Photo by David Location: Orlando, Florida Stepping up: Congo African Grey "Cressi"
For some reason, there is this unwritten rule that when you get a bird, you have to teach it to step up FIRST. One thing the trainer (or owner) tends to forget is... why should the bird want to step up? Stepping up onto a human hand is not a natural behavior for a parrot - yes, stepping from branch to branch is, but giving trust willingly and freely to a human is not - hence, stepping up is not. Trying to effortlessly get your bird to step up is only going to result in you making multiple trips to the store for more bandaids because, let's face it, you're going to get bit and bit HARD if you haven't already! (Which you probably have...) There is a way to teach your bird how to step up WITHOUT being bit in the process! Wanna know what it is? It's called a variety of things, most commonly "target training" or "touch training" and also "stick training". They teach it to dolphins, whales, horses and all types of animals to get them to go from one place to another. Using target training, you can learn how to direct your bird to the spot you want him or her to go.
Here's how it works... You teach your bird to touch the end of a stick. And yes... I'm serious. Now I know you are probably thinking, "I don't want my bird to know how to touch the end of a stick! I don't care about that!" but trust me... you do and you will! Teaching your bird to touch the end of the stick is EASY and fast! And it will guarentee your bird will learn to step up on your hand WITHOUT leaving a bleeding spot on your finger. For nippy birds, this is a great technique because they are able to "nip" just not at you! There are loads of success stories using target training to get birds to step up. Here's one: Mika, the Pionus parrot. So, if you're ready to teach it to your bird, get started by reading my Target Training and Clicker Condioning on how to go about training this behavior. You don't have to use a clicker to train your bird to touch the end of the stick, simply make sure you give your bird his favorite treat for coming near, showing interest and eventually touching the stick. Once he starts leaning over to touch it, you can start moving it from one end of the table to the other and your bird will be running to meet the end of that stick! The end result will look like this:
Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida Stepping up: Galah "Bondi"
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.