Parrot Tricks: Stick 'em Up!

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Touch training: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"

Hymie is such a quick learner! Dave taught him how to touch train in just a few minutes and it only took one training session! The next day following touch training him, Dave began teaching him to spin in a circle and got Hymie about half way there before Dave could tell Hymie was done training. Papaya was used as treats for training (both touch training and the spin training session).

Then I came in... and I could tell Hymie wanted to learn and was excited about his beginning stages of learning new things (cough like the lawn mower guy isn't going to kill him cough) Okay so anyway...!

Trainers we have talked to in the industry (who actually get paid for it) have told us that an animal should only have one trainer or they can get confused. This goes for teaching the behavior, not cueing it. Anyone should be able to cue a behavior. Well, my thinking on this was that I wanted to teach Hymie "stick 'em up" (putting his wings stretched out into the air) and I figured it was different enough from the spin training Dave was still doing with the chopstick that he could separate the two just fine. I came to my own conclusion it wouldn't confuse him to learn something from me.

Trainers we have talked to in the industry (who actually get paid for it) have told us that an animal should only have one trainer or they can get confused. This goes for teaching the behavior, not cueing it. Anyone should be able to cue a behavior. Well, my thinking on this was that I wanted to teach Hymie "stick 'em up" (putting his wings stretched out into the air) and I figured it was different enough from the spin training Dave was still doing with the chopstick that he could separate the two just fine. I came to my own conclusion it wouldn't confuse him to learn something from me.

Now, the stick em up trick is putting a natural behavior on cue and then shaping it for Hymie, because when he is excited he lifts both wings a little. He was hanging out on a perch (which he has finally learned to be content on by the way) and once his wings raised, I clicked and gave him a pine nut.

It's important to realize that Hymie didn't lift his wings super high immediately. Here was his progression in photos so you can really see how they got higher with each session:

  1. This photo is actually higher than when I first got him to do it, in which his wings were just away from his body and his shoulders were up.
  2. As he slipped into the "begging phase" the wings got higher like this.
  3. Then he understood it and his wings got as high as I wanted them to get! You can see the final version here.

Hymie LOVES pine nuts! I even took a video to prove he eats them (he's a picky eater and I want his owners to be convinced, tee-hee).

Hymie began to understand what I wanted within a couple minutes. I actually walked away to end the training session and just hang out when he started begging by opening his wings a bunch, and then he finally did a massive wing opening and I couldn't resist it, it was SO good, that I clicked and ran over to reward him. He got another training session out of me!

Check out the video above to see Hymie showing off his newly learned behavior!

After letting Hymie hang out for around 2 hours one night, I spent the entire time watching his behavior. He said his name twice very clearly and it was so sweet sounding. But after just studying him, I have come up with behaviors I want to teach him (on cue) before he goes back to his real owners.

  • Dance (bobbing his head up and down)
  • Tail wag (literally wagging his tail)
  • Spin (Dave will finish training this with him, not me)
  • Wave
  • Talking on cue
  • Recall flight training

Plus all the other goals I made earlier on in his stay here with us like breaking his bad habits and being able to hold his feet. I think those things will come naturally from building such a bond with Hymie where he trusts me to do those things.

On his 4th day with us, he let me hold both feet when I got him out of his cage and took him to be on a perch, but he became uncomfortable before we got to the perch and I let go so he didn't get scared. It was still progress, though. And the cool thing about it, is he stayed on my arm and never went to my shoulder the entire time which is HUGE and has never happened before with Hymie.

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.

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