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Adult parrots can be taught to fly.

Adult parrots can be taught to fly.

Recent advances in veterinary care and field research on parrot health have led to an increase in the number of parrot owners seeking fully flighted parrots when the birds are still young and allowing the wings of their adult parrots to continue growing out. Many parrot owners know from experience that a parrot’s wings don’t guarantee it will fly or be a confident flier.

Infirmed Parrots and Unexpected Departures:

Generally speaking, older birds are less likely to fly on their own or at all. The clipping date and the bird’s subsequent evolution are known. Untrained and clipped parrots can’t fly.

Unless a parrot crashes, it may think flying is bad and not trust its wings. Whereas if the bird is allowed to regenerate its flight feathers after fledgeling, flying, and perfecting landings, turns, and takeoffs from a variety of perches, its chances of regaining its ability to fly are much higher.

How do you load the wings?

Wing loading is another factor that affects a parrot’s ability and readiness to fly again. Wing loading is the ratio of the wing surface area to the weight of the body. When a parrot’s wing loading is high, its yellow bibbed lory weight in flight is more than the weight of its wing surface area. The wing loading ratios of parrots like Amazons, African Greys, and Pionus are quite high.

Given that they fly like grenades, their keels are more likely to sustain damage if they crash. In comparison to other parrots, the reduced wing loading is characteristic of many cockatoos and parrotlets. They fly with a lot of grace because of their feathery wings. Birds with lower wing loads are more likely to regain their flight ability.

Generalizations can be drawn from the above variables. Each parrot has a unique learning history and must be handled as such in order to succeed in training. Many cockatoos with keel injuries and African Greys who have been clipped for years have regained their flight abilities.

In order to establish an effective learning environment for our companions, it is vital to take into account anatomy and natural history. Some elderly parrots may not be able to transcend their previous negative experiences, or it may take them many years to do so.

The benefits and drawbacks of teaching an older parrot to fly.

Consider the benefits and cons of training flights before you even begin your journey into flying.

Among the advantages:

  • Health benefits, such as a reduction in cardiovascular and bone disease, an increase in the ability to make choices, and a more natural and enriching way of life, among many others.
Among the potential expenses and difficulties:
  • More likely to fly into windows, walls, or out the door. If the bird doesn’t know what it’s doing, it might fly or crash where it doesn’t want to. Having access to household items is not enrichment;
  • More training is needed to keep kids out of valuable or potentially dangerous areas of the house and in the right places to play.
  • The chance of a serious injury or death if the parrot takes off if it gets scared and many, many more.
Assessing these rewards and obstacles accurately might save you misery and frustration. 

As a proponent of flight, the author realises that training an adult parrot to fly is a major undertaking and having a flighted bird in a busy home with young people strolling in and out without much care about open doors can put the bird’s life in danger. This decision must consider implications.

Trainer’s Toolbox: how to get older parrots to fly

Another requirement for flight training is a stable perch. Helpful to ensure that the bird is able to take off from a solid and straight object. It’s common for a parrot to use its feet to launch itself, and if its perch wobbles, it might cause miscalculations in its landing, resulting in a lack of trust and fewer takeoffs.

Assuring that it has a stable perch and enough area to flap its wings so that your parrot doesn’t strike its wings on neighbouring palm cockatoo furniture will help create a successful habitat for your bird.

How to train parrots to fly

First, use positive reinforcement to educate the parrot to step up. The bird should spot the hand in a step-up position and run to it to step up. If your parrot doesn’t have the step-up cue trained this way, we can train it another way.

Even if he does, we can still prepare for flight training by adding high-value reinforcers to step-up training and practising a few times.

Previous articles, such as

Part II of Living a Bite-Free Life with Your Parrot describes step-up training with positive reinforcement to support these skills. 

When your parrot views your hand as the most important spot and runs to it, start flying training. Using positive reinforcement is the safest way to teach a young cockatoo to fly.

It is not only dangerous for your bird, but it also creates a sense of distrust in the relationship between you and your pet. Due to your parrot’s lack of confidence and talent in the air as well as its inability to leave your hand, both your hand and flying are likely to bring tension and unhappiness to it and to your relationship.

To fling a bird off of the trainer’s hand, even if it is an experienced flyer, is a sort of negative reinforcement: you are in effect punishing (or increasing) the behaviour of sitting on the hand by using your hand as an unpleasant to increase taking off. Throwing a bird from your hand can cause it to avoid your hand, avoid engaging with you, and even bite.

Let go of our hand a little at a time until our bird is forced to utilise his beak to respond as we expect.

I prefer to change the distance so the bird doesn’t know what to expect. Once the parrot grabs the hand, we can ask for a hop.

The distance your hand needs to be to get that hop depends on your parrot’s size, but it should be just out of reach of its beak. You don’t want him to draw your hand closer and get on. The success of this step depends on the bird. I try not to jiggle my perch hand and instead offer food.

If I can’t obtain that first hop the first time I ask, I’ll try again. I may repeat this several times to encourage the parrot to anticipate the cue and come to me. If he still won’t jump after a few minutes, I’ll offer him the smallest, most uninteresting morsel of food and finish the session.

I don’t want my bird to think he can miss the cue and still be rewarded. Maybe later or the next day. When training new abilities, consistency is vital so the bird can learn from previous triumphs and failures.

Once we hop, we may celebrate.

As long as we don’t scare our parrot with our enthusiasm, throwing a party can help him understand that he did well and deserves extra special rewards. We can give our bird a jackpot reward, which is analogous to scoring the jackpot at the casino, in the hope that that lesson will stick with him throughout the next session.

How fast we go after the initial jump depends on the bird we’re chasing. Once he has had enough, he will let us know. Being too late for a step can leave us trapped. Too rapidly, our bird can grow agitated and damage himself or others. Next meeting.

Parrots can feel fatigued and irritable from exerting unused muscles, just like humans.

Introducing an adult parrot to the home flight can have great rewards but also pose new hazards. Only the family may make this decision after serious consideration.

The next stages include flight-proofing our housemates and home, which can be hard and vary by situation. This is a Lab course. Positive reinforcement in training sessions builds trust, and the journey itself is the prize.

So, you’ve decided to try free flight training with your pet parrot.

Freeflight refers to unrestricted outdoor flight for this topic. We begin every lecture and workshop by noting that, although our birds are taught for free-flight, we do not condone it for the average companion parrot owner, we do not think every parrot is ready for it, and we do not teach others how to train it. Before letting a parrot fly outdoors, the trainer must grasp numerous aspects, including operant conditioning.

People are more eager to teach others how to do this with their birds. This practice is longstanding. I won’t speculate on how successful some of these courses, classes, workshops, or sessions are, but I can say that of the most high-profile individuals I know advocating the teaching of free-flight to companion parrots, each has had students with avian casualties related to their programmes. Unpreparedness for free flights is at the foundation of the problem.

Alternatives to free-flight trainers include YouTube videos. Unprepared? What should learners do? At the beginning of a flight training programme, the risk is always considerable. Freeflight isn’t merely about calling a bird to you. A new trainer doesn’t know how to judge their bird’s fitness and ability level, let alone its threshold. Flighted recall on cue should be one of many actions the bird and trainer have down fluently, but a deep grasp of body language and the systemic effects of positive reward and punishment is crucial for sustained success and the wellbeing of a free-flying parrot.

Let’s look at various free-flight risks briefly. This is not meant to cover all threats but will give you an idea of the most common.

Birds of Prey and Native Birds vs. Parrots

“Are you scared about hawks?” even non-birders ask me. Absolutely!

Every day is a new day for a free-flying bird; yesterday’s safety doesn’t guarantee today’s. Nesting season increases territoriality and resource guarding; after a lengthy rain; some bird of prey species are more deadly than others. Juvenile birds are hungry (less skilled) and more prone to take risks than adults.

In some circumstances, knowing the devil is safer than not. The visible hawk is probably surveying his territory and considering what to do about the aliens. He may decide to chase, which might lead to tiredness and your bird being overtaken or trapped somewhere we can’t see, reach, or rescue it before a dog or car does. Your bird would have to slow down significantly to land if you called him mid-chase, increasing his risk.

Flying Parrots in Residential Areas

Visibility is important. A park is important, but a misstep can send a less adept bird circling out of sight. Many fly-offs happen because birds lack the ability to return or land where they wish. However. Dogs, pools, and autos are neighbourhood problems. All three have caused deaths. Panicked birds may fly far, but they tyre rapidly and land abruptly. I’ve seen proficient flying parrots hit by cars on slow country roads, not because the birds were terrified but because they ranged too far and didn’t realise the danger.

Electrocution by power wires is a risk. A window on a home or structure can be dangerous from the outside as well.

Neighbours can be hazardous. If they find your bird annoying (outside birds are more annoying than indoor birds), this can cause problems. There are several reports of neighbours poisoning or shooting free-flying parrots when they had no idea there was a problem. Hungry and thirsty lost birds may find a new home by befriending strangers.

Companion Parrots Get Free Flight Instruction

Training a bird for free flight involves more than teaching it to fly to the hand. This basic habit should be your bird’s most fluent, but as a trainer, you must stay vigilant.

cockatoo training

A palm cockatoo rises.

Be aware of indoor and outdoor bird interactions. Have you ever positive-reinforced-trained a parrot? Is there a cue your bird always responds to?

In other words, our parrots learn more about how to act in the future as a result of every interaction we have with them. In order to build strong positive associations with these actions, we need to give a parrot the option of stepping on our hand or flying off of our hand to another person or perch and then reinforce that behaviour with a tasty nut or another reward.

One that is forced to step up by pressing on his lower abdomen or has his toes plucked up and perhaps tossed off the hand will have negative associations with these activities, and we will notice overall avoidance.

Major Mitchells cockatoo parrot nail-trimming training

Roxy the cockatoo practises getting her nails trimmed. Everything we do with our flyers is to eliminate life-threatening force and stress. An avian need for human contact When a treat’s increasing distance fools a bird, the bird loses trust in the treat. A free-flying bird must always want your company. You can’t put him in the trunk of your car and expect him to fly home, or you can’t leave him up there and expect him to stay up there.

Flight training also emphasises body language. An anxious bird won’t be as successful or enjoy being outside. Recognize and respond to a bird that doesn’t want to leave. Taking a flyer out on a bad day makes it vulnerable to attack their physiology. As a free-flight trainer, you must read body language to maintain cues, evaluate fitness, and prevent stress. Unskilled trainers may accidentally train delay or rely too heavily on weight management to train the behaviours they want.

The Free-Flying Parrot and Sexual Maturity

A few supporters of free flight have been flying their birds for several years already, but they have yet to experience the difficulties that come with flying sexually mature animals. These birds may form close bonds with their flock mates, which can lead to issues with nest-seeking behaviour as well as a threat to other birds. It is possible to spot even a single bird in the sky.

Even a lone flying bird or same-sex flocks might demonstrate a strong nesting impulse. Indoors, we can simply minimise their nesting options. Outdoors, we lack control. I saw a female Eclectus disappear in the prairie and turn up in a prairie dog burrow. Some trainers have to keep their adult birds grounded for a few months of the year because they end up going down chimneys or causing problems for the neighbours. Sex motivates birds, especially if they don’t have access to it. It’s hard enough to keep birds out of a dark closet, but can there be serious danger when there’s a nest to guard outside?

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