Looking for a fun and easy trick to teach your parrot? Wondering how you can teach a parrot to bowl? This free trick training guide is about how you can train the Birdie Bowling trick to your parrot!
I love the Birdie Bowling trick because it looks a lot more impressive than the effort it takes to teach it. This is a trick that suits virtually all kinds of parrots and is easy to teach (basically everything except budgie, lovebird, or parrotlet because it is too big for them). This was the first prop based trick I ever taught to Kili and I recommend it to people as their first prop trick.
So here's a step by step guide on teaching a parrot to bowl:
Step 2: Make sure that your parrot is target trained. If it isn't, teach it to target before you start teaching the bowling trick. If it is already target trained, just do a quick review to remind it what to do.
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the bowling toy. Most parrots get scared of new stuff. The good news is that the more tricks you teach, the more the bird will get used to accepting new things. The best way to desensitize the bird to the bowling toy is to target it near the toy. Place the bowling toy on a table beforehand. Bring your parrot and set it on the table far from the toy. Get the bird into a rhythm targeting. Target it randomly in different directions and not strictly toward the bowling or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the bowling. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the bowling until you are able to target it right by the bowling at ease. It is better to take the time to do the desensitization exercise even if the bird didn't get scared than to scare the bird with the toy first and then try to change its mind.
Step 4: Target the bird toward the bowling ball with your target stick. Set the pins aside for now. Place the ball on the ramp and use the target stick to direct the bird to the ball. Say "target" and when your bird touches the stick, click and reward. After the bird gets good at this, point to the ball with your finger and say "target." The bird should do the same as before but touch the ball instead of the non-existent stick. If it doesn't catch on, keep practicing with the stick some more.
Step 5: Get the bird to push the ball. This part is a bit tricky and requires careful scrutiny on your part. Saying "target" and pointing to the ball should get the bird to come to the ball and touch it. But we're not trying to get the bird to just touch it. We want the bird to push it. This is where some clicker training really comes in handy. Using the "target" command, we can get the bird to touch the ball. In the beginning, accept by click/rewarding any touch of the ball. However, as the bird continues to improve, require firmer touches and presses of the ball to receive a click/treat. What you will most likely encounter is the bird getting a bit frustrated when it touched the ball and got nothing, then it will start attacking or shaking the ball in an attempt to get the touch to work (like pushing the dysfunctional elevator door close button a million times). This is your chance to watch for the moment of maximum pushing to click/reward. At some point, the bird will push the ball hard enough that it will roll of the ramp and this is the time to click and give a jackpot reward to mark success. If the bird never overcomes pushing it over the bump, you can try holding the ball just over the bump and encouraging it to push. Let go when it does so that the bird can realize that pushing it to move is what gets the click/treat. Eventually it should learn to push harder and be able to push it on its own.
Step 6: Set up the pins, set up the ball, tell your parrot to "bowl," and enjoy! Click the moment the parrot pushes the ball off of the ramp and give a treat. Eventually you won't have to click because the bird will learn that getting the ball rolling is the entire purpose.
Here's a short tutorial I made with Kili to illustrate the key steps of the process:
It was fun teaching Rachel the turn around trick because she picked up on it so quickly! Turn-Around is one of the most basic tricks that you can teach your parrot and a lot of fun. Teaching tricks like this helps build a relationship and a level of cooperation from your bird because it becomes accustomed to doing things you say. The once wild, uncooperative parrot, learns that cooperation is beneficial and fun.
Rachel, Marianna's Blue and Gold Macaw, is going to be five this year and is in the midst of her terrible twos (adolescence). Some days she's cute and friendly and other days she's a total brat. Doing some trick training helps maintain and improve the relationship as she's going through the troubling years. Although Rachel has always been good with Marianna, because she had her since she was a baby, I have had to do some work to earn Rachel's trust.
If you would like to learn how to teach your parrot to turn around, refer to this free trick training guide. In that article, I explain with the help of Truman how to teach Turn Around.
This video on the other hand is just to show for comparison what it's like to teach a Macaw to turn around. Pretty much the same! The only difference I would say, is that things happen more slowly and the Macaw has to lift its tail as it turns!
It took about 3 days to teach Truman to turn around. Rachel learned it well in 2. The first session, not pictured in the video, was much like the second. By the end of the first session, she knew how to follow the stick around but not much more. During the second session, as seen in the video, she had her "aha!" moment and figured out to turn around, even if I don't show the target stick. So simply put, teaching turn around is having a parrot follow a target stick in a circle and then reduce the importance of the stick till the bird can just do it on command.
I would say that all parrots learn the turn around trick about the same way. From budgie to macaw, the same method worked perfectly with all birds. The only difference is the pace. The smaller the bird, the faster it moves. The bigger birds move more slowly. The smaller birds can do more repetitions in a single session. The bigger birds will do fewer repetitions per session, but they will learn the final result in fewer sessions! It is interesting to observe these subtle differences, but they have little impact on the final result. Just follow the method and keep going till your particular bird figures it out and you'll be all set!
Parrots are birds and birds fly. Allowing parrots to fly free in our homes is exhilarating but also poses some challenges. Without going into too much detail about other important things about flight safety (these are covered in my book), I want to focus on the training element.
Teaching a parrot to fly to you actually covers two different dilemmas. The first is teaching a parrot to fly controlled within our home at all in the first place and the second is actually about coming to you. What you must realize is that the bird has to actually learn how to fly to you as much as teaching it to want to.
The two best tools for teaching this controlled form of flight are a pair of Training Perches and a target stick. Luckily the Parrot Training Perch Kit I offer includes a clicker and target stick in addition to two perches so you'd be ready to begin the flight training out of the box!
If you haven't already done basic clicker and target training with a walking parrot on a perch, go back and do that first. Flying is harder so without understanding what you are asking and a high level of motivation, there is no way the parrot will break ground for just a stick. Begin the flight training process with a reminder of the walking target training. Set up the two training perches in parallel but so close together that the parrot can step and target from one perch to the other.
Continue to practice targeting the parrots between the two training perches until you start to build up a rhythm. The parrot will begin to foresee that you will target one way and the other and maybe even jump the gun a little and go before targeted. This isn't really what we are after but it will show good motivation to continue. Begin to spread the gap between the two training perches ever so slightly. Continue targeting the parrot between the perches without letting it realize that the gap grows after subsequent targeting attempts.
Eventually the gap will be big enough that the bird will have to jump or fly to get across. Hopefully the bird is a capable enough of a flyer to be able to realize to do this on its own. If it does not, you may need to trick the timid bird that won't fly into walking across but then spreading the gap enroute to cause the first flight to happen. A way to do this is to set the two training perches just slightly too far apart to walk. Then tip the remote perch toward the bird and target for it to walk. Just as the bird reaches the gap, return the distant perch to its original position. This will cause the bird to flap reflexively to catch its balance and make it across the gap. With sufficient rewards and motivation, after a few such attempts, the bird will begin to make the effort to fly across.
Progress will be slow at first but then pick up. At first the bird does not know what you want but also doesn't know how to control itself to make such a flight. Furthermore, the flight muscles may be atrophied or inadequately exercised. It will take time for the bird to regain the strength and motor skills before progress can be made. Continue spreading the gap between the two training perches and target the bird to fly bigger distances. The bird will develop skills and strength after a few days of these exercises. Adjust the height of the training perches to teach the parrot to fly up and down as well. Eventually replace the second training perch with your hand or arm. Phase out the target stick but continue giving treats for successful flight recalls. Instead of targeting, you can call your bird's name as a command to fly to you. Keep increasing the distance and challenging your bird and you will develop an excellent and reliable flight recall.
Keep in mind that very high levels of training motivation are required for flight training. You can use a combination of food management, trick training, and other techniques to achieve it. This is covered in great detail in my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.
Now get a Parrot Training Perch Kit and follow these steps and you will be on your way to flight recall training your parrot. More videos and information about this flight training method are available on the Training Perch site.
Socialization is crucial for companion parrots because if not for what we teach them, they're wild birds. All too often a parrot will bond to its caretaker or someone in the family and then be aggressive toward everyone else. If you think about it, this makes sense. The parrot gets everything it needs/wants from this individual while everyone else is erratic, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous.
Guests, visitors, and strangers are possibly the worst people from the parrot's perspective. At worst they come and invade their territory, scare them, and make them feel helpless. At best, they leave them alone while diverting their owner's attention away from the parrot. Either way, there is nothing to be gained by the parrot and everything to be lost so it's not a wonder parrots typically don't like company. This is why socialization through a positive reinforcement approach is essential. Here I will outline the steps I take with my birds and suggest you do with yours when introducing any new people.
First, never take the parrot's tameness for granted. Just because it steps up for you and doesn't bite (if it does, you're going to have to go back to basics before introducing others) does not in any way mean that it will behave this way towards strangers. Hopefully the parrot has a history of training and positive reinforcement from you which gives it reason to be around you. Or perhaps it's just used to you and nothing else. Regardless, don't take this for granted and invite others to handle your bird straight out because most likely this will result in failure, bites, and worst of all encourage your parrot to be aggressive towards people.
Here are my 12 steps toward introducing people and having a well socialized parrot that will step up for any person:
1) Ignore the bird. More importantly have your visitor ignore the bird. The worst thing that could happen is your visitor gets excited that you have a parrot and goes straight to the parrot cage upon entry. The parrot doesn't know what to think of this but is safer to get defensive than wait to see what happens. Even if the parrot doesn't get a chance to attack your guest, it will still develop a bad first impression that this individual is potentially dangerous. So instead, it is best to pretend the parrot doesn't even exist for the first 10-60 minutes. The visitor should avoid eye contact or walking straight toward the parrot. Otherwise the visitor should just go about things as though you didn't have a parrot at all. I usually tell people that I'll show them the parrot later but for now something else. This shows the parrot that the guest is harmless and avoids setting a bad impression. This gives the parrot a chance to watch within the safety of its cage without feeling trapped by an approaching stranger.
2) Let the bird loose. Let the parrot out of the cage and choose whether to approach or not at its own pace. Again, don't allow the visitor to impose upon the parrot. Ideally the parrot should be flighted and given the chance to fly closer or retreat at its own comfort level. Most likely in no time it will approach out of curiosity or come to you for security. By letting the parrot set the pace rather than the guest, it's guaranteed that it won't have reason to be terrified.
3) Show how to handle parrot. You must realize that most people have never handled a parrot before and don't know how to. Even the ones that have still probably don't know how to handle your parrot so assume you must start from scratch with anyone. This is best because then the way guests approach your bird will be similar to how you do and familiar. Show your visitor how you approach the bird, how it steps up, how you pet it, etc. Don't give people the opportunity to treat your bird like a dog or child. They have to understand that this is an intelligent free willed animal deserving respect and admiration.
4) Human perch. Let your visitors first contact with the bird be as nothing more than a human perch. Guide your visitor into holding their arm or finger out to accept the bird and do nothing else. NEVER let them just reach in and have the bird step up. You can't be sure what they'll do and the bird especially. Many times this will result in a nasty bite but if nothing else, will assure the bird that it's safest to just avoid strangers all together. It's a great idea to target train your parrot beforehand and then use the targeting method to target the parrot onto your visitors hand and then back off. Again, remember that the first time on someone's hand should be uninvolved. The person should not pet or handle them yet. Showing the parrot that it can stand on random people's hands without anything happening is far more reassuring than something unpredictable going on. If the bird doesn't target or is well capable of going on other people's hands, just put the parrot onto their hand. Use your hands to keep their attention and deflect a potential bite. Don't give an opportunity to either visitor or parrot to get scared. If one gets scared, the other is sure to become scared too and ruin everything. A scared, biting parrot will make a human scared; by the same token, an unsure human will scare the parrot into biting.
5) Tricks. The bird should be trick trained beforehand. This is yet another reason why trick training is so useful. Have your visitor cue tricks from your parrot and reward it with treats. This is fun and exciting both to visitor and parrot. Allow the visitor to present bigger treats or the best ones you refrain from using too much. This will help the parrot overcome the unfamiliarity and even look forward to visitors instead of dreading them. This is a fun, safe, hands off approach to use positive reinforcement with the parrot for socialization.
6) Step Up. Only after going through the prior steps do you actually allow a new person to request the parrot to step up. What we did was build a certain level of trust in the bird before having someone actually move their own hand toward it. By the time you think it's appropriate for a visitor to approach the bird for step up, the bird has received good things and nothing bad so it's worth a try. My preferred way for having my parrots step up for visitors is by surrounding the bird with tricks..My parrots are accustomed to receiving treats after performing a trick. Thus I have the visitor cue a trick, then while approaching with the treat, ask the parrot to step up to get it. The parrot already knows it earned a treat so it might as well step up to get it. This gives the parrot less reason to doubt motives. After a few successful step ups as such I switch it around. I have the visitor get the bird to step up first for the opportunity to preform a trick for a treat. Thus the parrot learns to simply always step up to earn potential opportunities and not exclusively when a treat is in the hand. Again, it's good to go through these stages with your parrot yourself before completing them with visitors so that the parrot knows what to expect.
7) Petting. Now that the parrot is comfortable being on hands, we can introduce hands for petting. Remember that people don't know how to handle or pet a parrot so you must show them the way your bird likes it. This is not a time for experimental petting. If your bird won't end up liking it then it will avoid allowing people to do it in case it's bad like that again. I have my parrot perch on my hand and hold its beak between my fingers. This teaches it a submissive pose, puts a buffer between biting guests, and it tells it what's about to ensue. I begin by scratching my bird's neck the way it likes and then having the guest reach in and join together. Then I take my hand away and allow them to continue. Since the parrot was enjoying it from the start and the visitor did nothing more than continue it, the parrot allows it and even enjoys it. This creates a reason for the parrot to look forward to visitors and not dread that they will manhandle it in some terrifying way.
8) Bird Potato. Play bird potato with one or more guests by randomly passing the parrot around between people and handling it. Mix tricks, scratches, step ups, and breaks randomly so the parrot just becomes accustomed to as many people and hands as possible but always keeping it desirable for the parrot.
9) Grab training. Teaching the bird to allow itself to be grabbed by different people is not only useful when that needs to be done (grooming, vet, boarding, emergency, etc) but also builds a greater level of trust. If the bird will trust someone to grab it and not bite, then it will especially feel safe and not bite just standing on their hand. At first this process may take days or weeks so work with someone familiar but eventually the more people you follow these steps with the easier and quicker it will go. Have the visitor come as close to the bird as it allows and give a treat. Then the visitor should progressively bring the hand closer to the bird without touching and then give a treat. Eventually the visitor should be able to touch the bird for a treat, cup it, and finally grab it for a treat. In the long term have visitors grab and carry the bird to other parts of the room, grab it on/off the cage, and give treats and mixed intervals. The parrot will just become accustomed to being handled by people as a normal activity.
Repeat the above steps with as many people as possible at home. Once the bird is ok with at least a few people you can begin trying the next approaches.
10) Private Outings. Bring the parrot on private outings with not too many people. Take the parrot to dinner with family, over to a friend's house, etc. Start with smaller events that can be controlled before going to things that are more bustling. These are great opportunities for the parrots not only to meet new people but also to become more at ease with people they already know. My parrots can get more bossy at home but when out they are much nicer to other people. This is a good opportunity to continue the socialization process and mend bridges. People that were previously enemies can become friends in unfamiliar places.
11) Public Outings. Once the parrot is used to some people and places you can begin taking it on outings to public places. Parks, malls, streets, carnivals, etc are all great opportunities for your parrots to learn that people are harmless and good. Inevitably people will want to handle your parrot and they will be willing to listen and do as you say. This is your chance to guide the interaction as you have done at home and ensure that interactions with other people will always be good. Since the parrots are busy taking in all the activity of being outside and not within their own territory, they will be less likely to protest. Since humans have always been a safe thing before and the new unfamiliar ones are being presented in familiar ways, the parrot will cooperate. Again it is your responsibility that the parrot does not bite or scare people and vice verse. However, successful public outings like this will make your parrot infinitely more robust and social towards people and changes in their life.
12) Uncontrolled Random Interactions. It's inevitable that at some point or another someone will handle your parrots not in ways that you would recommend. Most likely this has already happened previously and set things back a lot. Well once you reach this last stage, it should be ok for this to happen sometimes. Ensure that the parrots are not hurt but as long as it's not harmful, allow people to handle them in random unpredictable ways. Every now and then someone will just run up and touch my parrots at the park or pet them in ways I wouldn't recommend. But the parrots realize that this is harmless and get over it. If you always shelter your parrot from this, then of course these unpredictable interactions will be terrifying. But once your parrot is already well socialized, allowing some of these to slip by now and then just makes them more robust and prepared to deal with things you could never have foreseen to prepare them for.
Remember that every person is different and that every interaction will make your parrot more social. At first control the interactions very closely to ensure that they aren't too much for the parrot but over time challenge your parrot with tougher less predictable situations. Even when you achieve a socialized parrot, continue to maintain it or over time it will again become too comfortable with you and not with others. Encourage interaction with family members, friends, and strangers that is always positive to the parrot but also always fun/safe for humans. Don't give humans the opportunity to scare the bird but also don't give parrots the opportunity to bite people and make them afraid of birds either. Lastly here is a video of how Kili and Truman have been socialized with Jamie:
How to teach a parrot or parakeet to crawl through a tube or jump through a ring? This article should explain to you just how to teach parrots to go through different objects upon sight of them.
The tube trick is one of the easiest tricks to teach to parrots and parakeets but the biggest challenge is to avoid scaring the parrot or making it claustrophobic. A solid background in targeting is virtually mandatory, but already knowing some other tricks is advisable. The parrot should be tame and accustomed to handling prior to teaching this trick. If your parrot isn't comfortable with hands or does not know how to target, you can refer to a different article about taming and basic training.
The first thing to do is source a tube suitable to the size of your parrot. The smallest parakeets (namely Budgerigars), can go through a toilet paper tube. For small parrots such as a Senegal Parrot, Cockatiel, or Conure, you can use a piece of 3"-4" PVC pipe. You can also be creative and scout out other tube ideas such as carpet rolls and poster tubes. For the larger parrots, you're on your own. I used a 6" PVC coupling to avoid having to buy the entire pipe (which can be quite costly at that size). For even larger parrots you will have to get creative and keep your eyes open for suitable tubes. When they get that big you may even consider making your own by rolling cardboard or some other material.
It is not a bad idea to start with a shorter tube so that the parrot can have confidence that it can make it out on the far end. If you are using a toilet paper tube, you can cut it into a shorter piece and then go back to a longer one later. For some of the other options you may be stuck with what you got, but try not to make it terribly long or you won't be able to train effectively. You should be able to insert the target stick from the one end and have it emerge at the other side. If you can, tape down the tube during the course of training or have another person hold it for you to free up both hands for training. You will see in my video that I managed all by myself while holding the tube but it is definitely easier if you don't have to worry about holding the tube.
I recommend teaching this trick on a small table or an enclosed distraction-free area on the floor. I do not suggest teaching tricks to parrots on furniture or the kitchen table because that may encourage them to land where you may otherwise not want them. Try to have a place dedicated for training that you don't worry about having ruined. So besides the tube, all you need is a target stick and a clicker. I know that clickers are hard to come by, so I am now selling Parrot Training Clickers on my ParrotWizard online store for everyone who's been asking about where to get one.
Now we are ready to get to the training part. It is important to get the parrot comfortable around the tube and not let it get scared. So don't immediately shove your parrot into the tube but instead let it play or target in the tube's presence. Once the parrot is comfortable around the tube, you can begin targeting the parrot toward the tube. At first it doesn't matter that much where as long as the parrot is being rewarded for coming closer to the tube. Always click and reward when the parrot touches the tip of the target stick.
As the targeting progresses, aim the parrot closer and closer to the opening of the tube as you continue targeting. Then start targeting through the tube. Insert the target stick at the end of the tube away from the parrot so that the target stick comes out the other end right by the bird. Let the parrot touch the stick outside the tube but close to the entrance and then reward with your other hand. Now begin holding the target stick deeper and deeper into the tube so that your parrot has to progressively stick its head in further into the tube. After it has done so, it can back out to receive it's treat.
Once you get to the halfway point where the parrot is willing to go halfway into the tube to touch the stick, you can pull the stick out and show the parrot the reward on the other side. So rather than backing out it has to finish its way through the tube to get the treat. After this point you should be able to lead the parrot through the tube by moving the target stick just ahead of the parrot without letting it touch. Just pull the stick through letting the parrot follow. Once the parrot emerges from the tube, you can reward without letting it touch the target stick. After this, you can check if placing your parrot at the entrance of the tube is enough for it to go through on its own. You may need to remind it to go through by showing the target stick or treat at the far end. Never reward the parrot for going around the tube though. It must only receive treats after going through.
Continue practicing these steps until the parrot makes the connection that going through the tube earns it the treat. It's just a matter of repetition until it happens. Truman made this bridge on the third training session. After targeting him through, I was preparing another treat. Without targeting, Truman decided to go through the tube again on his own. After rewarding this, I knew this was the final stage of teaching the trick. It only takes a few times rewarding the parrot for going through the tube on its own for it to realize that is what it has to do. However, the early targeting parts must not be rushed because if the parrot becomes scared of the tube, it will refuse to go through all together.
At first, reward the parrot for going through the tube whenever it goes through. You have to be ready with multiple treats and clicker in hand because it may decide to go through unexpectedly. You want going through tube to be a super rewarding experience. However, just going through the tube whenever it feels like it does not make it a trick. The last step is putting the trick on a cue. For the most part, just the sight of the tube is a sufficient cue. I like to supplement all visual cues with a verbal cue to use for encouragement so I also say "go through tube." To teach the parrot to go through the tube immediately, take the tube away and then present it. Have the tube in one hand and clicker/treat ready in the other. Place the tube down with the entrance facing your parrot and wait for it to go through. At first you can wait longer, but eventually you should not reward long waits. If the parrot doesn't go through within a reasonable span of time, take the tube away and try again. Give big rewards (and don't make it go through again for a while) when it goes through as soon as you put the tube down. Take the tube away after you reward for going through so that it does not go through again until you cue by putting tube down. If the parrot is not going through when you put the tube down, go back to practicing the previous methods or wait for a more motivated training session.
Keep practicing the trick for some time and make it more challenging. Put the tube down further from the parrot so that it has to come further to get to go into it. Also, begin angling the tube more and more away from the parrot so that it has to come around to search for the entrance. Don't start immediately with the tube entrance turned away or the parrot might not realize what is going on, but if it is at a slight angle, it will realize it has to come around to it. Make sure the parrot is used to going into the tube from either end and regardless of which way the tube is oriented. If you get into too much of a rhythm (like always going left to right), then the parrot may be learning a specific motion rather than the general trick. You'll know the parrot really knows the go through tube trick when you can place the tube in front of your parrot on any surface and pointed any direction and the parrot walks over, goes through the tube, and comes out the other end.