes surfers in the water. As long as we can do this without undue risk I think it’s definitely worth it. (Much of our training is about minimizing risk — responding to an emergency recall whistle, not flying to strangers — and though the latter was especially challenging it’s no longer something she seeks out.)

With Piper I’ll see how he adapts to being outdoors in general, and how the manner of his startle response develops over time. The training routine is the same as with Carly, just with less attention to flight skills and more to acclimation. He joined the family first and foremost to be a companion with Carly. If that includes flying, wonderful. If not, they enjoy each other immensely many more hours each day than we’d ever be spending out on the beach. I won’t risk that just because it would be cool to have another freeflyer. But I’ll give him every opportunity to progress as far as he wants to.


Piper’s Outdoor Acclimation

Posted by Raz on Sep 21st, 2009
Sep 21

I am training Piper for recall with the same general methods as I did with Carly, but whereas with Carly I had to take quite a lot of time training flight skills because she was never fledged, Piper came ready to launch. However his disposition is entirely different than hers and he spooks very easily and often outdoors (and indoors some also). It has taken time to acclimate him to specific locations so his behavior is relaxed, but he still becomes alarmed by a variety of things. Carly is an extremely calm bird outdoors, so spook flights were never an issue. Her alarm response is typically just an alert posture, or at most flying up and doing a short loop (5-15 feet) then back down to me. Having seen several losses and near-losses of free flighted Greys after spooking, it’s a very high priority of mine to ensure Piper is confident and secure outside before flying with Carly.

This puts us in a bit of a catch-22 however: the biggest reinforcer, normally, for wearing a harness is not there. Going outside isn’t a reinforcer but instead needs to be trained systematically. But he needs to wear a harness for that acclimation. (I don’t think th experience of being outdoors in a carrier or aviary is the same at all; they are quite protected spaces. Piper does fine on our enclosed balcony that is up in the trees with an open view of the sky.)

Piper puts on a harness well, but does not like to keep it on long. I just can’t seem to find reinforcers big enough, and can’t use going outside as a reward. When reading one of ShanLung’s recent blog posts I was reminded how his Grey Tinkerbell was so prone to spooks, indoors as well as outdoors, which was his main motivation for flying her on a harness with a long line (with a controlled recall). To do that he designed his own harness that is very soft, light, and a bit stretchy, so it can be felt as little as possible when on. I already use a hand made custom design, but it is still more bulky than the Tink harness.

When emailing about some of our experiences with acclimation and spook flights, ShanLung generously offered to make me a nice comfy Tink harness for Piper. I’m hoping the Tinkerbell UltraLite will be more comfortable and make the acclimation process easier. I’m also going to begin training flying up in a small loop (like Carly does) so he may perhaps learn there is a controlled way to respond to something startling.

The Tinkerbell UltraLite

The Tinkerbell UltraLite

So when our package from Oman arrives, we will try the Tinkerbell UltraLite model of harness (sans the long line). And I think I owe a parrot conservation organization a nice donation :-)

More thoughts on the subject of outdoor acclimation, as well as weight management and training ethics are in the next post, The Right Training Tool.

The Part with the Caveats:

ShanLung and I are always stressing ATTACH THE HARNESS TO YOUR BODY, and that the bird must be well trained in staying with you and recalling before using a harness. I was amused by this post of his, which he calls the Cargo Cult Rant, comparing people who don’t consider the bonding and training part of it to indigenous south Pacific islanders who thought it was the landing strip itself that caused food cargo planes to land during WWII:

‘using’ harness without the understanding and training is like South Pacific islanders building airstrip and wondering why planes do not land with cargo for them.

(The history of cargo cults is a rather fascinating example of magical thinking.)

So to reiterate, harnesses must only be used on birds who are trained to ride on your hand or shoulder, and who have a good trained recall, and have been acclimated on wearing the harness indoors or another familiar place.

See the complete Harness Training series of blog posts and the Recall Training page for more details.


Harness Training — Going with the Flow!

Posted by Raz on Jul 26th, 2009
Jul 26

I had an unexpected breakthrough tonight with Piper on the harness. If you’ve been following the blog you know that Piper developed a dislike of his previous harness which had an over-the-head loop. So we stopped using it and have been training a new design (shown here). It’s been slow going, but we were to the point where he would walk up to the end of his perch, have me put the strap around his neck and fasten it, and put the belly strap under one wing and through the back strap. We’ve been doing this for awhile, and whenever he showed any sign of wanting it off, off it came. So tonight, after a very lazy day, I went to do our usual short session before our dinner time recall training, and we got to the usual point. He seemed very keen on his sprouted sunflower seed treats, and not paying much attention to the harness, so I decided to take it a step further and go for the strap under his other wing. That went fine. So I gave him big bonuses — handful of sprouted seeds, and he still was fine. So then I fastened the belly strap also, and gave him another handful of sprouts. Still fine! I kept feeding him his sprouts for several minutes, while carrying him around on his harness.

This surprised me but it shows how you just have to go with the flow of what the bird is presenting you. If an opportunity shows itself, take it. And if you are making big breakthroughs, give big bonuses! (Heck, even on little breakthroughs I give big bonuses.) But tonight I gave him almost his whole dinner while on the harness. My plan is to keep doing this for the next week or so: harness training combined with his whole dinner.

Here he is while eating dinner out of my hand (sorry for the blur — trying to work iPhone with one hand while feeding!)


This comes at a very good time, because he has become very interested in exploring the outdoors now (trying to follow me out the front door) and getting quite relaxed walking at the beach. So I was planning to start working A-B recalls on the harness at the beach this week.

So of course this warranted a celebration. Witness the fate of probably the last surviving blood orange of the season in southern California:


Training note: Piper is being trained at at-lib weight. His indoor recall is excellent, more reliable even than Carly’s. He is just over one year old, and it is not recommended to restrict weight on parrots less than a year old. His weight range now is only slightly higher than when he arrived at 4 months old, and he is in good condition from flying a lot indoors, so this is a good range to work with. His response to training does not warrant any change. Acclimation to the outdoor environment is something that can be done without weight reduction, as it is an entirely separate issue than food motivation. Comfort with the environment is one of the major elements in the list of factors that should be considered when training a new behavior, and it is far up the list from weight reduction.

My position with regards to outdoor training is that you go at the pace the bird himself sets, whether that is a matter of flight skills, recall response, comfort with the environment, or eagerness to fly in the first place. I am doing this for the enrichment and benefit of Piper. I’m sure Carly would love to have him as a flying companion, but first and foremost, they enjoy each other as indoor companions, which is where they spend the vast majority of their time. I feel no need at all to push the pace of training. African Greys can live to be 40-70 years old. Piper is 16 months!

Complete Harness Training Series.


Acclimation Accomplished? (fingers crossed!)

Posted by Raz on Jul 17th, 2009
Jul 17

One of the nice things about warm summer evenings here are the beach sunsets. I noticed a woman photographing us for quite a while yesterday, and it turns out she’s a travel photographer, Diane Marinos, who lives nearby and is doing a personal series on Scripps Pier in all of the varying light and weather conditions. Should be a great series — its so changeable here with the fog and cloud banks, crystal clear Santa Ana winds, etc.

I had been only training Piper up above the beach where he was more comfortable. He got spooked too much down below when on his harness, so I decided to take it more slowly. Now he sits on top of my head and sings and whistles and gets treats, while Carly goes on flights. Yesterday she was mostly interested in hanging out and watching the sunset. Very relaxing for all of us.


I started flying Carly at the beach once she started to show an interest — by spreading out her wings and kind of bouncing back and forth. The behavior I observed from Piper earlier this year was entirely different — neck outstretched, occasionally attempting to do a startle flight. This is not the behavior of a bird that wants to fly for the fun of it; it’s the behavior of a bird who is afraid. So now that he’s getting more acclimated I’ll start doing some harness training down on the beach and take it from there.

I was talking to Wendy last week about something I’ve been pondering while Piper is in training. And that is, if he’s not eager to go outside, gets spooked, and on top of that there are lots of risks inherent in outdoor flying — why push it? I haven’t been, but occasionally I think about what our long term plan should be. And really, it’s the same as it was with Carly: I’ll take it as far as he’s comfortable with. He doesn’t like to be left in the office when we go out to the beach, so I thought it was worthwhile to give him the opportunity to acclimate to being out there on a harness. He flies to the door often when I have the leash in hand now, so it’s clear he isn’t reluctant to go outside. And if whistling and talking are any indication of being relaxed and happy, I’d say it was worth it. Now we’ll just see where to go next.

The second photo looks like Piper and I have smoke streaming out of our heads. LOL. Carly must be off flying in this one.


Photographs © 2009 Diane Marinos.


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


Piper Learns About the World

Posted by Raz on Nov 22nd, 2008
Nov 22

I’m upping Piper’s excursions. I take Carly by herself most often when I do errands, because she is easy and also seems to do well when we have some one-on-one time like that. But today we had a family outing to Home Depot, and then a little training time in the pine tree at the park. Carly has a great time in the hardware aisle — hundreds of little tiny bags of parrot toys! Piper was apprehensive with all the people and busy-ness, so he rode in a carrier in the cart and observed. I really think one of the reasons Carly is so unflappable (?) outside is because she had so much exposure before freeflying.

Piper adapts pretty well once he’s done something a few times. He’s a great little car rider now. And today in the park he was very relaxed walking around and doing a little fun work in the pine tree, even after his big adventure the other day. I think with Carly it finally got to the point where experiencing new things was just nothing new. That’s our goal.

Piper being puffy in the park, while Carly chills.

piper being puffy

carly hangin

So, finally, a question: what is it about Home Depot and parrots? I have met workers there who have parrots, and today met two more. Both men in their 60’s, one with a 3-yr old Amazon, and one with a teenage Grey. The man with the Grey had one who recently died also, at the age of 75! He was his 3rd owner.


Crow Migration, or What Not to Do on Day 2

Posted by Raz on Nov 22nd, 2008
Nov 22

There have always been a few crows in the park. One or two would often sit in the sycamore tree and watch while I was training Carly under the canopy. She was briefly chased by one once during one of her first big outdoor flights, but she didn’t pay much attention to it. Otis and Gizmo were chased by a couple on their first outing to the park here too. They did their usual divide and confuse routine, and the crows gave up.

So Monday morning was Piper’s second outdoor recall training session. (Put on your shades — you might be blinded by the glaring errors!) Carly went with us again, and before I let Piper out of his carrier I unclipped her leash so she could go on a few big flights. After that she’s usually content to just hang out with me. She didn’t want to go however, so we did a few short recalls from the wall like we did yesterday with Piper. Then I got Piper out to join in. We normally alternate back and forth when we practice indoors, and that’s what we did today for 5 or 10 minutes. Then Carly was ready for a big flight. She took off on a big circle around the park, and of course Piper followed her. (He always wants to take off with her if he’s on a harness.) They did a couple very large loops above the treeline, then Carly landed in a eucalyptus. Piper landed in another tree behind it, but I didn’t see which one.

piper map

Carly and I did a full circuit of the park and surrounding townhomes calling, but not a peep out of him. Then a guy came running and said he’d seen Piper get chased quite aggressively by 4 crows out of a tree. We went off to search in that direction, but still nothing. Once I heard Piper do some of his calls, but it was a courtyard or two over and I could not find him. Once I thought I saw a grey-like body fly behind some trees. But mostly nothing. Just walking and calling and whistling our contact tune. One thing I did find: crows. Lots and lots of crows. Not in big flocks, but 2-4 in almost every tree. Then later in the day larger groups flying overhead. Another person told me they’d seen him being chased also. Just as it was almost dark I saw the silhouette of a bird landing in the top of a eucalyptus in the distance. It was landing in the same silly way a grey parrot does. I ran and called and it was indeed Piper. He flew to a tree near me, and did the stair-step descent approach, going to lower and lower trees, finally landing on a scrawny twig about 15 feet high. One final call and he was back!

This was not the ideal 2nd day out for sure. I have never seen so many crows in the area. I have since seen flocks of them near the beach also, where there are usually only ravens. Unfortunately I didn’t personally see any of the chases with Piper, so I don’t know how aggressively they were behaving. But I do know it was very hard to find a landing place without crows already in possession. Piper has not been outside nearly as much as Carly when she first started either, so he has far less exposure to seeing large birds. It must have been pretty frightening for him.

In the picture above, our training spot is just to the right of where it says “found.” Pretty amazing after so many hours he was literally back within about 100 ft of where he started.

When we came in he ate a huge dinner, then went to his bedtime perch and fell asleep at 6:30 (about 5 hours earlier than normal!)

But back to the errors:

Carly went with us again, and before I let Piper out of his carrier I unclipped her leash so she could go on a few big flights. . . . She didn’t want to go however, so we did a few short recalls from the wall like we did yesterday with Piper. Then I got Piper out to join in. We normally alternate back and forth when we practice indoors, and that’s what we did today for 5 or 10 minutes. Then Carly was ready for a big flight. She took off on a big circle around the park, and of course Piper followed her. . . . They did a couple very large loops above the treeline, then Carly landed in a eucalyptus.

Totally preventable, dumb errors. Carly is just coming out of some re-training, so I should not have trusted her to stay focused on short recalls before she had done some longer flights. Dumb. This was Piper’s second day out, and I should not have been training him alongside her unless I was totally confident she would not fly off. I knew how he’d react. It worked the day before when she had already flown some, but even then it was more of a risk than I should have taken on his first day. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal without the crows, but even so, not smart. I assume it was also distracting for Carly, still under intense observation and re-training, to have Piper flying with her for the first time.

What did go well:

  1. I had my stack of 50 “Lost Parrot” flyers with pictures on them right at my home, so I got those out very soon. I also have business cards with Carly’s picture, my cell phone number, and web site address, normally for giving to people so they can access the training resources web page or photos. They are also perfect for handing out when searching for a bird.
  2. Piper stayed very close, in the immediate vicinity of the park (even though I couldn’t spot him!) He must have really been hunkering down inside the trees most of the time. Since he is brand new at this I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m very happy his instinct was not to bolt in a straight line and fly off.
  3. Once he felt safe retrieval was easy.
  4. I could take the entire day off to search if I need to. I never fly outdoors when I have anything within the next 24 hrs that can’t be rescheduled.
  5. This is a very animal-friendly and helpful neighborhood. Wonderful people, eager to help. (Two neighbor girls were so excited when I got Piper back home they even volunteered to go take down flyers. Wow!)

Piper is much more watchful of the sky when outside now, so I’m going to do spend some more time on the harness just walking around and doing recalls without big sis. He is a fearless flyer physically, but he also startles so much more easily than Carly ever did. It’s an odd combination. But it could also be that I notice it more with Piper because, being fledged properly, his instinct is to fly; Carly, unfledged and clipped, would usually just hunker down onto my chest. It’s easy to forget how much a baby hasn’t experienced yet.

One final note: I think this kind of experience highlights the risks inherent in freeflight training, especially as practiced with companion parrots, by non-professionals, in a relatively uncontrolled environment. I don’t consider myself an impatient trainer (quite the opposite usually) and I could have prevented this event with the knowledge I had. But it’s very easy to “go with the flow” even when you know what you’re doing is increasing the risk. In addition to the importance of learning and gaining experience, one of the lessons for me with this is that a very important aspect of experience is to always remember why the rules you have established are so critical.

Carly’s card:

carly card
(Photo by Hugh Choi)


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