Teaching Parrots to Talk on Cue

I'm a HUGE believer in working with your bird's NATURAL capabilities and habits. For instance, my cockatoo "Bondi" is most talkative in the car above other places. So, since we were on a road trip from Washington to Arizona, I thought I'd use that to my advantage and grabbed my training bag with me up front. Now, she is mostly talkative with Dave so she sat on his shoulder and once she began getting talkative, we picked a word or phrase we were going to choose to reward. The phrase was, "Hey Cutie" which she learned while living in Saipan. The first video demonstrates her being talkative in the car and saying the phrase for us to think about making it a training session.   The next thing I did was click (aka "bridge") and follow it up with a reward, which in my case was a small, black sunflower seed.   

In the above video you will notice I just started implementing the click and reward system for her and she is just beginning to catch on. She is also offering me other behaviors I've already taught, such as the nodding of the head "yes" as well as shaking her head "no". She is offering these because after seeing the clicker in my hand, she has gone into what I call "training mode" and she has never been taught anything verbal on cue before. So it was very new for her.   

Right now, as we are trying to encourage her to say the right word or phrase, we are saying "Hey Cutie" before she does and letting her copy us. So right now, "Hey Cutie" is the cue to get her to say it, but eventually, once she is offering the word non-stop and over and over again, I can begin only rewarding her when she does it before the cue I choose to implement.

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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