Styles of Flying

Flying Styles Defined and Discussed

Written By Chris Biro, Copyright 2008.

I see two styles of show flying: Point to Point (A to B) and Freestyle. I see five styles of flying for most pet owners: Indoor, Point to Point, Freestyle, At Liberty and Sport. Competition Flying has not yet become reality.

I don’t care too much what the names are but I think we should be able to identify which style of flying is going on when discussing our training.

Indoor: Indoor flying, or Aviary flying, is generally the safest style of flying. This is where the birds are confined and protected by walls, wire or netting but have sufficient space to do some flying.

Indoor flying

Indoor Flying

Point to Point: A to B flights, A to A flights or A to B B to C, etc. These would be very directed flights with little or no tolerance for variation from the intended flight plan. Typically these are shorter flights. These are often used for shows where time and space is limited. This kind of flying is often a first stage learned before advancing to other styles of flying.

Point to Point

Point to Point

Freestyle: The handler sends the bird out to go fly where ever it wants to fly and for however long it wishes to fly but it must return to a designated landing perch (and not land any other place) – typically the landing is on the handler. Some shows are doing this kind of flying and some pet owners are also doing this kind of flying. This style of flying can also be a stage of learning achieved before advancing to At Liberty flying.

Free style


At Liberty: The bird is turned loose and is free to go where ever it wants and do what it wants until the handler calls the bird back to a specific location. This gives the bird the most control of its activities. Usually these are well trained advanced birds but in some cases these will be birds that are untrained but controlled only by the location and timing of their feeding. At liberty flying is usually done at home or at a nearby park and is the only flying style that can be done unsupervised, though of course this adds additional risk factors to consider.

At Liberty

At Liberty

Sport: The bird is flown in a variety of challenging locations and conditions. Sport style of flying is where the birds master skills not normally needed for the other styles of flying and it requires a high degree of teamwork between the handler and the birds.

Sport & Competition


Competition: The birds are flown to specific tasks in a competition with other flyers. Such tasks may include recall promptness, directed flying to selected perches, duration of time in the air, or a cross-country agility course.

I did not use the term “sessional” because it seems to me that a session of flying is more about the duration than the style. I did not use the term “unstructured” or “structured” because both At Liberty and Freestyle could be called “unstructured”. I mention the food controlled untrained birds here because I have personally seen Chris Shank let untamed cockatoos loose and then get them back into their cages for feeding later that evening. I have also done this with unhandlable Blue Front Amazon, getting him back inside his cage every night through feeding.

Jim Dawson Wrote: “IMO. most bird shows follow a formula that is based on moving birds quickly through the arena, lest you exceed the extremely short attention span of the audience. There is no time for complicated behaviors, unless its something that mimics human behavior — like talking or playing basketball. A to B’s are about all of the flight that can be squeezed in before time is up. I hate to say it but that’s all a lot of show trainers know. I’ve worked with a lot of them and many have never tried to do anything more complex.”

I have seen several shows that were only Point to Point (A to B) flying. But lately I have seen a couple that have had much more freestyle flying included. I see this as a welcome change. Though if everyone else starts flying this way in their shows also that means people will not be as impressed with my 9-10 freestyle and At Liberty birds all loose flying at the same time during our shows <grin>.

I think the audience LOVES to see these guys flying loose and under their own control. My guys delay my show all the time because they do more flying than I intended but it only seems to cause the audience to be just that much more impressed. It simply blows people’s minds that they can be loose to do their own thing thought our day and during our shows and still they come back when we call them down. And if Ariel (Scarlet) and Gleam and Dretti (Blue Throats) or Boomer or Grace (Calicos) do several large laps instead of the two they are normally supposed to do, then the audience patiently watches and waits and then applauds just that much louder when they do return. I have no doubt that people will sit through more flying because it offers just so much more value to them than do the simple and short point to point flights. Plus people only get to see them “jinking” with the longer flights and never with point to point flights.

And yes Point to Point flights can be trained with higher weight birds. I do not weigh any of my birds and each of them get all the food they want in the evening. And I get good responses doing the Dollar Bill trick where the birds fly out into the audience to retrieve dollars and bring them back to our stage. Last year the three were doing this about 300 times per day and no one was underweight – each trip earned them a sunflower seed and they continued to work until they were visibly bulging and just too full to fly any more <grin>. These are point to point flights though one of the points is variable and identified by an audience member waiving money in the air. We really love this trick. We try to give everyone a chance to do it at least three or four times <grin>.

I think I am seeing more of this freestyle flying at zoos and theme parks. When ever we get a chance we like to visit the zoos in the areas we do our shows in. And their bird shows are always of great interest to us.

“I think someone bashed the womach’s on here last week, and it got me thinking about asking the question of what “camp” the free flyers are in.”

There are several different “freeflying camps”. From what I can tell we have the womach camp, the Steve Martin camp, the Joe Krathwohl camp and the Chris Biro camp.

People like Hugh Choi are in the Joe K camp. The womachs are trying to create their own camp but essentially are also in the Joe K camp. The Joe K camp is essentially a falconry based approach to training flight. Weight Management and strict recall response are heavily practiced by this camp. Mostly this camp flies A to B and some freestyle flying.

People like Janet, Sid Price, Chris Shank and Barbara Hiedenriech (not really sure on Barbs camp since I have no knowledge of her doing any flying in recent years) are in the Steve Martin camp. The Steve Martin camp is similar to the falconry approach but is softened by inclusion of more OC material and less of a reliance on weight management – though Steve is reported to use weight management fairly often for his shows. Strict recall response are heavily practiced by this camp. Mostly this camp flies A to B and some Freestyle flying.

I will let people chime in on their own if they want to be listed in the Chris Biro camp. The Chris Biro camp uses OC but relies more heavily than the others on coordinating with the influence of evolution and instinctive tendencies. The Chris Biro camp does not use weight management at all (at least extremely rarely) but instead relies heavily on natural appetite, favorite foods, social interest and play interest. This camp flies A to B, Freestyle flying and Sport flying.

From what I can tell the Chris Biro camp publicly demonstrates the most advanced flight skills in their birds of any of these camps. Recall is practiced by this camp but Rally Point Fidelity is considered more important than recall.

Parrots: More Than Pets, Friends For Life

Chris Biro


Resources and More

The Pirate's Parrot Show

An educationally based pirate-themed parrot show performing at state and county fairs since 1991. The Pirate’s Parrot Show is a Fun, Educational, and Interactive experience for all ages and cultures.

Bird Recovery International

One in every eight bird species in the world today is in danger of extinction and these numbers are increasing! Find out how this non-profit organization started by Chris Biro can help save and protect parrots and other birds. 

Podcasts with Chris Biro

An Alternate Perspective – Enjoy these audio Podcasts of Chris with guests discussing the nature of training flighted birds. The discussions are intended to be loosely structured around a general topic. 

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