Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, FL Training: Hyacinth Macaw "Hymie"
When I took on a 4 year old hyacinth macaw named Hymie, I had a good idea of what I was getting into. This bird was not shoulder-trained so he went up there anytime he pleased and refused to come down until HE wanted to. The cure? Stationing. I taught him to “station” which meant “go to your place” in which I used a T-stand training perch that came to about my waist or lower in height. When I told him to station or pointed to the perch he would fly to it. That’s how I was able to get him off my shoulder willingly.
For keeping his manners in check, I taught him to allow me to hold his feet while being held as previously he was always kept loose on the owner’s arm where the person had no control over where the bird went. However lately I’ve read a lot about people who keep fully flighted parrots in their house and constantly have to put them away because they fly around too much or won’t stay on their perch. I want to point out that this is the case with everything, and it’s not just your bird trying to bother you. Notice they make doggie gates for houses, even baby gates? Notice most dogs have fenced yards and most kids have play pens? This is to keep said creature in a controlled area because it can’t get out.
Birds, however, have wings, they can get to anywhere unless they are confined to a cage which most of us don’t want to have to do to them. I will say clipping is a lazy “solution” (not really a solution at all) that benefits NO ONE. If your bird develops a fear of heights then maybe it won’t go anywhere anymore and wah-la problem solved. But in a horrible way, I’d say. You can teach stationing and extend the amount of time. At first you have to start small, especially if your bird is really motivated to go elsewhere. But there are other things you can do to get your bird to stay busy in one place.
- Don’t expect your bird to stay put all day long. No one does that. Lower your expectations, please. That way you can be happily surprised and not disappointed.
- Provide foraging toys. Take your bird out when he hasn’t already stuffed himself inside his cage all day. Provide all his food in foraging toys and put them about on his tree stand for him to find. If you want him to be there a long time, put 1-2 pellets per foraging toy. If you want it to be quick, put lots of food in each foraging toy. However fast you want him to be done, provide it.
- Fly your bird first. Let your bird get its energy out before you expect him to just stay still and not go anywhere. A caged up bird all day is going to want to get out and do something. Let him get it out before you get mad he won’t stay put when it’s the first time he has been out of his cage all day!
- Cue flights. When you see your bird wants to go somewhere, work with that motivation and cue it so that you can eventually get to the point where he is waiting for your cue. This will become fun and interactive for both of you.
- Be understanding of your bird’s needs. If you’re just coming home and want to do something while your bird self entertains... well, is it selfish of you? Think about it. Spend time with your bird FIRST and then let him self entertain. Really think about things from your bird’s perspective and not your own of a long day at work. I promise it will change how you interact.
- Be grateful. A lot of birds don’t fly or want to be with their owners, the fact that you are wondering how to get your bird not to exercise, not to come to you and follow you around... count it as a blessing. You have a bond other bird owners may never know.
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.