Bird Tricks and Treats: Part II

In part one of this article, we learned that birds of all kinds have complicated brains and are incredibly intelligent. Due to this intelligence, birds (especially parrots) will need to stay mentally active. Providing a variety of toys and rearranging perches and swings will help keep your bird mentally stimulated. However, just using these items by themselves may not be enough for your birds. Training them new tricks and continuing to practice these tricks will keep your birds thinking as well as a providing chances to bond with you more. We already went over how to teach Step Up, so continue reading to see what else your feathered friend can learn!

Speaking

Many different parrot species have the ability to mimic human speech. Some birds have a higher chance of learning words then others. However, you can always try to train your bird to speak and if the bird just does not show any signs of learning this trick, you can always work on something different. Speech just might not be one of the many talents that your bird has. Instead, these types of birds might be more interested in learning how to whistle. You can use the same instructions that we will be going over for speaking, but replace a word with a whistle.

An Eclectus parrot such as this one has a high chance of learning to mimic speech.

1) Decide the word you would like your bird to know. Pick something simple that does not have a lot of syllables and one that you do not mind your bird repeating often. Good starter words are “hello,” “goodbye,” or even the bird’s own name.

2) Once your bird shows interest in a word, use it often. Some of the best times to train for speech is when the bird is excited. During excitement, many birds are able to remember and be more willing to repeat words. A great time for this is either when you return home and see the bird or when you enter your bird’s room. Repeat the phrase when entering. You can also set aside training time for speech where you and the bird are interacting together and you continually repeat the phrase.

3) Always speak the desired word in an excited tone. Your bird will be more enthusiastic to learn and mimic what you are saying.

4) Have some tasty treats nearby to offer to your bird whenever they are able to accomplish saying the word or something that sounds close to what you were saying.

5) Something to help reinforce speech is to have music or a video playing. Only play things that have words you don’t mind your birds learning. Every bird is different and some may pick up words that you may find undesirable.

Watching television is a great way for your bird to be exposed to more human sounds.

I personally have worked with a very fun Palm Cockatoo named Alfred who was able to repeat simple phrases during my time as an intern at an exotic animal park. Whenever I entered into the bird room where the parrots were kept, I would always say “Hello, hello, hello” while raising my voice’s pitch with each word. Alfred loved it! As I preformed my daily routines of feeding, cleaning, and general care of the birds, he would constantly make incoherent chatter that I would respond to with the same “Hello, hello, hello.” I would also play soft rock music as I swept the room which all of the birds enjoyed. Even while the music was playing, I still responded “hello” to the cockatoo’s chatter. This bird already was able just to say “hello” on his own, but before long, he began to mimic me saying “Hello, hello, hello” with the same pitch and enthusiasm that I used. This helped Alfred and I bond, and it was a fun, special greeting between us.

The silly Palm Cockatoo, Alfred, showing off for the camera.

Wave

Another good trick to teach your bird is to wave. This is a relatively simple and fun trick to teach to your parrot. It is a fun trick for your parrot to use to greet friends and can help you develop some more basic training skills. This is a trick that will best be learned with in the neutral space where your bird is less likely to be distracted. Think of a unique name for this this trick. You can use “hello” or “hi” as the command phrase but only if it’s different than a possible speech phrase. You can also use hand signals to help with the command. You can use your index finger by bending it up and down or curling down as the added command motion.

1) Begin with your bird on a standalone perch in a neutral training space. Hold a small stick-like object such as a pencil or a wooden chop stick. You need an item that will not harm the bird in case the bird decides to chew on the item.

2) Show the bird the stick object and try to peak their interest by holding the stick close to them. Try not to let the bird take the stick from you. If they take it with their beak, gently pull it away and try again.

Checking out the stick but would rather try tasting it first.

3) When the bird lifts its foot up to grasp the stick, say the command you want for wave and give lots of treats and praise.

4) Gently take the stick out of the birds grasp and repeat the previous steps a few times. Every now and then reward the bird by letting it take the stick. Let them play with it for a little while then take it back and repeat the steps some more.

5) Eventually, your bird will start picking up on the command and trick as it sees the stick. Then you can begin practicing without the stick, using only the command and any hand signals of your choosing. After you feel that the bird is familiar with this trick, continue practicing it regularly.

Completing the trick of wave “Bye bye.”

Interacting with your bird through training is a treat all in itself as it helps the bond you have with your bird. There are many other tricks out there that you may teach your bird, and you can create your own tricks with your intelligent feathered friend.

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at ashleygurnea@gmail.com.

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