Flight Training a Macaw With a Foot Defect

Some interesting things happened recently with Morgan, the 7 year old Camelot macaw with a left foot defect. I'm super excited to share the ups and downs with you this week! Check it out:

First, I've got her making the LONGEST flights possible in my living room space which I am so excited about! Now, repetition will build stamina and muscle, and changing up where she needs to land on me will help build her skill set (so that's the future plan.) 

Second, she got SPOOKED and did a very interesting flight involving two turns and a tired but OK landing onto my carpet floor. I was really proud of this because when birds get scared into taking flight, it's often very uncontrolled and panic-y. But Morgan maintained her composure, and did not hit or run into anything. Her landing was because she got tired (she's not conditioned to flying in general so this took everything out of her) and could not maintain her flight-height any longer.

I was really proud of her because of the control she showed for where she is currently at. If my own birds did this flight I wouldn't be as enthusiastic... but for a bird just learning, this was great for a "spooked" flight. 

My flight training no-no: 

  • Rescuing the bird: Unless the bird is obviously hurt or in danger, DO NOT go pick it up after a spooked or missed flight/landing. Otherwise you're conditioning the bird "I come to you" instead of "you find your way back to me". When transitioning to outdoors this is EXTREMELY important. You will not be able to go everywhere your bird goes, but your bird can always figure out how to get back to you so this needs to be established early-on. Even if your bird is too tired to fly, or does not have the strength to fly back (take off from the ground, up to you) simply running or walking back to you will suffice just fine. 

If your bird crashes and you go over and baby-it to death, telling it its okay and sweeping it up in your arms - you are not teaching it that crashing and not getting it right every time is just a part of the learning process (a large part, at that) just as toddlers fall down when they learn to walk. It's completely normal - no babying needed. Lets just try again when the bird is ready. Lets not create a phobia of the activity of flying by making a huge deal out of a natural process. 

The other big lesson this week?

>>>Every interaction is a training session.<<<

I know we say it here at BirdTricks all the time but it's true. And I drive the point often so that people truly understands what that means. 

Want your bird to step up? That's a trick. Want your bird to allow you to pet it? That's a trick. Want your bird to fly to you? That's a trick. Want your bird to go to other people? That's a trick! Go back in its cage? That's a trick.

Come out of the cage, take a shower, remain calm in the cage while you roll it to another spot, wait nicely while you fill the water and food fishes without attacking? These are all TRICKS. They are behaviors you can TRAIN. You may see them as something your bird "should do naturally" but guess what? Not all birds do these naturally, and not all associate them positively. That's ok, we can train them. 

So when people tell me "I don't want a circus bird, I don't need a pet that does tricks" I know they just don't get it. Training behaviors... training tricks, same thing really. Riding a bicycle is a trick, but all the approximations to get it to eventually ride the bicycle are behaviors (approach the bike, be OK with the bike/not scared, touch the bike, etc) So really, they're the same to me. And if you look at everything as a "trick" that you're asking of your bird, the respect level will change in your mind and therefore physically too. And that's the real key. 

Notice when Morgan showed the slightest sign of nervousness about my training t-stand, I trained her to be OK with it. I also work with the bird's natural instincts and for her, she seemed to know where I was going with the training... that I wanted her to stand on it so she just did what she thought I was going for and bam! Way easier. The more you train your bird, the faster and easier the training is down the road. (Literally I trained my galah to wave in 2 MINUTES because she already knew so much stuff she just understands training and we can communicate so clearly.) 

I assume Morgan is gonna be sore from all this working out so I am taking the next day off training. (I'm tired too, mentally)


Tricia Bartolucci

Love how she caught on you wanted her to go onto the perch on her own. She really seems to want to figure out want you want, not just do what you show her. She responds really well to praise, doing things that clearly aren’t easy or comfortable with her bum foot. Both of you are awesome. Thanks for sharing this process.

Tricia Bartolucci

Thank you for taking the time to share this. I know how time consuming recording, editing and posting can be. Selfless sharing!


Loving and Looking Forward To see Morgan Responding to You..?


I am soooo loving being able to watch Morgan’s daily adventures. I am also learning so much. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!


Yay Morgan!!!


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