Photo by Dave Location: Moab, Utah Outside Flyers: Rose Breasted Cockatoos "Bandit" & "Bondi"
I hope you all remember Bondi's story. If you don't, here's to sum it up: She was raised right, never clipped and properly fledged. The post above is about how much happier she became flying in an outdoor batting cage. To now sum up how far she has come, watch the below video!
That's right. That is Bondi flying freely outside with my other two free flying parrots, Cressi (African Grey) and Bandit (also a rosie). And Bondi is leading the flock! Even though she was the last one of the three to learn to fly outside, she leads them all and they all follow her lead. Maybe it's because she is the eldest (going on four years old pretty soon)... Here's how I got my 3.5 year old cockatoo flying outside (and coming back!):
Step 1: Dedication Yes, dedication. I wanted this very badly for Bondi. I wanted it so bad for her sake that I put my own feelings aside for the quality of life for her. I didn't settle with the thought "she's happy enough as-is" she deserved this and only doing this process would let me really know if she was truly happy enough.
Step 2: Observational Learning I did a lot of this. This just means letting your bird observe what he needs to learn himself. I let Bondi watch Cressi and Bandit fly outside for every training session they had out there. This means Bondi watched Cressi learn and take her first few flights outside up until her successfully controlled flights outside. Same with Bandit's process. So she was able to observe what she was supposed to do outside.
Step 3: De-Socializing Not a normal step for most but Bondi LOVES strangers. I go into this problem more in my Over Socialization post. This process took 3 months! Training her not to go to strangers, working on random rewarding implementation, and the whole thing. This step alone was a three month process and used hundreds of people to work with her in the process. Luckily, I was in the type of place that alloted for that type of movement and was around people who wanted to be a part of this training process.
Step 4: Random Rewarding Bondi already knew recall, target training, etc... she knew a lot of behaviors and her strongest was target training and recall flight training so I used the target to get her to fly and put that behavior on random rewarding to increase her motivation and the liklihood she would continue to do it correctly.
Step 5: Repetition Bondi knew recall flight training from a very young age and so I made sure to work that consistently and constantly so it was solid. And I changed up the environments in which I did this training in to make sure it was solid no matter what environment she was in.
Step 6: Warm Ups Before taking her directly outside, I warmed her up inside by cueing behaviors she already knew such as "the wave" or "shake". I would target her to my hand and then I took her outside for the first time. I chose the location of Moab because it's open terrain with less predators than Florida (where I live). I thought it was the safest place to recover (if needed) and to fly her at all for the first time because of the terrain.
The Day Comes... And the big shocker was her first flight was from me to Dave and back and forth and nothing else. Day 1 of having her fly outside was pretty... dull, for an on-viewer. Of course I was jumping up and down with success that she was outside and doing so well but we merely did 6 recalls and put her away. It was good enough for me for her first day though I was surprised she didn't make any attempt for an exploratory flight. Day 2 Outside Her second day Bondi flew around with Bandit after doing A to B recall flights from me to Dave. They flew in crazy zig zags and circles around us and landed back on Dave and me. It was the best feeling of all because of the extent of her flights this day. She actually went out and about and came back.
Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida Freeflying: Rose Breasted Cockatoo "Bondi"
So, is she happier? I honestly didn't expect much of a change in her but WOW! Yes, she is happier. She is now a bird who feels respected and trusted instead of left out and behind. That is probably the most important lesson I learned (or confirmed) is that parrots understand respect. They also understand trust, better than you or me.
PS: Although this is how how I went about getting Bondi prepared and trained for outdoor freeflight, it's more than likely not how anyone else will because most birds don't have the same issues to overcome as she did or have the same issues she had mastered, mastered already. This is not the steps to take to get your older bird flying outside, they are the steps I took personally to get my cockatoo flying outside based on my own cockatoo's personal training needs.
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.