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Taylor shares her experience getting to work with a blue fronted Amazon parrot, how she formed a trust bond and how she progressed to being able to hold him on her hand.

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Jessi: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to Animal Wonders.  This is Taylor and she's been working with us for just over a year now.  I've been wanting to share more of how we do things around here so I thought it would be a great idea for her to tell you about a project that she's been working on for a couple months now.  They're all yours, Taylor.

Taylor: Hi, my name is Taylor.  I'm a keeper here at Animal Wonders and I'm really excited to talk to you guys today about the work I've been doing with Archie, the blue-fronted Amazon parrot.


Archie was brought to Animal Wonders about five years ago, and during those years, Jessi worked with him a little bit, but they never really clicked, so in order to give Archie enough interaction and enrichment, Jessi asked if I would be willing to work with him.  I was really excited, but also really nervous.  I had a lot of questions.

I have worked with a lot of native songbirds and raptors in the past, but all of those interactions were done at wildlife rehabilitation centers, so I've never actually worked with a parrot until now.  Also, those animals, since they were getting rehabilitated, they were going back into the wild, so I wasn't allowed to form a lot of connection with them, so not only is this my first time working with a parrot, it's also my first time being able to form a trust bond with one, so it's definitely been an adventure.

To start forming a trust bond, the first thing I did was start having interactions with him.  All I did was grab some of his favorite treats, like apple, pear, or sunflower seeds, and I just held them ride outside the bars of his enclosure so he could reach out and grab them from my hand.  I made sure to keep my fingers far enough away that he couldn't reach my fingers, just the treats.  

Then, once I started to feel comfortable with my interactions with Archie and I got used to seeing him and he got used to seeing me, I went to the next step, which was to take a spoon and just place the treats on the end of the spoon and offer them right inside the cage for him.  While I was doing that, I made sure to hold the spoon still.  I didn't want to bring it too far into the enclosure or move too quickly and startle him, because I didn't want to have to backtrack and try to reform that trust bond that I'd been working on.

Once I felt comfortable with our relationship and how it was going offering treats from the spoon, I wanted to take the next step, which was to try offer a treat directly from my hand and this part is tricky.  I made sure that Archie was on a perch that had an end.  Then, I carefully held out a sunflower seed just close enough that if he stretched as far as he could, he could only grab the seed and not my fingers.  It took a lot of trust not only on my part, but also on Archie's, for this step to happen, but once it did, it was so rewarding, because now, I can offer him lots of treats right from my hand.

The next step was to try to get Archie to start stepping up onto a stick so I could take him outside of his enclosure.  I started by offering a stick in front of Archie's enclosure and holding a seed just past that stick.  It's important to hold the stick firmly, especially with a large bird when they're stepping up.  You don't want it to drop or move suddenly because they'll get startled and you'll have to work up that trust bond once again.

Archie already knew how to step up on a stick from his work with Jessi, but if your bird doesn't know how to do this, it'll take a lot longer to get to the next step.  Once you're able to get your bird to start stepping up on to the perch, the next step is to move your hand slowly down the perch each time you work with him, so eventually, they'll be right next to your hand.  

Once Archie was comfortable with my hand close to him, I wanted to try to get him to start stepping up on to my hand.  This next step is hard but I have a trick.  Birds don't like to be on the ground, so what I did is I set him on the ground and then I got to rescue him by having him step up on to my hand.  

Archie is still getting used to standing on my hand, so when I want to hang out with him for longer periods of time, I like to set him on a perch.  After this, the fun starts.  You can do a whole lot more with your bird once you're able to bring them out of their enclosure.  With Archie, I've started to clicker train him, so just like you would clicker train a dog, I've started to work with him.  Right now, he only knows that a target is not a scary thing, so we haven't gotten very far yet.

If your bird responds aggressively at any point while you're working with him, stop and listen.  They're trying to communicate with you.  They're trying to tell you that something might be startling them or there might be too much going on, so just stop, take a step back, and don't be afraid to keep working on that trust bond.  It's perfectly fine to get back to just offering seeds through the bars or from a spoon. 

In the future, I'm hoping to continue to build this bond with Archie.  I want to keep interacting with him and train him to do more things and hopefully, once he's comfortable, we'll be able to bring him out on presentations and share him with all of you.  

This has been a really tough process for me.  I've learned so much and I've had to ask so many questions.  I've talked to Jessi every step of the way and I've also looked up so many videos on how other people are working and interacting with their birds.  Throughout this process, I've really learned how to listen and pay attention to what Archie is trying to tell me.  I can tell when he gets too excited or when he gets startled and I know how to respond to him.  

I am so proud of Archie.  I have loved working with him and I have loved how far we've come together and I'm really excited to see in the future where we'll go.

Thank you so much for letting me share Archie with you today.  I had a lot of fun and I hope you did, too.  If you want to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, AnimalWondersMontana.  See you next time.