I was lucky enough this week to present a talk about free-flight training and my experiences working with parrots at the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre at Woodie’s Wings Parrot Club monthly meeting in Derby, England, and took Bonnie and Alfie along to show off their skills. When I arrived, I was thrilled to be greeted by so many friendly faces and a cacophony of parrot squawks, screeches and whistles! I’ve presented talks with Bonnie and Alfie at Charnwood Parrot Club in Leicester and Nottingham Parrot Club (headed up by Rosemary Low), but this was, by far, the biggest venue and biggest crowd.
For those of you who aren’t already aware, Bonnie and Alfie, the almost 3 year old Green-winged Macaw siblings, are the real stars out of my flock. They fly twice a day in the shows, flying up to 30-40 feet up in the air, flying circuits sometimes up to 400 feet wide! They are incredibly fit and have amazing stamina, sometimes going round 10-15 times before being called in for their dramatic landing. No matter how many times I see them fly, it never gets any less spectacular to watch and I’m SO lucky to be part of it.
The main subject of my talk was how Bonnie and Alfie were trained for free-flying and how we achieved flying in circuits for the shows, but I also explained my feeling that everybody should try recall training with their bird indoors. It feels great to have your bird willingly fly to you when you call them, and if they are well trained to come when you call; if they DO happen to get outside accidentally or end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, you have more chance of safely getting them back. Also, BIRDS CAN FLY!! And my feeling is that they should be able to do so! I was a little sad to see so many clipped birds, however many owners there after seeing Bonnie and Alfie flying back and forth across the room, said they would let their birds’ wing feathers regrow. Several people with fully flighted birds also said they would definitely start recall training.
There was quite a variety in terms of the experience of the people attending the club meeting; some who had literally just got their first bird a few days ago, and some who had been parronts for quite some time, so I also incorporated important messages about feeding a healthy diet and providing mental stimulation using training and simple foraging techniques. Check out this blog post on Getting started with using foraging: beginner tips & how to.
I’ve always been really impressed with the Birdtricks Facebook community; people are so willing to share their own experiences of what works and what doesn’t but also; I’ve seen some really brave admissions of mistakes – where bird owners have dared to reveal what they did wrong as a cautionary tale to others. I think it’s fantastic; we all want to provide the BEST care for our birds and the best way of doing so is to keep learning! Put pride aside and if you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask. AND if you are asked a question, be happy to offer support and advice rather than judging that person for not knowing; better informed parrot owners means better cared-for birds and that’s what we all want. We all need little reminders now and again, even about what most would consider to be ‘the basics’ like Unsafe Foods for Parrots.
Those who attended the Woodie’s Wings Parrot Club meeting were all clearly passionate about taking great care of their birds and keeping them happy; it was a wonderful atmosphere and a great event to be part of….plus, there was also a raffle with some great prizes including a parrot play stand, a table set up where you could purchase parrot toys and food and even free coffee and cake (for the humans only!). I would definitely recommend checking if there is a Parrot Club in your region that holds meetings, as it’s a great to hang out with people who share your passion and a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge.