Bird Training Updates From the Past 7 Months

My world got quite crazy in the preparation of our 6 month contract on board the Norwegian Dawn starting July 25, 2014. We had a 20 day rehearsal period in the Mediterranean followed by the preparations of passports (not just human ones, but our pet passports too! Hello, 4 months of paperwork and 220+ pages of applications…), the shipping of props, the moving of all of our stuff. I know, who plans to move right before leaving for six months? This family. We moved all our stuff into a storage unit and a new house and left the very next day. Yeah, we haven’t even had a chance to live in our new house! But our birds have, well, at least Rocko, Comet and Tusa (toco toucan, camelot macaws).

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(FaceTiming with my birds back home. Here, specifically Comet my camelot macaw. They were all moved indoors into their 5x8 aviaries when the cold weather hit in late September/early October.)

Because sadly, we left those 3 feathered boys behind this contract. We were quite anxious about accepting our first performing contract back since having our daughter and didn’t really know what to expect - and we were told there was little space so we left the biggest guys behind. Now that we’ve got the hang of it all again, the brothers (Comet and Tusa) and definitely joining us next contract and we’re already in the works of new backstage cages for everyone.

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I realize I haven’t updated about my daughter since she was practically still bald - it’s amazing how much hair you can grow in 4 months. She practically started the contract the same way.

 

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Sydney insists on petting every bird. Even if that bird is plastered on the side of a trash can in Puerto Rico...

But, 4 months later in our contract and a few more bites and she still loves birds. All birds. While in Cozumel, Mexico she spotted a couple blue and gold macaws on a branch and two guys were charging people for taking pictures of or with them, and Sydney stuck out her arm (then 19 months old) and pointed to it and the bird. A way of saying “put that bird right here on my arm”.

The guy, to my surprise, was willing and did so for free as long as I didn’t take a picture. It was so in the moment, and we had just gotten out of the torrential downpour that I hadn’t thought to anyhow. She did this all the time. We forgot her favorite hat when we left, and hat looked everywhere for one she would accept. Besides her dad’s baseball cap, she refused any other kid’s hat we found until she spotted this fantastic toucan visor. Of course, I was totally approving of this decision.

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(Her stylish toucan hat, hand picked in Cozumel, Mexico.)

As our flock grows more and more used to our daughter, I’ve noticed they also become a little less tolerant and more so as though they expect her to be learning their lingo faster since she’s around them so much. She has received a bite from Cressi for wanting to hold her one too many times (Sydney would literally hold a bird all day on her arm if she could. She just wants to do it over again and again and again.) they are not super hard bites, but warning enough that Sydney continues to respect what the bird wants and is capable of. She loves to hug and kiss them and is becoming more understanding that they don’t always want her love just like she may not always want ours.

She can hold all of the birds, and has been holding Jinx for a while now which always surprises people since with his long tail, they’re about the same size. (The main face is because she ate the pine nuts she was going to give Jinx, and didn't like the taste so much. However, now she eats them ALL the time!) 

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Sydney Capri and her shared moments with Jinx. Also, what happens when she tried pine nuts for the first time.

If you follow me on other social networks then none of this is really all that surprising to you as I try to keep in contact as much as I can. But out here at sea, internet is expensive and wifi is hard to come by. And I really don’t want to be one of those parents that’s hooked to their phones instead of interacting with my child so we use the phone a lot to FaceTime with loved ones back home (our german shepherd Diesel, oh yeah, and grandma and grandpa too…) and takes photos and videos of our fun moments.

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Sydney FaceTiming with our dog back home, Diesel.

Which has pretty much put blogging on the backest of burners. While out at sea we did put together a behind the scenes bird show, if you will, of how we trained the behaviors our birds know and we take some Q&A, as well as show tricks that aren’t featured in our main show Thrillusionist.

Its a lot of fun and has been a great way for people to get to know the birds, and us, and really appreciate what goes into creating routines around animals in general. We plan on putting together a full length production show of ParrotFX again, but this time it will be 45 minutes long and all parrots and magic. That’s something that we’re in the works of doing now as we have two versions of the show written. The first version is what we can put in next year when we come back on the Norwegian Dawn from May-November 2015, and the second is the version we are striving to perform (which requires saving up for more props!) But we are really excited about it and our goal is to offer it as a matinee production.

It relies a lot on Comet and Tusa being involved for how we wrote it out, so that’s why we aren’t able to start even a shorter version now but next year we will definitely be working on it. And I’m hoping to start training with the conures immediately as long as Sydney allows that to happen! Hopefully I’m able to capture some of the training and perhaps enough of the behind the scenes training that the whole thing will take that we can make another DVD about it - more in depth on the training you get to be a part of and the full length show on there once it’s installed. All just thoughts for now but it’s fun to be thinking ahead about it all.

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A little girl holding our three sun conures while they eat some millet from her hands.

So if you haven’t gotten to see us yet this year, we are still performing on the Norwegian Dawn through February 1, 2015 and will be back out here May 1, 2015 through the end of November next year. So book your cruise and come see us! Let us know you’re coming or just say hello once you’re on the ship and we will arrange a private meet and greet with you and the flock! We cruise from Boston to Bermuda, have an awesome run through Canada, a two week relocation cruise to places like Aruba, Jamaica, Curacao, Puerto Rico and more and then sail from New Orleans through the Western Caribbean (Honduras, Mexico, Belize and more) so definitely come on out!

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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