Teaching Your Bird to Wave Isn't Always That Easy...

Photo by Dave Location: Cruise Ship Shown: Galah "Bandit"

To date, Bandit my galah knows the following tricks:
  1. Spin
  2. Roll over
  3. Lawn mower
  4. Recall/flight training 

I decided that the "wave" would be next. I thought it would be an easy next trick to do... right? Wrong. I've never had such a hard time teaching the wave to a bird before!

Most birds wave naturally by lifting a foot up every once in a while and you can just capture it when they do it... not Bandit. I found out that right before he rolls over, he lifts up his right foot like a wave, folds it in and goes over. So the the first time I tried to "capture" it, I really just captured him rolling over which he already knows and he, of course, expected a treat because he knew he did something right. I realized I had to focus on getting the wave with his left foot which is uses a lot less and more as his "pivit" foot, you know, like in sports? The one that STAYS DOWN all the time?!

I almost gave up.

It was SO hard to get him to lift his left foot. I tried to feed him for talking and get him to eat with his left foot but he ALWAYS ate with his right! I couldn't even capture it that way, then I tried to use the "step up" method where you act like you're asking them to step up and they lift their foot... well, Bandit was sooo into training he refused to step up and bit me instead (okay, so I was a little pushy at this point... which is why I got bit)  

So I knew the step up method wasn't going to work for me either. Then... I SIGHED... and it all happened! 

The little air from my mouth made his little head itch and he lifted his LEFT FOOT to get the itch! I remembered at Parrot Jungle in Miami, Florida seeing a cockatoo scratch himself on cue and I realized I could definitely use that behavior and shape it to the wave! I clicked and rewarded Bandit for scratching his head, and he didn't get it at first, but I used his uneasy pacing to capture when his left foot went up a little until one time in between all the wimpy foot lifts, he threw his foot up real fast and real high and I clicked at the perfect time! I could tell he was wondering if that was really what I wanted, something so simple?  

We had 6 training sessions and he got it on the 6th one! I was sooo proud (and relieved).

So that you can see his success, check out the video below of his cute little wave... 

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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