Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, Florida Pals: Military Macaw "Cash"
Meet Cash, our 2 year old military macaw (male). When we got Cash, we got two other macaws at the same time; Jersey and Chayko (female and male, sister and brother, blue and gold macaws). Because there were three birds, Dave and I split the bill. I mainly worked with Chayko right away, while Dave mainly worked with Cash and we both gave Jersey work together (Jersey was the easy one!). Cash was the most timid of the three macaws and wanted nothing to do with us. Dave worked with him (using the Power Pause method) and eventually, Dave was Cash's favorite person in the whole wide world! Well, although Dave could do anything with this bird, no one else could come near him, including me! This was a problem, as we wanted to use Cash in our Saipan dinner show called Magical Flight. For Cash to be able to go into the show, he had to be handle-able by more than just Dave alone (trust me, we tried it!).
Since most people aren't too thrilled at the idea of getting bit in the training process; I got to work with Cash first. We decided to indoor flight train him as his feathers grew in (clipped from the breeder) from me to Dave. He was very reluctant to come to me at all, but with coaxing of peanuts, he did. He didn't care about peanuts or treats with Dave, when he was with Dave, that was his treat. So we used Dave as the reward in our training process.
If you have a one person bird, more than likely, that one person is the bird's reward. So use that and incorporate it into your training to make it as positive as possible for your bird. When Cash stepped up on my hand, he got a seed or peanut. If that wasn't what he wanted at the time (and sometimes it wasn't) and he was too busy looking for a way to get away and back to Dave, Dave would come over and love on him while he sat on my hand. This was a way of rewarding Cash for sitting on my hand.
As Cash became more and more calm with coming to me, he'd get more and more love and reward from Dave. We started by standing real close to one another, then eventually I would move a bit farther and a bit farther away from Dave. I would hold on to his toes with my thumb, and when he calmed down I would lift up my thumb letting Cash fly directly to Dave as his reward. Now this training and socializing technique worked two fold as Cash not only loved Dave, but also loved flying.
From this point, we just moved further and further apart until I was the one flying Cash from the very back of the theater! He then learned and associated me, with Dave and with flying. He knew if he held out long enough, that eventually he'd get to fly to Dave! What could be better?! On my harness blog you can view a video of Cash flying from me (I'm also the one filming) to Dave. I can now get Cash out of his cage, take him out on walks, and more. He doesn't love me as much as Dave, but he is no longer a "one person bird". We used this training and socializing technique with all the cast and crew backstage. Since Cash had warmed up and learned from doing it with me, it didn't take him long at all to realize it was going to be the same with everyone else. Cash quickly became the easiest bird for anyone (no matter who they were) to handle backstage, on stage as well as off stage.
So if you have a one person bird who shows the same signs as Cash, try this socializing method for yourself and please share your results! It's also a good idea to introduce one new person a day to a one person bird (or an ex-one person bird) just to continue socialzing him or her on a frequent basis.
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.