Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida On my shoulder: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"
When I made my goals for Hymie, I didn't really take into account what it would take to get there. What I mean is, before I can even begin working on those things I want to do, I have to earn his trust first, kind of what Dave, Chet and I refer to as the "I can't get there from here" phase.
I can't teach Hymie not to go to my shoulder (where he feels most secure) if he won't even step up for me yet. And I can't hold onto his feet without scaring him, without first gaining his trust. I also can't get him to eat new food without gaining his trust first, either.
Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida Flying: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"
So I've been spending time with Hymie by letting him go to my shoulder as a reward for flying to me (which he did once) and any other behavior (like stepping up right now) that I think needs a reward. He isn't taking nuts as a reward right now, so my reinforcements have to come from other things.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Doing laundry too: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"
I did the dishes with him on my shoulder and it was a little uneasy for him, I could tell he was thinking, "This shoulder thing is supposed to be relaxing..." and it wasn't. So he gladly stepped onto our foraging tree afterwards. The next day I brought him in on a t-stand to "help" me with the laundry. He wasn't comfy on the t-stand but he LOVED climbing on all the nicely folded clothes, and then flying to me (short distance). So I would let him hang on my shoulder for a little while, then we would do it again. I think I folded the laundry about 4 extra times.
I let him hang out with my macaws in the bird room and watch them eat mango and apples. He climbed up on top of one of the cages and sat there in their company for a little while which was super cute! He then stepped up for me, went onto his travel cage and got uncomfortable because my macaw Jinx was there so we flew to my sweater on top of another travel cage in the room! He played with my sweater but really wanted to be with me, so he flew back to his travel cage (which is what the picture below is of) and then proceeded to fly into his large cage (I caught him though) and I was able to catch him in my right hand only (not arm) and close my hands on his feet (both of them!) and set him into the cage! He didn't want to step down, but it happened anyway and not by force, by balance and it just worked out. He rewarded himself with a mouthful of fresh water from his dish!
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Flying: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"
I think soon Hymie is going to catch on that he is supposed to use flight as a means for transportation. He has been watching my birds do it and becoming more and more comfortable jumping onto me from short distances, and with this recent adventure of him getting from one place to another by himself, I think he will progress quicker, get in better shape by building muscle and crave those healthy foods he is refusing at the moment!
I left half of his cage open in case he felt like flying out to a new location in the room... we'll see if he has enough courage to do that!
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.