This article is about how to teach your parrot to show its wings on command, often called the big eagle trick. I simply call it Wings. The trick involves showing the parrot a cue or saying "Wings" and then the parrot opens up its wings and holds them high for everyone to observe how beautiful they are. Wings is a more intermediate trick and requires the parrot to be good at trick training. Ideally the parrot should already know some tricks like wave and shake. It is possible to teach Wings without any prior tricks but it would be much harder for the parrot to realize you are trying to shape a behavior. So far Wings was the hardest trick to teach to Truman.
Before beginning, it is very important that your parrot is already hand tame and is comfortable with you touching/opening its wings. For information about basic taming for parrots, refer to my Taming Guide. For information about taming a parrot to let you open its wings, refer to this article about Wing Taming. Even if your parrot knows other tricks, this one if very hands on so the special hand taming should not be overlooked. If the parrot is not already very comfortable with hands, the steps required in teaching this trick could make it become scared of hands. So please review the steps in the taming guides and make sure your parrot is very comfortable being touched and having its wings pulled open.
You will need to have a convenient place for your parrot to perch while teaching this trick because when you press on the wings, if the parrot doesn't have a good grip it may fall over. A table is no good for teaching this trick because your parrot will slide back when you press on the wings during training. The best tool for teaching the Wings trick is a Parrot Training Perch because you can adjust the height to train standing up or sitting down while your parrot perches comfortably. If you cannot get a Parrot Training Perch, your next best thing is to use a table top perch, however there is a chance of it tipping back or sliding as well. Using a chair back is also a possibility but it is likely too slippery and the same sliding issue would occur. Although it may be tempting to train on your parrot's cage, playtop, or cage door, it is best not to do this because it will get distracted and not learn as well.
Now we are ready to begin Wings training. The process is remarkably simple, however, extensive repetition is likely to be required for the parrot to catch on. I know three methods that the trick can be taught but I have only had success with one of them. I will briefly mention the other two but then I will focus on the one that worked best for my parrots. One way to teach wings is to capture the behavior by clicking whenever your parrot opens its wings on its own. This can be expedited by holding the feet and quickly dropping your hand so that the parrot puts its wings out reflexively. Click and reward whenever the wings come open and start putting it on cue. This works great for parrots that put their wings out to glide but does not work at all for parrots the tend to flap. My parrots flap when dropped and never just stick their wings out entirely when stretching so it couldn't work for me.
Another method that can be used for teaching Wings is to grab both wings and pull them open entirely, hold them there, click and reward. Once again this method did not work for me because it required too big of a jump from nothing to everything and it was making my parrots uncomfortable. So instead I offer to you the third and final method to teach your parrot Wings:
My method for teaching a parrot to open its wings begins by using the index fingers on both hands. Point them toward your parrots wing armpits, say wings (or whatever cue you would like to use), and press your fingers into the armpits gently pushing the wings open. Although the parrot will not understand the cue immediately, it is a good idea to start using the cue from the start because this gives the parrot more exposure to the cue by the time it learns the behavior. For the first training session, just keep practicing this procedure.
You may find progress to be slow at first because not only does the parrot have to learn the behavior, it may also need the daily exercise of practicing the trick in order to be able to easily hold its wings out that way. The first goal you are working toward is getting the parrot to release tension in the wings and let you push them open. If you feel that you have to press hard to get them open, the parrot hasn't learned anything. However, when it begins feeling easy because your parrot relaxes its wing muscles, then you know you are ready to continue to the next step.
In subsequent training sessions, it is important to let the parrot do as much on its own as it is willing to do. You cannot find out how much the parrot is willing to do if you keep doing it for the parrot. So after pushing the wings open with your fingers a few times, push slightly slower, less far, or don't hold as firmly the wings open. See if the parrot will make up the last bit on its own. A good time to click your clicker is at the moment you see the parrot making any motion to open or hold open its wings on its own. For instance if you get the parrot in the habit of you pressing open the wings for 5 seconds each time and one time you only hold for 3, if the parrot continues holding open a bit longer, then you know it is learning what to do.
Don't expect your parrot to open the wings entirely at this stage. Just opening them a little is progress already. Your first goal is to get the parrot to learn that you want it to do something with its wings. Getting the parrot to go all the way and open the primaries will just take lots of practice. Be sure to click and reward every bit of possible progress. However, if your parrot does a worse than usual job (for instance closing its wings while you try to hold them open), then do not reward and even ignore the parrot for a brief time.
Eventually you will reach a point where just touching or approaching your parrot's wings with your fingers will cue it to open them on its own. This is when the real cue training begins. At this stage I prefer to use a single hand (if the bird is small enough) to cue the wings open. I use the pinky and thumb of my right hand to press on opposite wings. This frees my left hand up to hold the clicker and treat. It is good to make this switch as early as possible because the parrot might get distracted by the clicker/treat hidden in your fingers when you use the two hand method. I found that Truman was bending his head down while opening wings to look for treats in my fingers, so I corrected this by blocking his head and serving him treats from above. If you want the wings trick to look like a bow, feed the treats lower but if you want the trick to make the parrot look proud, then teach it to hold its head up by feeding treats from above.
Once you've transitioned to the single hand cue method, all that is left is receding the cue. You have to work on using as little touch as possible. Just practice a lot of times and try to hold your hand further and further away when you issue the cue. If it works, try holding further away. If it doesn't then try again closer. Try pulling away a tiny bit while the bird is holding the wings up but before it drops the wings. Get it used to seeing your hand more away from it while still holding its wings up.
It only took me 3 training sessions to get Truman through all of the steps outlined so far but then it took nearly two weeks until he learned to respond to the trick from a remote cue. If I brought my fingers in close he'd do it but from more than a few inches away he simply wouldn't. It just took a lot of practice until he just got it. I knew he was going to get it when he randomly opened his wings for the first time without me cuing/poking him. This showed me that he knew I wanted him to open his wings and he was opening them to beg for a treat. Now all I had to do was reward when he did it on cue and ignore it when it wasn't cued. In that one breakthrough session I went from him opening his wings only when cued within an inch of his wings to opening his wings on cue from several feet away or even just saying it. The duration will vary with every individual parrot and species but this is not a quick/easy trick to teach. It definitely took longer to teach to both of my parrots than most of the other hand cued tricks.
This is a good trick for teaching the "hold" on. You teach the parrot to hold the pose for as long as you hold the cue or until you click. If the parrot drops its wings while you are still holding the cue, then it does not get rewarded, but if it holds out till the end, you click and reward. Obviously start with shorter durations but work them longer and longer so that the parrot learns to hold the wings out for as long as the cue is going.
After two weeks of training, Truman is still only opening his wings part way. It will take a lot more training to get him to open them all the way like Kili does. However, this was the exact method I successfully used on her. I just kept cuing wings and rewarding the best 4 out of 5. When the parrot is really eager to get the treat, it will show of by stretching the wings open as much as possible and as long as it is just a tad more than last time, you're making progress. By always rewarding the better ones and ignoring the worst, you can continually encourage the parrot to try harder. This takes a long time (weeks to months) to perfect but rigorous training is no longer needed beyond this initial training to put it on cue. Once the parrot clearly knows to do wings from the cue, you can just practice wings a few times each day perpetually and the bird will improve how it opens its wings over time. The stretching/exercise will certainly help get there. It took many months but definitely less than a year to get Kili to open her wings all the way.
The wings trick is really impressive and beautiful. It shows off the parrot's wings which is a unique feature that makes it a bird. You can use the wings trick to show your friends what bird wings look like up close without forcing your parrot. The wings trick is also a good way to inspect your parrot's wings for broken feather or new ones coming in. Although it may look fairly simple, it's not a natural behavior for most parrots so much training is needed. The hard work and patience teaching this trick will be greatly rewarded because this is a spectacular and uniquely avian trick.
Here is a video from actual training sessions that shows how I taught Truman the Cape Parrot the Wings trick:
Michael I started training this trick and I am running to two problems. One when I use two fingers to open the wings my GCC will bite, second when I use one finger he'll open or try to step up. One winged eagle doesn't look cool any suggestions. May I add that normally he'll let me handle with no issues
Biting or nipping? If it's vicious biting then you're either going too far and hurting the bird, it's uncomfortable with wings being touched, or something like that. Make sure you use taming techniques like in toweling and handling articles to be able to touch wings on outside and to open them manually. If you can do all of that and the parrot is just nipping, then it's not so hard. Truman was nippy sometimes too. I talked about it a little where I said he was bending his head down to look for treats in my fingers. Basically I tried to distract him and/or lock his head upward by using my thumbs to prevent him from bending his head down to look for treats. You can use a bit more shaping to aim where the position of head/body should be. If your parrot is uncomfortable with shaping, then you are way ahead of yourself because this is a pretty advanced trick.
Let me know if that helps or if there are any more details about it.
Normally I can do whatever I want with him but it seems that for some reason he doesn't like two hands going at him. I started using one hand with "rock on" gesture you are using in the video and it seem to work better and he doesn't try to step up with that.
Same problem as born2fly, my bird keeps trying to step up or try go for my nails that I cant even get to his wings. Tried the "dropping" method too but he also just flaps. I can manage to get him to lift his wings slightly when i tap them from underneath. When hes relaxed and preening and im sorting out some pinfeathers for him he has no problem with me lifting his wings and handling him anywhere. Just when it comes to training he puts up a bit of a fight for me to lift his wings without nipping. This is why Im stuck with the aviator now as well as I can get it over his neck and all but the moment it comes to lifting his wings he refuses again.
Been trying to work out this trick for ages and Ill get there slowly, as always your videos always help big time, been waiting for this one. Many thanks for all the help and advice
Try pointing in from the sides with both index fingers. Since you are using two it may confuse the parrot a little bit and get you to do it. The nippiness may go away with practice/repetition so don't give up. Most parrots tend to beak anything put in front of them so as long as they aren't painful bites, just ignore and keep trying.
Thank Michael for the advice, Ive been working with Lorenzo everyday throughout the day with this trick and its getting better. I try the 2 fingers from each side approach like you said and it helps a bit but he somehow still picks a finger to try grab with his foot hehe. Somehow im finding him responding better if hes stepped up already on my fingers and then with the other hand tapping his wings or trying to get under them. Poor little guy is trying frantically to work out what i want him to do but if i manage to tap his wings up he always stretches his shoulders up all by himself (The wimpy wings) which is a great start. not sure if hes actually just stretching or if he knows i want him to do it.also trying to catch him when he stretches or is about to fly as he has his wings fully outstretched sometimes.
When I taught a version of this trick to Mojo he was more interested in chewing on my fingers than lifting his wings. I used both index fingers when I trained him. When he would focus on one finger I would touch under his wing with the opposite one which would distract him causing to focus on that finger and then I'd touch with the other one and this usually caused him to slightly open his wings. It took a lot of patience, many repitions, and well timed clicks but as soon as he realized what I was clicking for all I had to do was point at his wings with both fingers and he would open them slightly. Once he mastered that I started touching under his wings more to encourage him to open them a little more and we slowly progressed that way. The hardest part for him was transitioning between opening his wings like Truman does in the video to fully extending the wings. It took a lot of patience because he rarely wanted to open his wings completely but I made such a fuss over him every time he did it that it didn't take too long for him to figure it out. Now it's his favorite trick!
I've tried using my two index fingers but he would just bite the moment I touch his wings, normally he would let me touch him without biting. I tried the dropping method but he would just flap his wings. When he bites it's not hard enough to draw blood what so ever but it still hurts
Note: My bird is quite tame and usually doesn't mind me touching him...
help my ringnecks dont want to stay on table or floor they always gets uncomfortable and IF only if they adjust there i give them something to eat but they rejact plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz help me micheal