Having done two years of extensive flight training with Truman, I was ready to take this chance to further his flightducation. Just to be sure he'd come down to me if he did end up in an unreachable place, I brought his weight down to his training minimum weight. Kili on the other hand, I took down no further than typical training weight because I was comfortable and certain that she would do just fine. I've already taken chances flying her in irrecoverable indoor locations (such as TV studios) and knew what to expect from her.
What I mean by an irrecoverable indoor flying location is basically a location where the bird could land in such places that it would be impossible for the owner to recover the bird (except by the bird returning on its own). This is the closest thing to outdoor freeflight but without the risk of permanent loss or predation.
Note, I do not encourage anyone to attempt to fly their parrot (or for that matter have it unrestrained) in an irrecoverable indoor flying location without extensive flight training experience. Although it may not result in the death or escape of your parrot, it may cause extensive problems for the bird and disruptions to the facility. Instead, I encourage you to find recoverable large indoor flying locations first. This is not only to practice but also to test how your parrot would behave flying in a novel location. You don't want to be finding out that your parrot will fly right up to a 60ft ceiling, land, and be incapable or unwilling to come down the first time you are trying this! For the recoverable locations, I have designed a parrot recovery perch for getting parrots down from places up to 20ft high. If you are interested in one, please contact me directly. Only after you are confident that while flying in recoverable locations, your parrot has reliably returned to you even after landing in high places, then can you attempt flying the bird in a place with unreachable ceilings.
I started out with Kili & Truman on their training perches in the center of the gym. I had them fly short recalls to get the hang of flying in this new place and then progressively increased the distance until I was able to have them fly across hundreds of feet to reach me. I had them fly short boomerang flights to remind them how to return to me which proved useful when they would overshoot me. You see, parrots that are used to flying in confined spaces may develop too much speed flying in the open to slow down in time to land on you. Boomerang flying is a great skill to develop so that they would have the practice to turn around instead of just flying away.
It definitely helps to have two birds instead of one. One motivates the other. When Truman would recall first, Kili would eagerly follow when called. And vice versa. If one bird were to land and not come down from somewhere, giving a lot of attention, recalls, and treats to the other bird can sometimes drive it out and back to you. So while on one hand flying two parrots is more work and more to keep track of, it also helps improve the motivation of both birds at the same time!
Finally, when I was comfortable that Kili & Truman had no trouble finding me to land on, I sent them off to freefly around the gym to their hearts' content. I was curious if they would end up flock flying together or independently and it appeared to be more of the latter but really they were just all over the place. Kili enjoyed flying extensive figure eights around the gym at high speed and I was surprised to find that her stamina was better than Truman's! Don't forget that Kili is permanently missing some flight feathers, was not fledged as a baby, and has always been the weaker flyer. This made me realize that I had always worked her harder to compensate for this and as a result she ended up outflying Truman who is the natural born flyer!
In the span of over an hour the birds flew over a mile of heart pumping exercise flights both on command and of their will. They stayed on their perches until called and flew around when I offered them to. Overall I was very pleased with the session and my brother helped me record some of the highlights to share with you.
This is the 2nd video with footage of the birds' 3rd gym flight training session which also features Kili's newest trick.
Yes! That was the best part. They still had an hour till bedtime when we got back and they were both dead silent. I wanted to make a recording of it so I could listen to it and enjoy it every night instead of Truman's usual screaming! They were absolutely spent!
I just got a chance to see your video although I couldn't have the sound on here. That does look like a great fly space! It should be alot of fun. How often do you get to use of it?
The only caveat that I would consider IF you ever have others join you...I'm not worried about your birds because they look very window savvy, but other birds might hit those large windows. We had a pionus that used to fly with us that was an incredible flyer. She would fly dozens of flyabouts around the building but she just didn't seem able to learn windows. She always tried to fly through windows. We had one very frightening and close call but fortunately, she was in such good physical shape she recovered fine. A bird that is in good physical shape is much more likely to survive a collision than one that is not....still not something you ever want to go through.
Other than that, it's a great space for big flyabouts. Higher ceilings can be inconvenient if a bird flies up there, but like you wrote, it can be worked around. If we had a bird that wouldn't come down in the time we needed to have them down (some we used to let just hang until they decided to come down) we would resort to using helium balloons (we didn't have a long perch like you described) We would use the balloons as an aversive. Not recommended but sometimes, you have to be creative and resourceful. It didn't happen often in the 10 years we flew. Most of the time, they were new birds that weren't as well socialized and just preferred to sit high up and watch what was going on. Greys were particularly prone to that. They aren't very "touchy, feely" birds.
As you know, we did this for 10 years, in early years three times a week and later years, twice a month. It is definitely worthwhile and wholly recommended. It is after all, what the birds were born to do.
Very exciting and have fun!
Got any plans for writing up a training guide for boomerang and at-will flights? I've got my GCC flying to me and to a stand on cue easily, but she doesn't seem take flight on her own unless she gets a fright, would love to get some suggestions for how to teach those.
I talked a bit about how I taught Boomerang to each of my parrots on my [url=http://parrotwizard.com/SeminarDVD/:1vtzfeli]Parrot Wizard Seminar DVDs[/url:1vtzfeli]. I'm gonna leave it at that cause I think it's a tougher trick that out of the right context will make people create problems with their parrot.
As for "freeflight" it's something the birds choose to engage in. I would say the best thing you can do is to teach your parrot to recall and boomerang to you. Then in a large enough of a space, instinct and curiosity might take over and the bird goes and flies around. The first time it happens your heart will sink and you will panic. But then you'll realize your bird has it under control, is doing it on purpose, and is even enjoying it. I realized this for the first time when I was flying Kili in the school theater. There are numerous articles and videos about that. If you go through those (I highly recommend seeing all of them to see the progress), I think there is footage of her just flying around. As long as that "flying around" culminates with coming to me, it's all good!
My birds are so well trained that they stay on their perches until called and wouldn't just go freefly on their own. However, if I give them permission, they go and fly around and come back to me when I call or they feel like it. Basically I just toss them off my hand into the abyss saying "go fly" and they go enjoy themselves for a bit.