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Last sync:2022-12-25 07:30
Chopsticks the quaker parrot has been challenging to work with lately. So when Jamie and Dave from Bird Tricks come for a visit, Jessi asks for their expertise on bird training to help figure out what is going with Chopsticks and his training.

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

Welcome to Animal Wonders.  I'm Jessi, and this is Jamieleigh and this is Dave.  These guys are professional bird trainers with extensive experience training all parrot type birds.  I'm really excited to have them join me today because I have a project I could use some help with and they've agreed to help.


Jamie, Dave, we've actually never met until right now today, but I've enjoyed watching your videos and you do this all the time, helping people with their bird problems?

Jamie & Dave: Yeah.

Jamie: We're actually professional parort trainers, so a big part  of our business is doing consultations with just the average bird owner as well as we do theme park shows and we perform all over the world with our flock, so we've been probably to more than 20 countries already with our birds.

Dave: The birds have been to about 20 countries and we've been around 75 countries, six continents, with our show and so the birds get to go to a lot of that with us, but of course not all of it.  Through our company,, we're able to travel not only for helping people with consultations (?~1:04), but it's also (?~1:05) so we use and get to work with our birds in our shows and then other clients like David Copperfield have hired us to go out to his own private islands to train him with his parrots, so the worlds have kind of meshed together in a really unique way.

Jessi: It sounds like you've worked with birds a lot more than I have, so are you ready for my bird problem?

Jamie: Yes, definitely.

Dave: Yeah.  

Jessi: Okay, alright, now, some of you may know our very cheeky and talkative quaker parrot, Chopsticks.  Chopsticks and I have not been getting along lately and I'm looking forward to having you help me figure out what I'm doing wrong.  Now, I like to say it's always the trainer's fault for not getting desired behavior, but I have to say that Chopsticks um, is probably one of the most unpredictable or unreadable birds that I've worked with, so I'm excited.  Should we get to it?

Jamie: Yeah.

Dave: Let's do it.

Jessi: Alright.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Jessi: Target training is when you get an animal to touch a certain body part to a certain object and so what we're gonna ask him to do is touch his beak, hopefully like, just a little, like, a soft little bite, I guess, to the end of this little stick and let's see if he--I don't want him to fly again.  Yeah.  

Jamie: So do you think that he is going to be able to overcome the fear of the target or do you think it's gonna keep startling him?

Jessi: I think it's gonna keep startling him.  

Jamie: I'm wondering if instead of using a stick, we could use something else.  Which one would he be less fearful of, do you think?  Either, anything? 

Jessi: Um, I think the bigger one.  

Jamie: The bigger one?

Jessi: Yeah.  'Cause he steps up on sticks all the time.  Nice.  Good boy.  That's better.  He startled but he stayed.

Jamie: Yes, exactly.  I'm so glad you're catching on to that body language.  Yeah, so I--that time I pushed a little bit more so you saw a more obvious sign of discomfort, but it was subtle enough that it didn't make him flee.

Jessi: Yep.  Yep.  You didn't continue to go, you just stayed there.

Jamie: Yeah.

Jessi: And I also liked that you didn't pull it away.

Jamie: Yeah, I'm waiting for calm so he realizes when he's calm about, it goes away.  Wow, so he's calming down much faster.

Jessi: And that's a--he's doing great.  He's like, I understand this.  He's smart.  We're using safflower seeds, by the way, as reinforcers.  They're small enough that you can give in large quantities and they're easy to deliver.  That was great.  

Jamie: Wow, that was really, really good.  So I feel like a lot of people, when it comes to target training, they just present it and push it to an animal's face.

Jessi: Sure.

Jamie: And if they don't just immediately touch it, they're like, ah, that doesn't work.

Jessi: It's not gonna work anymore, but no, no, no.

Jamie: So obviously, you can take it a little slower.

Jessi: Yep.  

Dave: So also, a lot of people ask, like, okay, why would I want  my bird to touch the end of a stick?  There's a lot of reasons behind it.  One, you can control where the bird goes or any animal for that matter, but it also, it teaches whoever holds the stick, now that animal knows, okay, you speak my language.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Jessi: Sure.

Dave: And it kind of connects that language for people and the animal in a way that sometimes gets overlooked.  I know when I first got into training, I was like, why would I want the bird to touch a stick?  

Jessi: Sure.

Dave: I'd rather have them wave, but the stick has come into play for so many different things.

Jessi: Yep, and you can use the stick to transition to so many other behaviors.  

Jamie: Exactly.

Jessi: What I love about training it is is this like, you know, Dr. Doolittle-like language or whatever.  It's like you're creating this language that you and the animal can both speak.  It's not human, it's not bird, it's this training language.

Dave: Another thing is, we've been able to help a lot of clients get their birds out of trees, like, their bird accidentally gets outside, maybe it was clipped, maybe it wasn't, but however it ends up in the tree, it's usually fearful to make that flight down and if we get people to target the bird out and it helps get the bird's mind just kind of mentally misdirected off of the fear of the tree tolike, ooh, I know that, that's familiar.

Jessi: Yeah!  

Dave: And they come down and work for it, so for people that are watching this, it--that don't have other bird experience and they're like, why would I want my bird to touch a stick, I mean, the list of reasons is infinite.  

Jamie: He's just a lot calmer overall.

Jessi: A little avoidance, though.  A little bit.

Jamie: A little bit.  He's like, doesn't know that he's supposed to touch it.  

Jessi: No.

Jamie:   I feel like he just thinks he's supposed to ignore it or tolerate it.

Jessi: Exactly, yeah. 

Jamie: Which was the initial plan.  Just overall in his demeanor, he's calmer.  He does seem more tired.  He's eating way slower.  

Jessi: Yes.  Food motivation might--

Jamie: It's going down.  

Jessi: --plummet.  

Jamie: Let's give him a break.

Jessi: Okay.

Jamie: And let him chill here, because he also doesn't know that this is like, this is a cool safe place to be.

Jessi: Yeah.  

Jamie: 'Cause this is new for him, too, so we're overcoming a lot of stuff, but let's give him a break and let him just chill here.

Jessi: Okay.  I've never taught him target training.  I've never worked him on a perch before and it's great that he's making progress, but it's like, those times where it's like--

Jamie: Over-heightened state.  

Jessi: Maybe.

Jamie: Because talking gets them to an over-heightened state.

Jessi: Sure.

Jamie: Right?

Jessi: He used to come out on presentations with me.  We'd go to birthday parties.  Like, and then, he slowly started saying less and less at birthday parties.  I feel like we went through like, a hormone thing during the springtime and he got like, real jazzed up.  

Jamie: Really bad.

Jessi: He bit me quite a few times, and then it was--I took a step back where I was like, alright.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

I'm using more sticks because he just is--

Jamie: Less predictable.  

Jessi: He's less--he just, yeah.

Jamie: Do you use variable reinforcement?  

Jessi: I think it's mostly like, I'm just delivering him treats if he's staying on my hand, staying nice.  

Jamie: Are you extending the amount of time?

Jessi: Probably not, because I'm focused on talking . 

Jamie: Okay.

Jessi: Yeah.

Jamie: So you're trying to keep him distracted almost.

Jessi: Yeah, I think so.  

Jamie: Okay.

Jessi: I think it's more just like--

Jamie: And I think what it does is it almost makes him less patient with you.

Jessi: I agree.

Jamie: And he's like, deliver it faster.  

Jessi: Yes.  Agreed.

Jamie: And so instead of training him to be patient.

Jessi: And calm.

Jamie: And calm.

Jessi: Im training him to get more anxious.

Jamie: You're training him to be anxious, yes.

Jessi: Got it.  

Jamie: Does he take baths?

Jessi: So he hates--so I do showers.  I do misting in the enclosures with a--not a pump, but a misting (?~6:48).

Jamie: Yeah.

Jessi: And he doesn't like it but I do it anyway.

Jamie: Yeah.

Jessi: And I do it when he's molting often and then they get it every two weeks.

Jamie: Birds are so super relaxed after a bath, I've found.  They're very relaxed.  

Jessi: Training session after a bath.

Jamie: They want to just, like, preen and chill out so that's the time you wanna spend with him where he's mellow and you can click and reward for calm.  So yeah, just more instances like this where you can get him calm and content and you can just go over and give him a treat and he is gonna learn to go calm and content quicker.

Jessi: Yep.

Jamie: Versus anxious.

Jessi: Would you call this calm and content, or would you call this tired?

Jamie: I would call it a combination of both, because we pushed fear thresholds, we introduced him to a brand new environment, we did a little bit of training, which he was confused by, which is also pushed some desensitization on him.  

Jessi: Yup.

Jamie: He's kind of had a whirlwind, so I think mentally and physically, he's definitely fatigued, but I also think he's calm and he wouldn't be willing to be this calm if he was still stressed out or aggressive or anxious.

Jessi: Yeah.

Jamie: But you know, then you start doing stuff that messes with him but then he goes to calm real quick and he's over it, right?

Jessi: Yeah.  

Jamie: So that's part of the desensitization process.

Jessi: So you think the feathers on his head raised was going back to calm after he yelled at you?  

 (08:00) to (10:00)

Jessi: I saw that as, now he's on.

Jamie: More alert?

Jessi: Yes.  Now he's--'cause this is what he does when he gets aggressive.  Are you talking?  Yeah, what are you talking about?

Jamie: Oh, that is so cute.  

Jessi: He's like, achoo!  

Jamie: I'm dying.  That is adorable.  

Jessi: He's the best.

Jamie: He like, put his head back and everything.

Jessi: He's the best, totally.  

Jamie: I would be so curious for you chart, kind of the ABCs of his biting.  

Jessi: Okay.

Jamie: Like, what happens before, then there's the bite, and then what do you do after.

Jessi: Sure.

Jamie: I wonder if there's any sort of connection with talking, because--

Jessi: 'Cause you see how--

Jamie: He gets a lot more--yeah.

Jessi: Yeah.  Interesting.

Jamie: I almost wonder if there's a correlation there between some point where you accidentally reinforce when it was done out of an aggressive--

Jessi: Sure.

Jamie: --state, versus a cute state.

Jessi: And--

Jamie: Just something to like, be aware of.

Jessi: I have--you're right.

Jamie: I don't know.

Jessi: And I have other employees that work with him that he does not like at all.

Jamie: Okay.

Jessi: And so he'll come running up to the front of the cage.

Jamie: And does he talk?

Jessi: Oh yeah.  Oh yeah.  He says, you know, I love you, I love you, hello, pretty bird, you know, over and over and over again and they talk back to him, so they're praising him.

Jamie: Yes.

Jessi: Giving him--

Jamie: At that heightened state and there're keeping him there.

Jessi: Yeah.

Jamie: Yeah, so you've gotta bring it down.

Jessi: So should we--

Jamie: Like those people--

Jessi: They should be ignoring.  They should not interact with him during that.

Jamie: Yeah, I think working to make everybody a cue for calm.

Jessi: Got it.

Jamie: Is gonna be very important, and then if you want to go back to the talking--

Jessi: Yes.

Jamie: Making sure that it's done at a calmer emotional state.  So that's what I would work on with him.

Jessi: Okay.

Jamie: Is just constantly rewarding for calm.  Find ways to encourage calm, encourage whatever you need to do.

Jessi: Yeah.  

Jamie: Maybe it's setting up an environment where he can fly around, if he does enjoy that, so he can get that energy burned and then after that, it's hanging out.  Whatever you find that leads to more calmer behavior.

 (10:00) to (11:52)

Jessi: I think we nailed it right there.

Jamie: Cool. 

Jessi: Is that like, I was reinforcing him for 1) not doing anything and I was training him to be impatient and then adding on like, reinforcing for that way high energy level that it was turning to aggression.

Jamie: Cool.

Jessi: And so I think those are two huge points that I was missing, and I think that I can go from here.

Jamie: Yeah, cool, and I think if you find that you're just associated with this heightened state and you find him like that, give him a bath, let--see if that creates calm.

Jessi: Okay, okay.

Jamie: And then try target training when--

Jessi: Great.

Jamie: Teaching the target training when he's wet and calmer.

Jessi: Great.

Jamie: Try to find something that makes him more calm so that you can have a successful session.

Jessi: Good idea.  

Jamie: Don't let him learn to target at a heightened state, because I don't want him attacking or biting.

Jessi: Okay.  Oh, yeah.

Jamie: I want him gently touching or I want it to be accidental.

Jessi: Gentle.

Jamie: I want it to be like, an accidental bump.

Jessi: You know what would be nice is if he kept his mouth closed and just touched the top of his beak.  That would be great.

Jamie: That would be awesome.  

Jessi: Thank you so much for helping me work through that.  Chopsticks is going to hugely benefit from that and so will I, so thank you so much.  

Jamie: Yeah, I'm just excited that you invited us out here to work with you and that we got to work with a quaker because now I'm very prone to them because I'm working with one at home, so--

Jessi: Yeah!

Jamie: I love this, I loved it.  

Jessi: So if you guys want to see her quaker and all of their bird adventures, you should check out their channel.  It's called BirdTricks.

Jamie: And if you want to go on more animal adventures with us, subscribe to animalwondersmontana, and I'll see you next week.