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:
This article is about about to teach a parrot to hang upside down from your finger like a bat. This is a fairly easy trick to train and does not require any requisite tricks be learned previously. The only requirement is to have a hand tame parrot. If your parrot does not step up, let you touch it, and let you grab it, please refer to the Taming and Training Guide prior to proceeding with the bat trick. In preparation for training the bat trick, practice a lot of handling with your parrot including touching the feet, back, and rotating it around in your hands.
The good news about the bat trick is that it is very easy to perform and works every time. It is the only trick I can get Kili to do even if she does not feel like showing a single trick because it is more about taming than positive behavior. If the parrot is rolled upside down, it has little choice about being there. As long as it is tame and knows the trick, it will just hang there until brought back up. While it took a week to teach the bat to Kili and several weeks to teach it to Duke the Budgerigar, Truman learned it in a quick two days. The cool thing is that absolutely any parrot can learn the bat trick including a parakeet, cockatiel, conure, african grey, amazon, cockatoo, or macaw. How long it takes to teach will vary but it is definitely possible to teach any parrot species the trick with the following technique.
To begin teaching the bat trick, begin by holding the parrot on your hand. I always use my right hand for the parrot to perch on for the trick but it just depends what you are comfortable with. It is important that the parrot is perched closer to the tip of your index finger and not too close to your hand. Then place your thumb over the bird's feet and squeeze gently. At the same time put your left hand on the parrot's back. Cup your hand around the back and tip the parrot back about 45 degrees. Hold that briefly and then upright the parrot. Now give it a treat.
At this stage, it is not important to use a clicker because you are simply taming the parrot to the requirements of this trick and there is not a specific action to click for. Continue practicing this tipping behavior progressively increasing the angle until the parrot is completely upside down. The next step is to reduce dependence on being held with second hand. When you tip the parrot back, very slowly ease the holding pressure with the left hand. Then tighten again, upright, and reward. Continue to progressively hold a less tight grip at the upside down phase until you can even let go of the parrot's back briefly and take your hand away a short distance. At first continue holding your hand nearby to reassure the parrot that you will grab it back and not let it fall.As you progress, you can let go and leave the parrot hanging from your hand longer before grabbing it back to upright. Make sure you roll the parrot straight back and not over the side or the trick won't look as impressive.
You don't need to expect the parrot to stay perfectly still and strike a beautiful post at this stage. As long as it is staying upside down while being held by the feet, you are making progress. Now you can continue rolling it back with the hand support but let the parrot upright on its own. Begin rolling your hand (that parrot is perched on) to upright the parrot. Of course reward at this point. Now it is time to begin receding dependence on the supporting hand for going upside down. Place the hand on the parrot's back and begin rolling it back but take the hand away before it is fully inverted. You can continue practicing and letting go earlier and earlier.
Now there should be a special cue emerging. When you grab the parrot's feet and begin rolling your hand back, the parrot should know it has to not resist and go inverted. If the parrot is flapping or trying to upright itself while you are rolling it back, you may need to keep going to overcome that. However, if that doesn't work, you have to practice the earlier stages with back support for longer.
At this point, all the remains is improving the pose and letting go of the feet. I suggest improving the pose prior to working on letting go of the feet or putting the entire trick on cue. Most likely at this point the parrot doesn't hang straight down but rather curled up toward your hand. They feel more balanced this way but it's ok, we can easily solve this. Now's the time to begin using a clicker. Your left hand is freed up because at this point you should be able to roll the parrot back strictly by the hand it is perched on. Hold the clicker and treat in your left hand prior to rolling the parrot upside down.
The simplest way to get the parrot to strike a nice pose to look like a hanging bat, is to lure its head down with a treat. After you roll the parrot upside down, use your other hand to show it a desirable treat. Keep the treat below the head and just barely out of reach so that it has to stretch down to get it. For the first few times, let the parrot get the treat in return for stretching down. As soon as it gets the treat, click and upright the bird to give it a chance to eat the treat. You don't want to continue holding the parrot upside down because it will go to a bad pose to focus on its treat. After a few of these upside down rewards, the parrot will know to reach for the treat. But you won't give it any more. Show the treat but just out of reach. When the parrot is stretching for the treat, click, upright, and reward. This way you are actually teaching the behavior. Once you find your parrot stretching down for the treat like this, you can begin hiding the treat between your fingers and just letting the parrot aim for your fingers. Before long, you can hold the treat/fingers much further away and then not at all. The parrot will remember to stretch its head down. If it does not, continue holding it in the bat a few seconds waiting until it does. When it stretches down, click/reward. If it does not, upright and do not reward. Next time you put it upside down, lure it again to remind it to stretch head down. This way the parrot learns to extend its head down. Keep practicing and waiting for it to hang with head down for longer and longer with each try prior to clicking and uprighting.
If the parrot is jittery and moves around a lot (this especially happened when teaching a budgie this trick) while hanging upside down, the best way to reduce this is practice. Always click when the parrot is in the straightest and calmest pose. Over time and extensive practice, the parrot will learn that it will not get rewarded until it is calm and stops moving. Teaching the trick is quick but perfecting it takes a lot of practice.
By now the parrot should be catching on to what is going on. Use less and less force in your hand to swing the parrot over and back up. Let the parrot shift its weight to strike the pose. Just begin the motion of rolling it back and then slow down, allowing the parrot to put itself in that pose. Same thing goes for uprighting. You can begin uprighting the parrot after clicking but stop halfway and let it work out its muscles to come up. You can show the treat it's about to get for extra motivation. But do not give the treat until the parrot is completely back upright on your hand. This step is important for putting the trick on cue. To put the bat trick on cue, decide what word or gesture you will make and do it right before turning the bat upside down every time. For Kili, I snap my fingers and she goes into the bat position completely on her own. It doesn't have to be finger snapping though. You can just say "bat" or point downward. When the parrot gets used to seeing this cue enough times while being rolled over, it will catch on. The only thing required then is to roll it back less and less so that it would put the effort in to roll back on its own.
The last thing to do is to stop holding the feet. Do it progressively by holding less and less pressure on the feet while the parrot is upside down. Keep your other hand nearby to catch it in case it is not holding on adequately. It will quickly learn that it needs to have a good grip on its own. Just make sure you position the parrot on your finger such that it can still hold on while upside down. Eventually you don't need to put your thumb on its feet at all to perform the bat trick.
This article is about how to teach a parrot the wave trick. The trick involves the trainer cuing the parrot to wave by either waving at the parrot or saying wave and then the parrot picks up its foot to wave at the audience. Before you can teach your parrot the wave trick, it must already be familiar with taking treats from your hand and should ideally by clicker/target trained as well. The parrot will understand that you are trying to teach it a behavior much quicker if it has already learned the basics of learning by doing the target trick previously. So if your parrot is not hand tame or does not know the target trick, here is a helpful article so that you can teach that prior to beginning training wave. However, an essential requisite of this trick is that the parrot knows how to step up already.
Training the wave trick believe it or not is quite simple. Any parrot can learn to wave including small parakeets such as budgerigars. The number one training tool required to teach this trick is patience. Some parrots might pick it up in a day and it could take months to teach others. If you practice this trick consistently every day with your parrot, I guarantee you that eventually it will learn it. Also you will need treats, a training perch, and a clicker is optional. I found that a clicker is helpful toward the end of the wave training but mostly a burden in the beginning. I started out by using the clicker the first few tries I did to teach wave to Truman and it was more trouble than it was worth. The clicker can be used once your hands are freed up but best left out of the first portion unless you have someone else to help you.
The actual mechanism for teaching the trick is very simple. You pretend like you are asking the parrot to step up by approaching your extended finger to it and just as it lifts its foot, you retract your finger and reward the bird. This comes as a two step process. The first step is to get the parrot to learn to pick its foot up at the sight of your extended finger and the second step is to teach it to do that when you wave your hand instead. Therefore the first cue that is taught is only temporary until the main cue can be learned. You are going to need to decide which foot you want your parrot to wave with. It has been my preference to teach the parrot to wave with the opposite of its dominant foot. This is because they often lift their dominant foot up to eat so it looks more impressive when they wave with one and then eat with the other rather than going up and down with the same foot twice. Remember to be consistent about training wave only to a single foot or the parrot will get confused.
Start by having your parrot on a perch (ideally a training stand). Have it just below eye level and stand facing the bird. You will need to ask the parrot to step up with the hand that is closest to the foot you have chosen for the parrot to wave with. Truman is left footed so I wanted to teach him to wave his right foot. When I am facing him, it's like a mirror image so I need to use my left hand to get him to pick up his right foot. Therefore my right hand is free to wave at him while I approach him with my left hand. The hand used for lifting the foot is aimed with the pointer finger parallel to the perch upon which the parrot is standing. Do not let the parrot actual step onto your hand but approach the finger as close as necessary to have it lift its foot. As soon as the foot starts coming up, back that finger away just a bit so that it cannot actually grab on and step up. Immediately praise and reward the parrot with a treat. Practice this for a few training sessions.
The next step is to begin to recede the step up cue. In the beginning the parrot is merely responding to step up and trying to do that. It will never learn to wave as long as it is focused on the concept of stepping up. So every so often while practicing the above steps. Hold the outstretched finger further from the parrot and see if it responds. It may be learning quicker than you think but if you keep approaching closely with the finger, you won't get to find out. So try holding the finger six inches away, then fours, two, etc. If it is not responding unless up close, then practice up close a few more times. Eventually test the parrot again in this same fashion. Eventually it will surprise you because it realized what to do. Remember to keep training sessions reasonably short and end on a good note. When you have made some consistent progress, end things while they are good rather than letting your parrot's attention dwindle and frustration build up.
Eventually you'll get to a point where picking the foot up is all the parrot wants to do. It begins anticipating the treat and lifting its foot when you haven't even asked. This is the golden opportunity to get it to learn it on the proper cue. It starts getting in the habit of lifting its foot and getting treats repeatedly. Now one time you just skip the finger cue and just do the waving hand cue and the parrot will pick up its foot anyway from the inertia of repetition built up from prior training sessions. Now finally this becomes a parrot trick. After this point it will just be a matter of practice. There is the possibility of the parrot forgetting again but a quick reminder with the finger cue will get it back to doing the trick properly. I suggest showing the waving hand cue right from the very start and saying "wave" (or whatever you want the verbal cue to be) immediately from the start. This lets the parrot get used to seeing/hearing the proper cue earlier and becoming aware of its simultaneous presence to the outstretched finger cue. In the beginning I hold the treat between my fingers of the hand I wave with so that I can offer the treat as soon as the bird picks its foot up but once the parrot is doing the trick on cue, I put a clicker/treat in the hand I'm not waving with.
I taught Truman to wave in a total of five training sessions. The reason I label them by session rather than day is because some days I did two sessions. So while it took five sessions, they spanned a total of four days. I did a few micro sessions in between to keep his mind on wave but they did not bring forth and progress worth mention. Basically I'd practice whatever stage of wave training I was at at different times of the day on top of normal training. This helps expedite things just a little bit. The first session was mostly dedicated to getting him used to picking his foot up. The second and third session was about him seeing the finger cue for lifting his foot up. The fourth session reduced the importance of the finger cue by holding it progressively further and further away. And then finally by the fifth session it dawned on Truman that he actually has to lift his foot up when he sees the waving hand cue rather than the finger. I am going to continue practicing the wave with him until he is very consistent with the trick and then I won't wait any longer before introducing him to a new trick. I don't want him to get so used to wave that he becomes resistant to learning other tricks.
Here is a video of the actual training sessions where I taught Truman how to wave. The video illustrates the techniques mentioned above for training. It is a bit long but it accurately depicts the progression of learning for the trick. The video is not in actual time. I probably spent closer to 3 hours training Truman and I would estimate that I had performed the trick at least 50 times until he began doing it off of the proper wave cue.
Here are some additional tips for teaching the wave. Don't seek perfection from the very start. In the beginning it is important that the parrot make any positive motion to lift its foot to your outstretched finger on its own. Even if it is lifting it briefly and not very high, that's ok. The important thing is to teach it the motion. Then once it learns the trick and is picking its foot up on cue, you can start rejecting the worst ones and rewarding the best instances. So at first it might be waving for 1/4 of a second so you don't reward the 1/8 second waves but you do the 1/4. Then you start rewarding only 1/2 second, etc. Same things goes for height. At first you reward any motion to pick the foot up even if it's only a tiny bit off the ground. Eventually you start rewarding the best ones of the capability of the parrot at that particular stage in training. A good rule of thumb is to always reward the best 4 out of 5. Don't reward the worst one. Even if the 4 aren't up to your desired standards, it will certainly improve because at least the worst ones are being discarded and the parrot is learning how to favor the better ones. This will take time but it will improve results. Not rewarding too many trials will only discourage the parrot from waving in the first place so be sure to reward the effort as much as possible.
This trick is suitable as a first trick (assuming reasonable tameness and step up) for any parrot including parakeet, cockatiel, lovebird, parrotlet, conure, poicephalus, african grey, amazon, cockatoo, or macaw. This is a wonderful beginner trick that anyone can train their parrot with just a bit of patience. I hope you find this article helpful and wish you luck training your parrot. If you have any questions please use the link below to post them through the parrot forum.