Jun 5

I have been curious what difference a top-rate trainer would see in training a pre-weaned baby, and training an older bird who is already weaned and fledged. If both are trained well with positive reinforcement and small increments, is there a difference in the outcome? The following is from a post by Barbara Heidenreich, used by permission from her Good Bird forum.


Flying in open fields with no perching options and relying on a “baby
bond” are in my opinion are unreliable crutches for outdoor flight
behaviors. To me it signals some important training steps are being

Question from forum:

May I ask why “baby bond” isn’t good to BUILD a +R history with the bird?
How can you say you don’t like to hear about training fledging birds
because “it signals some important training steps are being missed”?

Barbara Heidenreich:

I am not a big fan of teaching flight on the Internet, which is why I don’t participate in those discussions anymore. Although I am still a member of a few lists and check in to read posts periodically. As you know the discussions get quite heated and getting into arguments on flight training do not accomplish much towards my teaching goals. Kinda just sucks up lots of time.

With that in mind I will share a response to your questions….but I will not be sharing all my thoughts, philosophies and teachings on flight training here. Even my two days teaching at Chris shank’s is not enough to send someone off to free fly safely in my opinion without additional guidance.

So here is the deal…… Continue Reading »


Guest Post: Unweaned Baby Birds

Posted by Raz on Jun 3rd, 2008
Jun 3

The following is a post I requested from Wendy Craig, of Wendy’s Parrots about the requirements for hand-feeding and weaning baby parrots. Wendy has been raising a wide variety of parrots for over a decade. Her flock is composed of African Greys, Amazons, Alexandrines & Macaws, including the highly endangered Blue-throated Macaws and Red-fronted Macaws of Bolivia, which she specializes in. She is widely regarded as one of best breeders in the country, with babies that are renowned for their excellent health and sociability. Wendy is also a trainer, and has several free-flighted Red-fronted Macaws who were trained as adults, and one Scarlet Macaw that was trained after weaning.

Purchasing unweaned baby birds is a recent fad among a minority of flight trainers, who believe it is necessary to have a “baby bond” when beginning outdoor flying, rather than patient training. In addition to birds inevitably outgrowing any baby bond, the dangers of inexperienced owners hand-feeding babies is well-known enough that the sale of unweaned birds is illegal in the state of California. For more on the baby bond being unnecessary with good training, see the guest post by Barbara Heidenreich.

So You Want To Buy An Unweaned Baby Bird?

by Wendy Craig

With all the knowledge out there these days I’m still surprised at the number of phone calls I get from people wanting to purchase an unweaned baby parrot as well as all of the information I read on the internet supporting it. So let’s take a look at it.

Why would you want to by an unweaned baby and why would someone want to sell one? Exactly who benefits from the sale of these unweaned babies? Is it the baby? The buyer? The seller?

I’ve heard it said that handfeeding a baby bird is an art. I’m not so sure I’d call it an art but it is a learned skill. And not all baby birds are the same. So you can’t really learn to hand feed properly from feeding only a few babies. Macaws, Grey, Cockatoos, Eclectus all feed differently. They like it at different consistencies, different temperatures, different rates of delivery etc. And then there are variances with each individual bird. Sound confusing? It can be! You can feed the formula too cold and get a bacterial infection or too hot and burn the crop. Then there is slow crop and what to do about that? Would a novice even know what constituted a slow crop? The number one injury from hand feeding is aspiration. One veterinarian even suggested that 79% of all hand feed baby birds aspirate to some degree. Did you know there were different degrees of aspiration? The one that is readily apparent is the immediate aspiration of a baby. That is when it dies right as you are feeding it or right after. Then there is a second degree aspiration where the baby becomes ill after a few days. Symptoms vary but a dose of antibiotics in time can sometimes solve the problem. Then there is the third degree aspiration or the sneaky kind. The one that isn’t apparent for months or years after it happens but ultimately leads to an early death, sometimes after a lengthy illness and sometimes quite suddenly. Still want to buy an unweaned baby bird?

Continue Reading »


Unweaned Babies for Flight Training

Posted by Raz on May 5th, 2008
May 5

There have been advocates recently of training parrots for freeflight by relying on the “baby bond” rather than a solid foundation of positive reinforcement training at an appropriate age. This style encourages novices with little to no parrot care experience to purchase unweaned babies to feed and start flying before the weaning period is finished. The May 2008 World Parrot Trust newsletter features this column by Jim McKendry of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia, where he works with free-flighted birds and parrot behavior (Experts & Answers). In this section he is responding to a question about a newly adopted 17-week old Congo African Grey parrot who was not fully weaned:

I noticed that Dr. Brian Speer has responded to another question you submitted concerning an appropriate diet for an unweaned African Grey. It is important that we continue to reinforce to the parrot owning community just how completely inappropriate it is to purchase a parrot as young as this. This is perhaps the most critical stage of development in a parrot’s life. A time where it needs to be socialised with other parrots, provided opportunities to forage, explore its environment, develop its flight skills, muscle tone and coordination, and given time to properly develop its independence. Breeders need to be challenged to ensure that each of these absolutely essential experiences have been catered for prior to being sold.

The sale of unweaned baby birds by stores and bird marts is also illegal in the state of California, with strict guidelines for ensuring a proper age and weight before adoption. A good breeder can provide the social environment needed with other birds, the space to develop and practice flight, as well as the feeding care required for a healthy transition to independence. If a breeder you select will not allow a bird to fledge naturally, keep looking!

Many well-trained free-flighted parrots have started well past the weaning age, or even as older adults. For some examples, see the Colorado Fly Week gallery. All of the birds at this event started training no younger than 6 months, with the exception of one cockatoo who was weaned by her trainer, an experienced hand feeder, when she could not be kept with the breeder. Training is the key, not the false security of the temporary baby bond.