Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harness Training Update

Achilles has always surprised me at how well she eats, it only took just a little encouraging when I first got her to try new bird food. This morning it was an organic breakfast of cous cous, cinnamon, blueberry baby food and papaya enzyme tablets. It smelled so good I was tempted to try it. But didn't :-P

This is how I'm starting to train her to wear stuff. I put this red rope thingy around her head and pet her with both my finger and the rope.

I pause the petting and let her hang w/the string.
And resume with the petting.
Sometimes things get itchy.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Clicker Cure?

Achilles has been being a bit of a grouch this week. About five months ago I stopped +R training sessions with her, I am not sure why but I suppose it was because I got busy and I saw no real reason to continue. That was a big mistake on my part.

Some of the "symptoms" Achilles had been expressing:

  • quickly lunging out and "hissing" increased

  • antisocial; did not want to step up or be with other people

  • falling from the hand more often

When I mention that she "falls" I mean that she wildly flaps her wings -sometimes wing flapping does not happen- and does a backwards somersault off the perch and onto the ground. I do not fully understand why she does this, since day 1 of fostering she has done this. But my hypothesis is that it might have something to do with being hard-of-sight. I read somewhere that blind pigeons fly backwards, and it is true that the only way I have seen Achilles fly is backwards. So flipping -or falling- backwards off a perch may be linked to this odd behavior.

Back to the point of a 'grumpy bird'; I decided to start up training sessions again. As soon as she knew I had millet she was offering behaviors like a pro! We then started something semi-new and mildly unliked; some sort of a red shoelace thingy. -I introduced this object before by petting her with both my fingers and the rope thingy. At some points in the indroduction she got 'mad' at the rope and I had to back off. But mostly (and by the end of petting) she accepted the new stringy object.- So we did some reps with the shoelace and she never had a problem with it. Of course she was working for millet, not head rubs but maybe she just accepts the string now. I will have to try again and see what the deal is with the stringy-rope-shoelace thing. With just several repetitions she was willingly laying her neck around the loop! That's a good start if I'm going to train her to wear a harness.

After the training session was over there appeared to be a marked difference in her behavior; her lunging diminished, and she was willing to interact. I did another session with her today and her falling has greatly diminished. Why?

Has anyone else heard of these great side-effects of training animals? I've heard of all the bad side effects of using punishment and -R, but what about the side effect of overall well being when using +R? This is new to me. Anyone have any papers or articles they want to lead me to about this phenomena?

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Biting is Not An Option!

Biting it mostly a communication problem, 99.98% of the time. In general birds will always communicate body language to you before it bites your sorry little hand. And when you do see the "language" they use it's a good warning to back off (tail flairing, eye pinning, pacing etc.).

When I was first fostering Achilles I first had to teach her to step up without falling, then as time progressed I noticed she had 'moods' of when she wanted to step up. If she did not want to step up she would quickly lunge at my finger in protest -because she is legally blind she can't see when something is coming, so I assume that is why she did not choose to run away-. I got a little clever and taught her to train me! I use a "pre-cue", if you will, to see if she wants to step up -I use the word "Ready?"-. If she does not wish to stepup she says "no" by lunging out at thin air, instead of my finger. But if she wants to she lifts up her foot to come with me. Over time she has learned that she doesn't even need to lunge to say no, she just sits on her perch in quiet protest.

Attached is an MP3 about a little trip Achilles and I went on last month. It was a great learning/teaching experence about the topic of behavior and biting!

You may want to check out these resources if you are not sure where to learn about the methods I am talking about. The PDF is from and the article talks about the common myth of dominance in animals and the use of aversives in training.
This next link is an overveiw of behavior. It defines verbage and tells you the consequences of each type of teaching (training) method.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Desktop Backdrop

I wanted to post something on my blog that, hopefully, you will enjoy to use. This is a female Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and I've spiced up her look somewhat. Perhaps she puts makeup on for the boys, *he he*. This pretty little girl lives at the zoo and hangs out with a handsome white-talied black cockatoo partner in "The Bat House".

If you need a different size for your computer screen I will be happy to add your size. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Big Bang Theory and Operant Conditioning

Tonight was the first night I saw this show and now I'm hooked. For all the animal trainers out there, I think this is hilarious! And the best part; I'm including this in my club's training lecture tomorrow, just in time!

Start at 55 seconds to get strait to the point.

(The video has been deleted, but you can still look it up, it's part 2 of the episode "The Gothowitz Deviation")

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Simplest Steps to Teaching Step-up

Yesterday I volunteered at the local zoo, and as usual they utilized my outstanding cleaning skills. Well okay anyone can hose down penguin poop and sift exhibit sand, but that's not the point, I'm just saying I stayed busy while I was there.
Every week I also bring by enrichment items for the birds to shred, and this time it was two large willow baskets filled with goodies and some sort of cardboard foraging toy I made from what was leftover in a box that was shipped to me last week, cheap and fun!

I usually get some free time to goof off with the animals and during that time I got to start working with a female Gang-gang Cockatoo. From what I hear she used to step up, but now she does it rarely and only with specific people. Take a listen to my diary to find out what happened, some of it is hard to understand because of my poor editing skills, and I will get better at that. - Download and save to your computer to listen, you will need microsoft media player, or something that plays an MP3 *Revision: after a current self assement of the method used, rewarding with a "jackpot" at every step is not needed, even though it says to in the MP3. It is preffered to use jackpots less often, as I have learned from Cassie Malina last weekend.*

Disclaimer: I am not a professional trainer, everything I do is based on POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT theory and I get my information from top professional trainers in the field. One trainer that I highly recommend is at

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird

The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The Birds

This is Achilles, my personal pet. She was abandoned at a local Emergency Vet Clinic after she flew into a fan, the accident left her crippled. Her left foot and wing bone where broken, and she has permanent neurological problems with seeing. I fostered her and planned to adopt her out myself through Safe Haven Avian Placement Services, after keeping her for one year and not finding the "perfect" home I've claimed her as my own.

These guys are a part of my friend's flock. I've known them for about 6 years and get to pet-sit for them every month or so. Not shown are Cuarvo, Mango, and Savanna.

And every week sweet faces like these pop up! Volunteering at the zoo is quite an adventure.

The Mouse
This is Fidget, and what a better name for a twitchy little mammal!? She was pretty much an impulse buy, she sated my 'need' to have another pet. Mice are small, low maintenance, very cutie and very trainable! Fidget was not always sweet though, I picked her for her unique coat but her disposition was not calm and cuddly. All the credit for taming goes towards Positive Reinforcement, which is a part of Applied Behavior Analysis FYI.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let's Blog!

I figured that "The Sequential Psittacine" was an appropriate name for those few privileged people that like to know everything about their parrots, or just like to know what else is happening in "the bird world". I will attempt to present everything in an orderly fashion -hence the word Sequential- all while supplying a plethora of photos. Are pictures not the best part of a blog?

In the future I hope to post the latest happenings in my life, and the world of birds/parrots. You may get to see My cockatiel, Achilles, and all the other animal related things I do or run into.

And with that, let us blog!