Rescuing Your Bird: Don’t Get in the Habit

Photo by Dave Location: Reno, NV Cuddling: Moluccan Cockatoo "Pooh"

When I talk about rescuing in this post I’m not talking about adopting your parrot from a rescue facility...  I’m talking about when your bird flies off, or gets on the edge of the counter when you’re calling it, or gets stuck somewhere and you go “rescue” the bird by making the situation easy for him to get out of.  

Photo by Dave Location: Reno, NV Stepping up: Moluccan Cockatoo "Pooh"

Here’s an example of this using freeflight: you’re recall training your parrot and it flies into a tree. You can either:
  1. Rescue the bird by climbing up there to get it down.
  2. Wait until the bird figures out how to come down to you whether through flight or climbing down.

Now number 1 (rescuing) is a fast approach that has terrible consequences later. Number 2 could take a really long time but in the end, your bird won’t ever expect you to come get it. It will learn it has to figure out a way to get to you.  

Photo by Dave Location: Reno, NV Walking recall: Moluccan Cockatoo "Pooh"

Which one is better in the long run? Not rescuing. Rescuing also results in a bird dependent on you to save him all the time, rather than come to you for safety. They will come to expect you to do everything for them and make everything easy rather then accepting the challenge of how to climb down, how to descend, and how to get around that branch and realize it’s not impossible or all that hard. Things that learning will only help your bird become more confident and desensitized to every day things in life.   If your bird is already used to being rescued you have a big, hard habit to break. And it can take much longer to reverse than it would to avoid in the beginning.   Bad habits are always much easier to avoid than break.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Reno, NV Flight training: Moluccan Cockatoo "Pooh"

Rescuing can also be seen as “giving in” to your bird which only lets your bird train YOU, instead of the other way around. It’s not about control, it’s about learning and allowing your bird to learn. No one will learn anything about confrontation if all you do is fight that person’s battles for them. And we all know you can’t do that for someone forever, and it only hinders that person. Examples of things you should rescuing or giving in to your parrot with:  
  1. Anything having to do with flight training. If you call your bird and he doesn’t come, don’t go pick him up. You’re literally telling him that when you call he doesn’t have to come because he can just wait and get picked up instead.
  2. If your parrot is flighted and wants to come to you but you’re around the corner and it can’t figure it out so it screams for you to come get him. You can inch closer to peek around the corner so your bird understands it can get around it, but don’t go pick him up and make it easy otherwise your bird will learn to scream for a free ride every time you leave the room.
  3. Your bird is climbing around its cage and can’t get to a nut somewhere. Don’t just hand him the nut, help him figure out ways to get to it.
  4. Your bird crashes to the ground. We all want to go make sure he’s okay and help him, but it’s important that your bird makes his way back to you even if that means walking to you from a foot away and stepping up. Think about if your bird crashed in a tree; he would wait for you to come get him because that’s what you trained him to do. Always think how your easy situation in your apartment or house could be escalated to put the odds against you and how what you’ve done up until now will affect that. (Obviously if your bird is seriously injured you should seek vet care but I’m not referring to that dangerous of a ‘crash landing’)

Remember, it’s great to mentally stimulate (challenge) your bird. Too much is exhausting, but we all need to be challenged in order to learn and it’s one of the best things you can do for your parrot.

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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