Flight training is an ideal training method that you can use to help with mischievous or aggressive birds. These behaviours often start because of excessive energy and nowhere to use it. Many birds have also spent a long time in their cages and their muscles have atrophied. By allowing them to fly you are allowing them to exercise as well as strengthen their muscles. Indoor flight training and recall can also assist in getting your bird back if they accidentally get out of the house you can call them back.
Here are some tips from Team Member Bianca who has free-flight trained birds:
“Flight training can be a very tedious process and can in some cases take very long.
1. Hold out your hand in front of your parrot and ask them to step up while they are sitting on a chair or perch that is about elbow height.
2. Gradually increase the distance from the chair or perch so that they must stretch to get to your hand. They will often use their beak to grab onto your hand. Within reason, if it is safe for you, it is best to allow them to do this (they will likely use their beak for grip, not for biting).
3. Eventually there will be a big enough gap so that they can’t reach anymore. Now your bird will either begin to hop to your hand or reach and flap their wings.
4. Gradually increase the distance again by a few centimeters each time. This is often the part where birds get the most frustrated – if you notice them giving up, take a step back and decrease the distance.
5. Before increasing the distance, wait for them to successfully master that distance a few times before you move on.
6. Often the hardest part for parrots is to figure out how to land on your hand. This will only improve with practice.
7. Gradually increase the distance until they are flying to you.
8. Remember to reward them every time they land on your hand or the chair/perch (you can teach them to associate that object with the command “station”, to help them recognize an anchor point to return to).
9. Once that is achieved, you can encourage them to fly long distances, around corners, you can stand on a few steps above the bird (like on the steps of a staircase) and you can sit on the floor. This is to practice their ascending and descending skills. Remember that birds do not instinctively know how to descend – this is something that has to be taught to them. That is why parrots often get stranded in high trees when they escape from their homes – they don’t come down because they don’t know how to. Ascent and descent is a vital skill to introduce them to.”
Tips to remember when training
* When you see your bird getting uncomfortable take a step back or stop. Don’t force them as they will stop enjoying training, which is harmful to the process.
* You need to find a treat that the parrot perceives as being high enough value to do tricks for. This will make the training process much faster. You should avoid feeding this treat at any time that is not during training, especially not in their regular diet.
* Not all birds are food motivated, you might need to find something else to motivate them to train. Examples of this are verbal (saying “good boy/ girl”) or giving them physical affection. Some techniques will work on certain birds. Others might not.
* Use a clicker (you can often find them in the dog training section) to train your bird. Doing this links the sound of a click with receiving a reward. This helps when training because it’s faster than saying “good boy/ girl”.
* Start training in a smaller space, by doing so you’re ensuring that your bird is not overwhelmed by too much space or noise going on. As you progress with the training you can train in larger spaces.
Here are some other resources for recall training and flight training.