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Uploaded:2020-10-02
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We're checking in with the two turacos we rescued just a few months ago. See what's changed and watch Jessi get happily surprised when one of them makes a mini breakthrough in training!

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Hello, everyone!

I’m Jessi. Welcome back to Animal Wonders!

So a few months ago we took in two turacos from a situation where they were loved but needed to be rehomed immediately! We’ve gotten to know them, they’ve worked their way into our hearts, and I’d like to share what’s new with them. [CHEERY INTRO MUSIC]. First let me give a little back story on how we ended up with our two turacos, Sunny the red crested turaco and Sprite the guinea turaco.

When we first got the request to take them in, we had to decide if it was even possible for us to house them. It was such a pressing situation, and immediate placement was needed. Thankfully we had appropriate housing available, but it wasn’t completely straight forward.

There were two major challenges we were facing: First, they couldn’t be housed together since turacos are extremely territorial and only mated pairs are safe to keep in the same space. Sprite and Sunny are different species and both female, so they absolutely do not get along. The second challenge is, since turacos aren’t adapted to living in the cold winters we have here, they would eventually need to be housed in temperature controlled spaces.

Now turacos might be colorful, but they’re very different from parrot type birds. If I had to describe their disposition, I’d say that the majority are kind of a mixture between a ring-necked dove and a toucan, docile and curious but also can be explosive and flighty. So their care and housing requirements are also different from parrots.

Mostly they need a larger space with long branches to run on. We learned from their previous owner that Sunny was calmer than Sprite. So when we made the choice of who would go where, we set Sprite up in an available outdoor enclosure that provided more covered areas so she would hopefully feel less nervous.

We modified half of our mews, provided plenty of long branches for running and space for flying, which was appropriate for her personality. Sunny went into Huckleberry the beaver’s outdoor yard, which had already been converted into a safe and suitable living space for medium flighted birds, with long branches for running on and plenty of space to fly between perches. But even though both outdoor spaces were great for the turacos, they were only going to be suitable for the warmer seasons.

So it was temporary, but having the open enclosures allowed us to take them in immediately and then assess their behavior to see what would be best for them moving forward. We soon learned that Sprite was a typical turaco, cautious and flighty in new situations, and those first few weeks she was all over the place. Literally running down the branches, flying, and launching herself off the walls with any new noise or unexpected movement.

But she was still curious and I was able to get her to come to me, perch on my arm, and take food from my hand. So while Sprite utilized every branch in her enclosure, Sunny was surprisingly calm and very people oriented. Sunny would listen for us coming by and call out a greeting, hopping on my arm when I came close.

She also never really flew around her open space, and the only time she would move from her little area by her food and water station was when I would carry her to the other side. So Sprite and Sunny’s personalities are totally night and day. Now things were going great with them.

They had both settled in really well, and I was making progress with earning their trust and working toward possible public presentations in the future. I was really happy that they both learned how to hop on a scale for stress free weigh-ins to monitor their health without having to restrain them. I’m always a big fan of teaching an animal to willingly participate in their own healthcare.

Now, a few weeks ago when the weather started getting cooler and our nights would begin to drop below freezing, it was time for the turacos to move inside. As planned, we had had time to prepare for the move and because we knew their personalities so well now, we were comfortable with the indoor spaces that we had made available for them. So let’s go see where Sprite is living now! [SWOOSH SOUND] Sprite moved into an indoor enclosure in the Beaver House, which she shares with Kizmit the African crested porcupine.

Both Sprite and Kizi needed a warmer environment than we have here in Montana, so the room stays a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit. To make it comfortable for Sprite, I hung branches from the ceiling and secured others to the walls so Sprite has plenty of options for perching, running, and flying. The biggest difference in here compared to her outdoor space is that her perches move, which is great for promoting natural balancing exercises and toning in her legs and feet.

The unexpected but added bonus to the moving branches is that the leaves rustle together when Sprite flies from branch to branch, and at first it startled both Sprite and Kizmit, who are both sensitive to noise and movement. But after a few days they got used to it, and neither of them are even concerned by loud random noises anymore. So that was a really nice, unintended desensitizing that happened for our two most reactive animals, who are now no longer so reactive.

Now Sprite has just started willingly coming back to me to eat from my hand, and the next step is getting her to hop on my arm again. See, when you’re training an animal and you have a behavior well established, but then one variable changes, the animal will often need a refresher course. Basically, you can look at it this way.

I trained Sprite to hop onto my arm if I stood in a certain spot, held my arm in a certain position, while in her outdoor enclosure. But that’s not the behavior I’m asking her to do in this new enclosure. I’m standing in a different place, the entire space is different, and my arm isn’t in the same position.

So from her perspective, it’s not even close to the same behavior. Really the only things that are the same are her and me and the food. Huh?

What some more? Good girl! So that’s what I start with: just offering her her favorite foods from my hand and then working up the trust bond again in the new space.

And then I worked on getting her to come down to this new perch here and take treats from my hand. Eventually she’ll be hopping on my arm again like she did before. Wait!

Pause the video! [SWOOSH SOUND] During our filming session, Sprite decided to make her next step in training. So Sprite has been taking food from my hand for a while now, but she hadn’t quite stepped onto my hand yet. But she was showing high motivation, so while I was demonstrating her taking food from my hand,.

I decided to push it a little bit further and see if she would step onto my hand. [CALM ACOUSTIC MUSIC]. Okay, back to the video! [SWOOSH SOUNDS] Needing to get animals comfortable for all variables is one example of why training animals for public presentations can be so challenging. You can’t train the animals to be comfortable in every single new location.

What you do is train them to be comfortable with you or a certain perch or station because that’s the only thing that will be consistent when you’re in new locations all the time. I don’t know if Sprite will ever be a traveling ambassador, but she’s still young and I’ll keep working with her and see how far we get. Alright, let’s go see Sunny! [SWOOSH SOUND] Okay, when we were deciding on where we would move Sunny we had a few options, but we chose this space here in the Mammal Room.

Now, normally I would never think to house a turaco in a parrot cage because they like to run branches. But after getting to know Sunny and seeing how little she utilized her outdoor space and how much she craved interaction with people, we’re confident that at least for now, this is the best place for her for a few reasons. This is a high traffic area, meaning there’s always someone in the Mammal Room.

Most of the day, they’re feeding, cleaning, or training. So she’s getting a ton of attention throughout the day, and she loves it. Also, this is about the same amount of space as she used in the outdoor enclosure, so it’s not compromising her well-being.

And, she doesn’t share this space with anyone, so her training sessions aren’t interrupted by a hungry beaver or a curious cavy. So even though I would have never considered this set up for a turaco before I met Sunny,. I stand corrected, and I’m reminded that every animal is an individual.

And Sunny? She seems really happy here. If she ever does show signs of distress, boredom, or needing to move around more than this space allows, we have several other options for large indoor spaces that we can move her to.

I’m also working with Sunny for public presentations and possibly free flying. And I’m happy that there’s room for her to practice controlled flights in the Mammal Room during the winter, and we’ll see what next spring brings! I’m looking forward to more exciting training with this little beauty.

Thanks for letting me share what’s been going on with the turacos since they came to live at Animal Wonders! It’s been really fun getting to know Sunny and Sprite, and I’m just really glad we were able to give them a safe place to call home. If you love animals and want to keep learning about them and also see how we’re caring for over 100 displaced and rescued wild animals, be sure to subscribe!

And if you’d like to help us continue educating about animals and sharing our adventures, you can join our community on Patreon, where you get monthly perks. The link is below. Thanks for watching!

I’ll see you next week with more animal adventures. Bye! [BOLD OUTRO MUSIC].