- In: Training
- Comments Off on How Old Does a Parrot Need to be to Begin Training?
A parrot’s age varies depending on what you are specifically wanting to train it. However, I view training as something that is unavoidable. To me, every interaction with your bird is a training session whether you like it or not, or are even aware of it being so, or not.
Because training does not require a food reward in every case for every action, I believe training can start when parrots are simply babies. Simply having positive interactions with your bird (rewarding your bird’s gentle baby behavior and wantness to be around you with things it likes ie; petting on the head, sweet words/tones and quality time and games is positive training to me.
When my birds were about 4 months old and were at the age to fledge, yet still hand fed a bit, I’d allow them to fly short distances (1-6 feet) to me to get their formula. This eventually graduated to a completely weaned, adult bird doing the same behavior at greater distances for treat rewards like sunflower seeds, almonds or pine nuts (or whatever your bird’s preference is).
As birds get older they will likely expect a food reward along with a secondary non-food reward. For instance, some birds bond closer with some members of the household and simply flying to that person to BE with them is reward enough for the bird. We use that a lot. You could use a perch or toy your bird loves being with as its reward, and that can happen at any age.
On the same token that a baby bird can train very basic interactions, older birds are never too old to train. Parrots are so very capable and clever. The only times I would refrain from training is when it’s an older bird whose circumstances have had its muscles severely atrophied to the point of pain when trying to build the proper muscles for flight training. In those circumstances, which I have sadly seen before from a bird being kept in too small a cage most its life, it’s better to train that parrot behaviors that will not cause pain in the muscles. Behaviors like talking on cue, waving, and retrieving. Running, hopping and climbing can usually be incorporated for birds who for whatever circumstances cannot fly.
In conclusion, you can train a bird of any age but how you do it will vary.
- In: Parrot Bathing
- Comments Off on Endangered Species Act Changes Things For Us
Last year when we disembarked the Norwegian Dawn just before Thanksgiving, our blue throated macaw Jinx was entered into the endangered species act, and therefore the USFWS seized our traveling permit for him. We were devastated and knew there would be not enough time on our brief two months off, to research, apply and receive a new permit for him under the act. So not bothering, we changed our course of action for our current tour and limited the birds we brought in preparation of training one of our camelot macaws to replace Jinx in Dave’s bird act.
We brought both camelot macaws, Comet and Tusa, in case one preferred it over the other but assumed we would try Tusa first since he is more of Dave’s bird than mine, and Dave would be the one producing him in the act.
We also brought Bondi, our female rose breasted cockatoo and Cressi, our Congo African Grey parrot. That was it! 4 parrots to our previous 9!
Also last year as we had our inspection at home during our in home quarantine, the USFWS just brought us up to date on their rules, expectations, desires, etc. we always ask questions from being “out of the loop” for the duration of our contract at sea, and they’re always able to provide us with answers to point us in the right direction for our feature endeavors.
One of the pieces of information they offered us was that they prefer our birds are not in contact with all the passengers of the ship because those people are entering and exiting the ports and could possibly pass diseases. The risk is higher, anyway. So between new laws, not being able to bring certain birds, having to train new ones in their place and not being able to offer the interactions with our parrots any longer, we decided to scale down to the four birds instead of nine, and no longer offer our behind the scenes bird show on board.
We also took on an 11 month contract, which is our longest ever, and thought it best to scale back so we meet burn out much slower.
We successfully trained Tusa, our younger camelot macaw in Jinx’s place and found that his colors and size show up much better to the eye of the audience. We’re so much happier with him in Jinx’s position in the show! And we never would have tried it without the road blocks we ran into. So it’s one of those blessings in disguise.
Another thing we worked in our first week back on board (and we expected these greater changes to take much longer!) was Cressi in a release box for a routine called Grandpa’s Airplane where I was previously running up the dark aisle with her and releasing her from my hand. On our time off we had a release box made for her and were able to mount it and have her fly from it right away in our rehearsals. We were so pleased, here is a video of her doing it in our tech run the morning of our show:
When we return home this spring for 30 days, we plan to leave Comet at home as well and replace our finale with a new illusion and no longer a bird flight of Tusa and Comet. With Tusa’s new role in the show, he has not been too enticed to fly in at the end with his brother. And sticking to our own personal rule of each bird having ONE task in the show, we have strayed away from that with having to replace Jinx with Tusa.
Our current plan (in the entertainment world it’s always changing and yet somehow always booked far in advance at the same time…) is to join the Norwegian Spirit in January 2017 without any birds, or at the very most one parrot and our doves depending on how difficult it proves to be of a task. The risk of not doing it properly can lead to our birds being seized and killed so it’s not a risk we are willing to take if we aren’t 100% confident in being able to do it. Because we’ve currently always imported and exported through the US, and the birds have always technically been in “transit” the officials know us and have been very accommodating with us in this process – but not knowing the process in the other countries has us on the edge of our toes.
For now, if you come to see us on the NCL Dawn, you will see Bondi, Cressi, Tusa and Comet through mid May 2016. After June 2016, you will see Cressi, Bondi and Tusa. If you write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re coming, we can arrange a personal meet and greet with you and the flock!
For more on our tour schedule check www.davewomach.com.
- In: Parrot Bathing
- Comments Off on Parrots on Cruise Ships FAQ
We have an abundance of new followers every week and so many people feel in the dark when I begin posting and there’s lots of questions – especially when we go on cruise ship tours for 6-7 months at a time and that’s all people see.
So here are the most common questions. Feel free to ask others if they aren’t here, and I will add them if they become popular as well.
You’re allowed to bring parrots on a cruise ship?!
Yes, we are allowed. Passengers are not. We aren’t passengers, we are paid guest entertainers with parrots as part of our shows. So through LOTS of paperwork, permits and hassles and hoops… yes.
Do you bring your daughter with you?
I would never leave her behind.
… Unless it was for 21 days to train in the Mediterranean and I’d never been.
How do you take care of the birds properly on a cruise ship?
It’s really freaking hard. Mainly because we can’t bring their aviaries they normally live in with us because they’re too large for the amount of space we have on board – and our birds can’t be kept outdoors (weather changes constantly as does the direction of the ship) and they can’t be kept in passenger areas (no way to supervise them 24/7) which means they’re in a crew area.
While touring cruise ships, the situation is different ship to ship but recently we’ve come to spend a majority of our time on the Norwegian Dawn so I’ll speak specifically about their situation there.
Housing They’re housed beyond the theater, so that no one could accidentally come upon them and so that they are not part of any sort of paid back stage tours. We have to make sure we are in complete control of their lighting (aka hours of sleep they get) and are safe.
Bathing We bring them to our stateroom cabin, which is literally in the hallway of the theater so one room away from the birds. They use a shower perch and our shower, or some prefer the sink. We also keep a spray bottle handy in case they’re just not feeling the other methods or they need a quick clean up because they rubbed against something… like food stuck on the cage, or poop. Not that that has ever happened right before a show before…
Food We find trusted folks to make our fresh BirdTricks diet and bring it to us weekly or biweekly as needed to the ship for the birds. We keep it frozen in freezer tight bags (insulated) and take one gallon bag out as a time so it slowly defrosts every day as we use it for the week. They also get their organic pellets for their night time meal, and treats for shows.
At home we give the fresh food as the AM meal and the pellets as the PM meal. On ships, it’s a bit different. I will give them the fresh food surrounding the show days and on show days. Then I go back to fresh and pellet shared days. I do this because of the treats they’re getting for the show and the time frame in which every thing is which changes for them. We have to get them onto a much later schedule since shows are primarily at 7pm and 9pm.
Exercising We fly the birds in the theater mostly on our show day. This is to get most of their energy out so that when it comes to the show, they’re less likely to lengthen their flights. They will just want to do the bare minimum by then (hopefully). It’s also “our day” to have the stage so we can and bird poop is expected.
We also fly them in the theater when it isn’t already booked on port days because passengers are enjoying the port and we aren’t likely to be interrupted. This means we don’t have to worry about doors opening and closing and people coming and going. We can just PLAY.
Sunlight To get the birds real sunlight, we take them in travel carriers to deck 13 and fly them in the basketball and golf netted areas. As long as they don’t have a lot of holes. Which usually they do… We also do this on port days when less people are around to witness so the birds aren’t distracted and neither are we.
But how do the birds do with all the travel?
Our birds were literally raised on the road. They’re so accustomed to this lifestyle that this is normal for them. They’re very very very used to it!
Why do we hear from you less when you are on tour?
We have limited internet access at sea with our changing itineraries and schedules. Plus, internet at sea is very unreliable and expensive and that’s time we would rather spend with our birds and daughter, and each other. The internet just won’t load usually and we get frustrated waiting on it. So although we tend to be able to post updates (especially once a week when in the USA) we can’t usually view comments which makes it impossible to respond. You can always email in your questions to us and we will get back to you ASAP via email – email@example.com.
Are the birds ever taken off the ship?
No. Our permits and paperwork are such that we cannot take the birds off the ship until we are going home. This is for the safety and health of our birds as well as the native birds in each country we visit.
Does the motion of being on a ship bother the birds?
Maybe it’s similar to being on a branch outside with wind, but the birds don’t seem at all bothered by the motion of the ship UNLESS it makes the things inside the ship move and make noise which startles them. The actual motion however, no. And we only usually have 2-4 rough sea days within a contract. It bothers people much more than our birds!
What sort of paperwork does it take to travel with your birds? I want to travel with mine.
It takes obtaining import/export permits from the countries you’re leaving and entering (contact USDA and USFWS if in the USA), quarantine periods (one month long for all our birds every time we disembark), $5,000+ for all of our flock to get to and from the ship (they charge more for vet visits leaving the ship because they have to come to us as we cannot disembark without a vet making sure they all look healthy – they’ve also added anal swabs before allowing exit and it’s even more expensive if on a weekend), 100’s upon 100’s of pages of paperwork applications (all hand-written), health certificates within 10 days of travel, CITES permits for those species of parrots listed on CITES (believe it or not, even hybrid parrots are listed on CITES if one part of them is endangered in the wild… such as our camelot macaws. Seems unlikely since they don’t actually exist in the wild so always make sure!). We also go through shipping crates each time (one was destroyed this trip alone because the birds can EAT their way through them). So we are looking at having custom ones made from aluminum (safe, light weight and sturdy). We have gotten all of our birds we travel with pet passports which are stamped like a human’s passport to make the process more simplified on our end. It’s a lot of work that most people aren’t willing to go through. The consequence of doing it wrong is that your birds can legally be seized and often times killed. We had a friend who had this happen to his doves when unexpectedly flying through Mexico.
My most recent parrot bite was received on May 30. Parrot bites from my flock are a big deal to me as I’m always trying to do right by them which to me, means avoid ever making them feel the need to communicate their point to me with a sharp point at the end of their beak! But, it happened. I can recall pretty much every parrot bite I’ve ever received (that’s how hard I work to communicate properly and not screw up in training) but, it still happens because I’ll forever be learning and they’ll forever be teaching me.
Dave and I were performing at a school in Spokane, WA. There are a few schools that mean a lot to Dave as some of his teachers practically home schooled him during high school as he already had his career and was constantly performing and missing a lot of school. So any time we are here during the school year and can do it, he goes back to those schools and performs for the kids. We had already had one show, and were on the second. Bandit appeared and there was a lot more smoke than normal from the pyro that went off that blocked his path enough to me, that he tried twice and then decided to land on the prop he appeared from instead. I rolled it to the side of the stage and we went on with the show with Bandit perched comfortably and contently on his prop.
Since he appeared fairly early on in the show, I worried about him deciding to fly down to one of us during another routine. So during a routine where I wasn’t needed, I pulled the prop even further back stage, but hit a cord that was taped down just enough that Bandit decided it was best to fly down and land on the ground instead of trust this rickety prop! He started walking towards the kids.
I immediately regretted moving the prop – since Bandit was so content I probably should have left him there BUT, if he became not content anymore, that would have been an even bigger issue since I wouldn’t have had another point in the show that I’d been able to get him. So, doing what I thought was best in the moment, prevailed.
I didn’t want the kids to get hurt – I didn’t worry about Bandit walking up and biting them, but I did worry about the kids possibly being too aggressive with him (petting wise, like a dog which does not go over well with a bird!) and getting bit that way. Bandit didn’t show any interest in doing what I thought was best for him at the time, so I knew the bite was coming but it was the choice I made to avoid what I thought could be much worse consequences.
But it still hurt my friggin’ feelings and I pouted about it anyway, against all logic. I often talk to my birds as if they understand English instead of body language and told him I was sorry I made him step up when he didn’t want to, and that I upset him the way I did. Luckily for me, he forgives rather quickly. Faster than my hand will.
I guess I just wanted to share that I get bit too. I sometimes have to ignore obvious parrot body language in order to do something that I feel has to be done at the expense of not being what my parrot wants.
If you’re getting bit often without knowing that it’s coming, you’re missing clear signs that your bird is giving you. Always think of the bite as the last resort, or a learned response (maybe you accidentally taught it that every time it bites = something it wants, like getting put back in its cage, or going to its favorite person, etc. without meaning to start that pattern in the first place.)
- In: Behavior
- Comments Off on Doing The Same Thing Over & Over, Yet Expecting Different Results
I was giving my daughter, Capri, a bath yesterday. I had the water running in, and she was splish splashing away enjoying herself when she noticed the faucet. She scooted over to it, and pulled up on the part that changes it from a bath, to a shower! When the water first switches, it comes out cold through the shower head and when it did it hit her back! Her shocked look said it all, and I switched it back to the tub. But she couldn’t help but play with it, and did it again. Pull! …And water started hitting her back again. Again, she yelped with upset in her squeal. I changed it back again, and she did it again. Each time it was as though she was expecting a different result.
I stopped helping and waited for her to understand what the consequence of her action was. She pulled that lever, and water hit her back. She didn’t like it, so eventually she stopped pulling it. If only bird owners caught on so well.
I received an email from a customer who was at a loss with their bird’s bad behavior. She explained the constant screaming and how it was driving her and the rest of the family crazy. She went on about how the bird calls to her, and she always calls back, and when it screams she goes to get it so it can ride around on her shoulder with her.
I’m gonna wait for that to sink in for all of you.
This customer was doing the same thing every time, expecting the bird to give her different results. She kept “pulling” so to speak, and expecting one of the times for the water not to hit her back. Just like my daughter in the bath tub. It made me realize the lessons we learn are the same through life, just different circumstances and objects playing the roles.
If you want different results, try different things.
That’s why BirdTricks.com is comprised of a “team” of people – because what works for one, two, or even twenty people won’t work for someone else who comes along. It’s important to take a lesson from everyone and piece together what will work for you.
And it’s important not to reward your bird with a shoulder ride for screaming if you don’t want it to continue to scream every time it wants a shoulder ride.