When I began presenting the parrot shows, I was lucky that they had already been trained lots of behaviours and tricks – for example, I cannot take credit for teaching Ruby (7 year old Green-winged Macaw) how to ride a bike; all I had to learn was how to pick her up and put her on the bike, and how to turn the bike around with her sat on it!
I found this amazing to watch and be part of, but I was still very keen to try to teach the parrots something new to show off in the shows. I also felt that doing new fun things would help to develop a bond with the parrots seeing as I was someone new.
I had this idea that it would be really cool to have Ruby to go upside down (either fall backwards or forwards whilst holding on to my hand) as if she was tired out from the bike ride!
For a YouTube video on how Jamie taught 3 different parrots to flip onto their back (a slight variation of this trick), click here
When I got this idea to train this trick, I actually had no idea where to start and, at the time, did not think to look for a fantastic video by a professional trainer to explain it to me step by step! The Birdtricks.com YouTube channel is a wonderful resource!
However – sometimes, parrots just happen to do something out of the blue! So, one day, I’m holding Ruby and walking with her from her cage indoors, on the way to the outdoor aviary where the parrots spend their day… and while I’m walking along, she just tips forwards and hangs upside down from my hand! Luckily, I always have either a pocket full of treats, or a little treat pouch hanging from my belt, so when she did it, I said ‘good!’ (my bridge word) and gave her a treat!
When I was putting her in at night, she did it again so I responded in the same way and rewarded her for the behaviour. Within a week, she was doing this to the cue ‘ Ruby, are you tired?’ and just falling slowly forwards and hanging upside down. Over a year down the line, if I start to tilt my hand forwards a little, she will do it without a verbal cue, and will also go backwards if I tilt my hand backwards gently (as long as I’m holding her feet of course) and sometimes even let go with one foot!
My point is, having a plan on how you’re going to train your parrot something new is brilliant; it’s great to know exactly what process you need to follow to teach that new trick, but always expect the unexpected with your bird! Have some treats ready any time you are interacting with them, just in case they surprise you with a new word or noise they have picked up, or bob their head up and down, or anything else that you might like them to do again!