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Posts Tagged ‘perch’

The Sunset Roost

Written by Chris Biro, Copyright 8-23-2008

A freeflight list member wrote: “Chris can give you his thoughts on this, but I have to agree with what he said to me. He felt there was a biological imperative to roost and my birds sure acted like they were driven to find someplace. They flew by my house high in the sky in the light from the setting sun while I stood in the darker area on the ground.” Parrots have excellent vision during the daylight hours - actually they see more colors than we do. That is why they can at high speeds fly through dense trees and still have their eyes intact as they come out the other side, they can see all those little branches. But their night vision is not that different than ours, at least it is not anything like an owls. So when they have to fly at night and thus land in a tree in the dark, they run the risk of poking out their eyes. Obviously they do not want this. Thus they do not do much flying at night. Near the equator where many species of parrots come from, the sun sets very quickly. There are no lingering sunsets like we have here in the northern part of the US. Near the equator if you want to catch a photo of the sunset you need to have your camera ready because you don't have much time. So when it starts to get dusk, parrots understand they need to get to where they are going to spend the night, like right now. I am sure they do not wish to get caught still flying once it starts getting dark. This is a very strong inherent interest of theirs, to get to roost prior to dark. From what I have seen the cut off signal seems to be the sun setting. At our place in Moab, we have a huge cliff behind the house which the sun sets behind about two hours before normal sunset time. The calicos have repeatedly demonstrated that if I fail to call them inside before the sun drops over that cliff, and the shadow reaches our house, they will NOT come down. Even though there is still many hours of daylight left, they are not coming down once the sun disappears from their sight. Even if they sit in a tree and can still see the sun but I on the ground cannot, they are not flying down to me in the shadow. This has been a very odd thing to get used to. I have a few times missed this cut off time by just a few minutes and been grumpy because they would not come down. Their recall during the day is fantastic, but after the sun drops over that cliff their recall is horrible, actually pretty much does not exist. So if you are looking for a loose bird, just know that even if you find them, if it is close to dusk, they may not come down. Not because they don't want to but because they have very good reasons to feel safe right where they are, at least until after sun up. A list member asked “One question, could this 'natural behavior' be somehow changed by our city schedules?! I mean, if you have a loose bird on the city, could the city lights influence this somehow?! Add on this formula our home schedules, the ones our birds are more used to. I thought on this while Inca and Darwin were out...” Parrots can learn to fly at night and sometimes can be spooked to fly at night even if they are not comfortable doing so. I too have several times seen one of my birds fly in both near darkness and total darkness. But this is not their normal habit. When I lived in Morton Washington, back when I first started this list, I actively worked to teach my Mitreds to fly to the front door from the aviary in the dark. I started flying them later and later as it got darker and darker. They were willing to make this flight even on very dark nights. But I never saw them fly in the dark at any other time. It seemed to me that they learned to fly in the dark at that particular route, start near aviary to destination front porch but did not generalize this for other conditions. I have always assumed the reason was due to their lack of vision. It is just too dangerous to go flying around in unknown areas after dark. If a loose parrot is flying after dark, something exceptional is involved and they are doing so because they feel compelled by some greater fear.
Parrots: more than pets, friends for life. Chris Biro

To The Perch & Back Again

Training the "Fly To Perch & Back" Game

Written By Chris Biro, Copyright 2008

Flying back and forth between a perch and your arm can be a wonderful game both for training purposes and for entertainment purpose and is great practice to maintaining recall stimulus control as well as build muscle tone when non outdoor flying conditions exist. To start this "game" I first work on getting recall responses from a perch or cage top. This is often started at the same time I am training a cued recall response but may also be trained at any time or age. I start this process by first target training the bird and then use the target to lure the bird to land on my arm. Once I have the bird coming to my arm for a treat I then start placing the bird back onto the perch to eat the treat. I like to use a sizable solid treat like a peanut in the shell for this part of my training so there is a reason for them to return to the perch - to eat the peanut. Once I have them easily stepping onto the perch to eat their treat, I will start asking them to fly to the perch from a foot or two away. This is usually very easy to get started since they already understand the need to get there, to eat their treat. We then continue to systematically increase the distance until they are flying to the perch from the full distance available. For me this training always starts indoors or in an aviary as I want this behavior very reliable indoors before we work on it outdoors. Most often I am using peanuts or sunflower seeds for these treats but have used chips, fries, bread and other snacks. "Do you need to treat for being on the perch?" In the very beginning I might click and treat for being on the perch but normally I do not. I usually click for the flight to my arm, immediately deliver the treat to them and then prevent them from eating the treat until they are on the perch again. "Click for the behavior and treat for position" was a saying Bob Bailey used. I have had the privilege of meeting Bob Bailey on a coupe of occasions and believe he deserves his reputation as the the ultimate in training authority. He have trained more animals than probably anyone on the planet and has an amazingly solid understanding of the sciences involved with animal behavior modification. Anyway, the idea here is to reinforce the desired behavior and use the delivery of the treat to set them up for the next repetition. The click marks the event that earned them the goody but this still leaves us an opportunity to determine where/how the treat gets delivered. This is a secondary function of the treat but it can be helpful. As to if this is important to continue on a regular basis, I do not keep doing this for very long. I will use the treat fly back to the perch to help establish this behavior and once it has been working well for a while then I will fade the treat back to the perch concept. They may or may not get a treat that they can fly back with is what I am saying here. I am not saying that I avoid giving them a treat to fly back with at any time. So in the beginning I am looking to make sure that as I start to teach them to fly to the perch, they have a treat to eat once they get there. But after this behavior becomes established I don't worry about it one way or the other. Usually they seem to react as if the opportunity to do another recall rep is reinforcement enough. This would be a secondary reinforcer just like the click is a secondary reinforcer. Secondary reinforcers can be very powerful if built up correctly. Money is the classic secondary reinforcer example and look at how powerful it is. Once the bird has already figured this out it will often volunteer to fly back to the perch. It wants to be ready to do it again so that it can get another goody. Just so you know, this is way cool, but be aware that such behavior can also take the form of doing a behavior that you do not want so that you will call them away from the item or area they are NOT supposed to be playing with. So keep the alternative form in mind so that when those start happening you can take appropriate action to NOT reinforce the undesired behavior involved.
Parrots: more than pets, friends for life. Chris Biro