How to Clicker Train Your Bird

Have you been hearing a lot about clicker training but have NO IDEA how to get started or even, how the heck to do it? Well, I'm going to fill ya in!

What you need to clicker train is... 

1. A clicker

2. Your animal's favorite treat

The reason you clicker train is to teach your animal to LEARN. It is a way for you to communicate with your animal (specifically birds is what I am talking about but clicker training is done with killer whales, dolphins, horses, dogs and more!)

A clicker tells the animal EXACTLY when it does something right. You don't have to use a clicker but it is preferred, especially when they only cost less than $2. You can also use a whistle or a verbal word like "good" or "OK".

Clicker training can be used to simply get your bird to step up or to teach it tricks and other various behaviors.

So let's get started!

Simply click the clicker and give your bird (or other animal) its favorite treat. It doesn't have to do anything, just click and reward, click and reward... yes, click and reward... do it over, and over, and over again.

This is just like in movies when the women would ring a bell to tell the men working outside that it was dinner time - your clicker is signifying that a tasty treat is coming their way and eventually, your bird will begin to look for the treat after hearing the clicker sound.

Once you see your bird anticipating the reward coming, you will know he's got it. He now understands that when he hears the click, he gets the reward and THAT means your animal is clicker trained! This may take a SINGLE training session (like with my African Grey Parrot) or it may take a few. You only need to do this for a few minutes when your bird is a bit hungry so he is actually taking the reward. It's not much of a reward otherwise, is it?

Or at least, you have the very basics and can move on to actually teaching your bird something using the clicker.

If you bird isn't the slightest bit tame yet except for snatching that reward right out of your hand as fast as it possibly can... then you will want to click and reward your bird for even showing the slightest interest in you and just coming near you. This will lead to a bird willing to step up on your finger!

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.


Mary L

I’m trying to clicker train my conure and it started out well, but now any time she hears the clicker she viciously bites my hand and arm…if she starts that sort of association, is it too late and she’ll always start biting when she hears it? Or is it possible to backtrack to it being a way for positive reinforcement?

Mary L
Sharon J. Rossum

Is there a way to “clicker train” my bird (a 5.5 month old Peach-faced Lovebird) NOT to bite/nip? I first got him (or her) at 2.5 months old and I’d trained him/her to step up and happily hang out with me on my shoulder. However, at about 5 months old, he/she started nipping my cheek, my neck, my hand and fingers (which I’m definitely NOT too happy about). The bird does seem to “like” me – but also seems kind of “bratty” and a bit aggressive (which also leads me to believe this Lovebird is a female). At first this little bird seemed so timid and docile (as a young “baby”) – but as he/she is “maturing” – he/she is biting more and more. I understand Lovebirds go through a “beaky” stage between the time they’re weaned and reaching sexual maturity – but I’m hoping I can do something to train this bird to STOP nipping me (especially on the face/cheek and neck)! Pleas help.

Sharon J. Rossum
Samuel Gabor

Is looking for your parrot cook book. Please tell me where to down load it or purchase the actual book. Thank you.

Samuel Gabor
Nadia Johnson

By the way, you don’t have to buy a clicker for this to work! You can use a metal jar lid with a pop up button in the middle (it will make a similar click to a clicker), or whistle (eg two notes) as the reward sound, which has the added advantage of not needing another hand to do it. (This is how I train my mice!)

Nadia Johnson

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