How Did You Do?

Welcome to our BirdTricks quiz!!

First, thank you so much for supporting our small business and engaging with our emails! This is something new we are trying, so if it is something you enjoy and would like to see more of, please let us know! Your feedback is invaluable to us.

Before jumping into the answers, here is a quick recap of the quiz questions. The answer to each will be one of the following training quadrants...
  • Positive Reinforcement (R+)
  • Negative Reinforcement (R-)
  • Positive Punishment (P+)
  • Negative Punishment (P-)


Please remember: The explanations are just as important, if not more so, then the answer itself. For an answer to be counted as correct, both the quadrant and explanation should match.

1. Positive Reinforcement

Most of us perceive our bird’s cage to be a punishment, but it’s usually the human’s interpretation, not the bird’s. In fact, if you’ve done a good job of making your bird’s cage an enriching and inviting environment, it’s very likely that putting your bird back in its cage after biting is REINFORCING that behavior. Your bird may want a drink, a snack, access to a certain toy or perch in their cage, or even just time to themselves in their own space - there are lots of reasons that your bird may want to go back to its cage.

But why did he bite? You’ve likely missed other subtle cues from your bird that he is done hanging out and would like to go back to his cage and so you get a bite. When the bite results in going back to the cage, the bird learns to go straight to a bite in the future to get to where it wants to go.

Sometimes it can be punishment. Although it is less common, it is possible that your bird will find it punishing to be put back into their cage if 1) the cage is not a place they enjoy spending time in or 2) if they prefer to stay out and close to their humans or on their favorite stand.

How do you know whether it is PUNISHMENT or REINFORCEMENT? Pay attention to whether the biting behavior always seems to happen after your bird has been out for a certain amount of time. It could indicate that he has learned to use biting as a way to be taken back to his cage. Remember that if we see a behavior increase then there is something that is REINFORCING that behavior. If the behavior decreases or stops altogether, then we know it was PUNISHED.

2. Positive Reinforcement

Is it really reinforcing? Keep in mind that a "treat” has to be something your bird likes in order for it to be positive reinforcement. Just because we call something a treat doesn’t mean the bird likes it. For example, one of our student’s birds does not like walnuts. Walnuts are highly sought after by all the birds in our flock so we generally refer to them as treats. However, her bird couldn’t care less about walnuts so if we gave her bird a piece of walnut for stepping up he might be more irritated than pleased.

Praise and head scratches are not always positive. It is even more important to consider what your bird finds reinforcing when it comes to non-food reinforcers like verbal praise or head scratches. While some birds absolutely LOVE those types of reinforcements and are happy to interact and do tricks for praise alone, other birds may find it punishing or at the very least slightly bothersome. This can make all the difference between a success or a failure during a training session - and it can mean the difference between getting a bite or not.

3. Negative Reinforcement

The Power Pause. If you thought of our “Power Pause” when you read this question, you are absolutely right! What we call the Power Pause is a type of negative reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement is when you remove (negative) something your bird doesn’t like in order to increase (reinforce) the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated in the future. In the case of the power pause, we wait for calm behavior when we are at a certain distance from the bird and then we remove ourselves from the room (or at least back away). In this scenario, the “treat” (or reward) is the scary human backing away. That’s what the bird wants. Over time, the bird learns to relax more and more even when the scary person comes closer.

Learn more about the Power Pause by watching this video.

4. Positive Punishment

This example of spraying a bird in the face seems abrupt to some and harmless to others (since it’s just water and it’s not really painful). However, punishment doesn’t have to be physical painful to be detrimental to your bird or to damage your relationship with your bird. This very common use of spraying the bird is the most common reason many birds are fearful of spray bottles and sometimes even water itself. So you may have stopped the screaming behavior, but now your bird won’t let you bathe them. That is an example of fallout.

Punishment works. And when it works, we are positively reinforced because the annoying behavior stopped, usually immediately. The main problem with punishment is that there will always be fallout (as in the spray bottle example). Punishment can cause long-term psychological consequences for your bird, it can create a different unwanted behavior, and it can damage your relationship with your bird, sometimes permanently. Punishment does not teach any animal what you want it to do - it simply uses the fear of punishment to keep them from doing the unwanted behavior. We can do so much better.

5. Negative Punishment

Negative punishment is when you remove (negative) something your bird likes/wants in order to decrease (punish) the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated in the future.

This may seem like a good idea, but like any type of punishment it doesn’t teach the bird what you want them to do. In this example scenario where you walk away from your screaming bird you may get that immediately result of quiet but it doesn’t really fix the cause of the screaming. . . Every time you walk back in the room, your bird will scream again. So, while it may “fix” the problem in the moment, it’s not a useful long-term solution.
Hint: Instead of trying to figure out how to STOP an unwanted behavior, ask yourself what you want your bird TO DO INSTEAD. Perhaps playing with a foraging toy while you walk away could be an acceptable replacement behavior.

What Your Score Means

5 out of 5 - Perfect Score!

Great job!!! You have a clear understanding of which training quadrants are at play when you are interacting with your bird. You can accurately determine how to avoid accidentally reinforcing unwanted behaviors and you know how to encourage behaviors you want to see more of. Check out our Bonus Level Trick Training Course to learn how to teach your bird tons of fun tricks that also act as amazing bonding and communication tools!
Bonus Level Trick Training Course

3-4 out of 5: So Close!

You are so close! You have a pretty decent grasp of the training quadrants but may struggle with some of the nuiances. We recommend our Advanced Level Course to improve your knowledge and level up your training sessions.
Advanced Level Training Course

1-2 out of 5: You're New, and That's Okay!

You are new at this, and that's ok! Everyone starts somewhere, and you've already taken the first inquisitive step into learning more by trying our quiz - kudos to you! We believe you would really benefit from learning about the foundations of training, and we have the right tools to help you succeed. Check out our Beginner Level Course to learn all the basics you need to start making progress with your bird.
Beginner Level Training Course

Please Note: This quiz is only 5 questions and cannot fully encompass anyone's knowledge. The course recommendations we have provided are just that - recommendations. If you feel you still need more help and you aren't ready for an advanced level even though you got them right, that is absolutely no problem! It is always better to go back and rebuild foundation rather than jumping ahead when you aren't ready.

Also, if you have any questions, please contact our amazing customer care team at - they can help direct you to specific resources we have to fit your individual needs. Have a great day!

~The BirdTricks Team