Outdoors: A Great Desensitizer


Photos by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, Florida In Flight: Military Macaw "Cash" 

My military macaw, Cash, is 3 years old. He should be flying as well as my other birds (Cressi, Bondi, Bandit) but he does not and is not. His breeder who was in New York claimed he was properly fledged as a young macaw. We got him at 6 months old. His wings were clipped and he was a frustrated parrot with bad looking plummage. We immediately moved to Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands with him and let his wings grow out. However, it took a very long time and he did not seem to possess the skills of a properly fledged parrot such as Bandit and Ace which you can see here. Bondi and Cressi were also properly fledged at the right age. Because Cash is not a skilled flier and does not completely understand how to descend and ascend as well as the others, he is not an outdoor flying bird. He just does not possess the skills to do it safely and affectively and is still spooked by numerous things indoors not to mention outdoors. In order to desensitize him, which has been harder than doing it with the rest, we have been taking him into the batting cage with the rest of our flock. Sometimes he does short flights from Dave to a pole or from me to Dave, and sometimes he chooses to sit and watch the others fly around. Surprisingly, he does really well with the other three parrots and doesn't pick fights with them. They can all sit comfortably on the same pole while flying every which way whenever they please.  

Photo by Dave Location: Batting Cage, Orlando, Florida Perching Pals: Rose Breasted Cockatoo "Bandit" & Military Macaw "Cash"  

I will admit he is the most beautiful in flight and the most fun for me to take photos of. The outdoors (in the comfort of the batting cage) has been extremely well for him because for one, it showed us how our judgement was right in the fact that he is not ready for the outdoor elements (wind, wildlife, and other things that he is uncustomed to that can spook him easily and cause poor flight) and two, it has let him get used to these things in the comfort of a flock (even though it's a flock of small cockatoos and an African Grey) it's a flock he knows well and is comfortable with. Although he gets spooked more than the others, they also are there to let him know things are okay such as birds flying over head or the giant bugs that zoom by their heads. If the others don't spook, why should he? They keep him calm and the outdoors has been an amazing way to desensitize him to many things all at once without having to do a thing but take the time to be out there with him. Cash had about a 70%-75% rate in the show in Saipan where he flew in from the sound booth above and down onto Dave's hand. He would either complete this flight perfectly or exceptionally wrong. It was either a confident night for him, or a very insecure one where anything could throw him off including his own judgment of depth with his landing. But when he was on, he was really on!   Here is a video of his part in the Saipan show entitled "Magical Flight"...  

As you can tell from the video, Cash is very capable in flight. And, he is very desensitized to indoor objects. He really needs the outdoor stimulation because its the unknown, the noises and the movement out there that is unfamiliar to him which he needs the most desensitization to. It was a new realization for me that I felt I should share.

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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