I hope Santina can serve as an example and a role model in the adoption of rescue parrots. On one hand, may she show that even “second hand” birds are worthy of care and love. But on the other hand, she serves to show what a training minded approach can achieve. Without teaching her a single “trick,” I have been able to tame Santina and build a relationship as well as the cooperation that is necessary to be able to keep this pet.
Kili came from a store, Truman from a breeder, and Santina from a rescue. Not only do I frequently speak to owners of parrots from these differing sources but even my own birds come from each. So I know what these are all like. Ultimately what I have found is that it doesn't matter where you get your parrot, what matters is what you do with it.
The myth that you have to get a parrot as a baby so that it would like you is downright untrue. All you have to do is visit a rescue to see all the adolescent parrots that were relinquished because the owner couldn't get along with it. This has nothing to do with the bird and all to do with the owner not taking the time to teach, train, and take proper care. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have adopted parrots from rescues and had tremendous success with parrots that even as babies couldn't develop a relationship with their owner. What this goes to show is that it is not about age or source but what you can do with the bird.
The best reason to adopt a parrot from a rescue is not out of sympathy. Many rescues and people will try to convince you that you should adopt/rescue because you feel bad for the bird. The problem with this approach is that it is very shortsighted. At first, there certainly is the temptation to save a living creature from a bad situation. But in the long term this will wear off and there will be infinitely more parrots that need rescuing. So while compassion should play a role, it is not a good reason to adopt.
In reality, the best reason to adopt a parrot is because you and the bird will have the freedom of choice. Unlike the arranged marriage of “buying a baby” - where the grown adult personality is not yet known – when you visit and mutually choose an adult parrot, what you see is what you get. Adoption allows you to see the adult parrot as it is and likely will remain (at least in general, a lot of behavior can be shaped with training but personality won't change). If you like the parrot and the parrot likes you, you've really got a good shot with this bird. On the other hand, a baby's allegiance may drift with time as it matures.
Having one of each, a parrot from a store, breeder, and rescue, I have come to realize that it makes far less difference where you get the bird from and that it all comes down to the training and relationship you develop. Thus I encourage anyone looking for their first or another parrot to consider adopting. Check out my book to learn about my complete parrot owning approach that has worked on all three of my parrots regardless of their source.
To promote rescue and awareness of how wonderful rescue birds can be, I made this video. I hope you enjoy and share it with everyone you know. It is not only important that people know that there are rescue birds that need help/adoption but also that they can become absolutely wonderful pets and deserve a chance.
Here is your chance to help a rescue parrot find its roar. To help the rescue cause and get the word out there, I am running a contest along with this video. Simply nominate your favorite rescues in the video comments (on youtube). When the video exceeds one million views, I will be holding a random drawing to select a rescue from the comments to receive $1,000.00. There will also be a second and third prize of wizard merchandise for rescues as well. Second prize is 3x 25lb bags Roudybush pellets (small, medium, and large). Third prize is a Parrot Wizard Gift Set.
I also have some prizes for participants as well! Another set of drawings will take place along with the rescue drawing. Viewers who nominate rescues will be eligible for a first prize of a Parrot Training Perch Kit, second prize Parrot Wizard Gift Set, third prize a signed copy of the Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.
Briefly, here are the contest conditions. Viewers can nominate as many parrot rescues as they would like in the video comments, one comment per rescue. First put the name of the rescue and then below you are welcome to talk a little about the rescue. What you say about the rescue won't affect its chances of winning but may help encourage other readers to donate or rescue from there. Please no spamming. Genuine nomination of many rescues is encouraged but if you post the same rescue over and over again, youtube will automatically block it as spam. Only US based Parrot rescues are eligible for the contest. For the cash prize, only a 501c3 non-profit rescue is eligible. For the other prizes, they only need to be a verifiable parrot rescue that accepts donations and adopts out parrots (even if unofficially). Random drawings will be held consecutively until an eligible winner is drawn. For the participant prizes, the participant simply needs to nominate an eligible rescue for their comment to count as a raffle ticket toward the random prize drawings. Free-shipping to US based participants only. Participants from outside the US are welcome to receive their prize if they pay the international shipping costs. When Santina's video roars for the millionth view, the drawings will be held to celebrate so much exposure for parrot rescue.
Nominated rescues will be added to a list at the back of the video and on this page to help viewers learn about all the local adoption options and where to donate! Help rescues win, and I'm not talking just about prizes but about awareness and donations, by sharing and spreading the word.
Watch Santina's Roar video and then help another rescue parrot find its roar by:
1) Comment, Like, and Share Santina's Roar Video 2) Donate to a parrot rescue 3) Adopt a rescue parrot
It's your fault your parrot bit you and you deserved it too! This is an essential realization to make or you will never be able to solve biting problems. People who refuse to accept responsibility for soliciting biting from their parrot cannot learn to reduce biting. We have to first realize what we do that causes the parrot to bite in order to work on resolving it. Or at least, if we cannot determine the reason, we need to at least follow an approach that will prevent or reduce biting.
The fact that it's your fault when your parrot bites is actually great news as you will come to realize. If it is your fault and something you did that caused the bite, then that means it is also in your power not to cause the bite! If this weren't the case and if the parrot were to bite for truly no reason, you would have a very hard time trying to solve that situation. Keep in mind that even if you are unaware how it is your fault that your parrot bites, it is still present and can still be solved.
I am hard pressed to find good bite stories or videos to share because I hardly ever get bit by parrots. Kili & Truman haven't bit me, or anyone else for that matter, in years. Santina bit me a few times at the rescue but not once since I brought her home. Even when I meet birds at stores, rescues, and other people's homes during consultations, it is very rare that I get bit. This is because most parrots aren't naturally aggressive creatures.
Most parrot species, and birds for that matter, tend to avoid conflict by flying away. Clipping wings denies parrots of the ability to fly away so they are forced to resort to biting in self-defense. Since Kili & Truman can fly away if someone is bothering them, they do just that rather than bite. This has not only eliminated biting but it has also taught them to be more trusting around people. They don't start biting off the bat to avoid all interaction. Instead they tolerate as much interaction as they want or tolerate but if it becomes too much, they can fly to safety.
There are many reasons a parrot might bite specifically but for the most part it is because something is being done that the parrot does not want to happen! Most often this comes in the form of self-imposing on the parrot (such as forced step up or touching) but sometimes it can be less direct. It could be indirect such as imposing on the parrot's territory by touching its cage or by making it jealous. Regardless, these situations are created when a human disturbs the peace by imposing an undesired interaction.
The key to reducing biting is to teach the parrot to actually desire the things that would have normally caused it to bite. Teaching a parrot to want to step up, to allow head scratches, to want to go back into the cage, etc makes it such that the parrot would not even think of biting you. My parrots want me to scratch their heads, to take them places, to handle them, and to put them back in the cage. They'd be crazy to bite me because then they'd miss out on the things they actually want from me.
In the short term it's about reading body language and not sticking your hand in a bee's nest. In other words if the parrot doesn't want to be touched, then don't touch it, if the parrot doesn't want to step up for a guest, don't make it. However, this doesn't solve the problem because we as pet owners want friendly pet behavior from our parrots.
Even with unfamiliar parrots, I tend not to get bit. Sometimes it's because I recognize a viciously aggressive parrot that would take a lot of time to tame and keep my hands to myself. But most of the time it is because I take a moment to familiarize myself with the bird, look at its body language, learn what it likes, learn its comfort levels, and built instant trust by not violating existing comfort levels in the short term. One thing that has kept my hands very bite free with unfamiliar birds is that I go up to any parrot with the presumption that it is a biter and uncomfortable with my presence. Until I can determine otherwise, I don't put myself within biting range. I test the bird a little at a time while building trust and discovering its body language and comfort. With some birds things are quick enough that I have it on my hand cuddling in no time, with other birds I realize they are far from ready and avoid getting bit and making them upset.
I want to caution you against reverting to punishment or negative reinforcement as a means of dealing with biting because in most cases it won't help or worse yet encourage more biting. For example “nudging a parrot's belly to make it step up when it is biting” will likely cause it to bite more because it wants to avoid stepping up. This doesn't solve biting. Squirting a parrot with a bottle or using other forms of punishment will make the parrot fear you and parrots bite what they fear so again a counterproductive solution. Negative punishment may work as a solution for mostly well-behaved parrots that are trained and rarely bite (“if you bite me for attention, I just won't give it to you”) but for less tame parrots is useless. Rather true negative punishment would be effective but what one might think to be such is not. Threatening to ignore a bird that hates you is hardly upsetting and possibly even desirable to the bird! Putting a bird down or back into the cage as punishment for biting might make it bite even more because it doesn't want to go back. Thus it is best to prevent situations that lead to biting, keep your hands to yourself until you can make it such that the parrot wants your hands there, and ignore biting that you accidentally cause. Ignoring biting does not mean to let the bird bite all it wants. It simply means not to allow the fact that the parrot bit you affect what you do in regards to the parrot in any way. Don't give a toy, don't squirt the bird, don't put the bird away, don't talk to the bird, don't walk away. Just ignore the bite as though it didn't happen. When a bird bites the cage bars and nothing happens at all, the bird loses interest in continuing that sort of biting. This is why ignoring is the best way to avoid encouraging further biting but prevention is better still.
Goodbye nose! Just kidding, I didn't have enough pictures of real bites so I threw this one in of playing around
So the question isn't how to make a parrot not bite (there is nothing you can do directly except keeping yourself out of harm's way), it really should be how can you be such a pal that your parrot wouldn't want to bite you in the first place! To that, the answer is less simple. It's not complicated but the explanation is rather long and comprehensive. For this reason I suggest getting my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. You will encounter my complete approach to establishing a well-behaved, non-biting parrot through an array of elements including proper housing, toys, sleep, food, weight, health, exercise, flight, socialization, training, and companionship.
PS A Cape Parrot was recently lost in Oakland California. Everyone please share this facebook post with information about the lost bird so that it can be reunited with its owner.
So it's been 6 months since I adopted Santina; but it's also been a few months since the macaw was introduced to the other two. I'd like to take a little time to talk about the flock dynamics that are emerging.
Initially, Kili had been an only bird. Then for a short time she shared the household with a budgie and eventually with Truman. The dynamic between Kili and Truman had always been where Kili was boss. Kili could take any perch from Truman at any moment. Truman got used to being the "little bird." Now things changed yet again with the addition of another bird.
Whenever considering the addition of another bird it is absolutely essential to consider how this bird will fit into the existing flock structure. You can't just simply say "I want this kind" and disregard whether existing birds will agree or not. When it comes to Kili, I know that she will bully any bird that is smaller or several times her size. This is why when I got Truman, I was only considering birds that were bigger than her that could handle the aggression. Even at triple her weight and 1.3x her size, Truman tends to lose most fights to her.
Santina is obviously much bigger than the other two but her personality also plays a big factor. She's not aggressive, she's slow, hulking, lazy. These qualities make her a lesser threat to the existing smaller birds. In fact, she would not go after them and they could out fly her any time, even if she could fly. So that's one side of the issue eliminated. On the flip side, the biggest danger is if the little guys put themselves in the way.
Initial introductions were to build favorable first impressions, start peacefully, and get the birds used to being around each other without causing trouble. However, beyond this early acceptance, the rest they have to work out on their own. This happens little by little through experimentation as the birds cross each others paths (whether intentionally or inadvertently).
The only trouble I ran into was that Santina finished her hazelnut quickly and started to pry Truman's nut out of his beak and scared him. The trick is to keep them busy with more nuts or to separate the birds before any trouble can erupt. This gives them a chance to get used to being around each other and not have aggressive thoughts. As sitting near each other begins to work, trick training the parrots on the same perch is also a great idea to teach cooperation.
Another thing that greatly improves the flock dynamic is taking the parrots outside together. Even if enemies at home, they tend to stick together outdoors against all the other mayhem. This socialization experience builds better bonds between the parrots that you bring home with you (with time). I've been taking the parrots out two and sometimes even three at a time. I put them down on fences or benches in close proximity to each other and keep them busy with training and food. They behave very well together in this type of setting.
Interestingly, Truman was never scared of Santina (more than triple his weight and size) from the very beginning. Kili, the bird that fearlessly bullies Truman, stays away from Santina. Kili is a true bully, she'll only pick fights she knows she can win. Truman on the other hand is the bumbling dodo. Truman will cross Santina's path thoughtlessly. And I want to reiterate that he's doing this in a non-aggressive way. When Kili goes after Truman, you can tell it is with malicious intentions. Truman on the other hand, doesn't actually go after Santina but he walks by her entirely focused on whatever he is after. Truman does not notice the far bigger macaw perched there and brushes right by her. His behavior comes off as bold. But his boldness is not in him thinking that he can take on the bigger bird but him not thinking at all. This is how Truman lands himself in trouble all the time.
This is exactly what happens between Truman and Santina. They have potential together as they are both non-aggressive birds but Truman is a bit of a dummy and puts himself in her way. Half the time this happens too quickly for Santina to react. Other times she runs away not knowing how this little bird can be coming right at her. Sometimes she puts her beak out defensively though. She does not attack or bite but simply tries to defend herself. Truman has been known to try to land on her and she needs to send him a reminder that her head is not a landing pad. Here's a video that perfectly illustrates the sort of character that Truman is:
It's been nearly six months since I adopted Santina from Lazicki's. The progress since then has been monumental and this is an update to mention most of it. I have gone from a bird that wouldn't even step up for me to being able to take my entire flock out to Coney Island wearing harnesses.
Here's a list of the things Santina learned during this period: -Step up (inherited) -Touch her (inherited) -Head scratches (inherited) -Go in carrier -Target -Grab -Flip over -Take medication -Open wings -Getting along with other birds -Put on Harness -Socialization (don't bite others)
Santina was already known to be able to step up and cuddle with certain people, but this certainly wasn't the case with me on first encounter. So not only did I work on inheriting those qualities she already had, but I improved them to the maximum extent. I improved her step up reliability to 100%, got her comfortable being touched anywhere as necessary, and went on to do a lot more with her. I set lenient goals and always exceeded expectations. For example I was ready to have to take weeks to get her to step up but she was already doing so within a few days, I was ready to take a month to harness train her but did so in under a week, I hoped to be able to take her to Coney Island before the end of the summer and was already doing so a few weeks since harness training her. All in all, progress has been very efficient and she is doing stupendously.
Santina has been learning to get along with the other birds
I would estimate that I spent an average of 10 minutes twice a day training Santina. Some days sessions were as much as 30 minutes but other days I skipped training entirely. It's not a lot of time but it was always a focused and goal oriented time. For each specific thing I taught her, we would have a burst of focused training and in between training new things we would just take time off or review known behaviors. The time off between training to let things sink in is nearly as important as the time training itself.
This DVD features Santina and covers the entire harness training process from start to finish. You can see the exact steps I took to teach her to want to wear the harness and assist me in putting it on. The DVD covers 6 days of training and the 50 minute section of harness training equates to about 1/4 scale. In other words, some repetitions were cut out and the real training was only about 4 times as much as what you see in the DVD. Put a different way, that's just 3 hours of training or 6x 30 minute sessions. That's nothing! In a single outing, I can spend more time out with Santina wearing a harness than all the training that it took!
The secret is, well watch the DVD for secrets. But what I want to say is that you really have to see the DVD in conjunction with my book. The DVD is strictly about harness training and does not teach how to do training, how to manage motivation, etc. The approach demonstrated in the DVD presumes a moderately tame parrot that is capable of at least step up, being touched, being grabbed, targeting, and having its wings pulled open. All of these things are covered in my book and are absolutely mandatory requisites to even think of beginning harness training. I don't know how some people think they will stick a harness on a bird that bites them and won't even step up. Not gonna happen.
But all things said, I taught Santina all those requisites in about 4 months really taking my time. Then I taught her to wear a harness in under a week and spent another week or two getting her used to going outside. Some days I would take her out twice just so she would be more used to being outside and wearing the harness. In 2 months since harness training Santina, I had already gone so far as to take her to Coney Island (a really busy amusement area), on the Subway into NYC, and out with my other two parrots at the same time. This article and video aren't meant to teach you what to do but rather to inspire what you can do with your birds. All you need is some love, time, patience, and some Wizard's tools to help you in the process.
A little over a week ago I took Santina outside wearing a harness for the very first time. In fact, it was the same day that Kili & Truman went to Coney Island for the first time. In the morning I took Santina for a short walk around my neighborhood and then later that afternoon I took her to the park. Throughout the week I alternated walking local streets and taking her to the park.
At first Santina was a little nervous, but nothing terrible. At least not for her. For me, a nervous Santina is very painful because she has a killer grip on my arm. The more nervous she gets, the tighter she chokes my arm! A bird of that size can leave quite the scratches and bruises with just its feet! But as I continued taking Santina out, she became more and more relaxed and my arms suffered less for it!
By the second Sunday, one week since her first outing, I was able to take her to the park and have an easy time with her. Here are some photos and video of that adventure.
Only a few days since Santina's park outing, I decided that it was time to take her to Coney Island. It was just the perfect opportunity. The weather and temperature were perfect, it was a week day so the boardwalk wouldn't be too crowded, and a friend of mine already happened to be there and could help out. My biggest concern was not Santina freaking out but someone trying to touch her and getting bit! Having extra eyes on her would be helpful as well as burly individuals to socialize her on.
Well in the two hours Santina spent at Coney Island, she made a year's worth of socialization progress. She went from trying to bite others and refusing to step up to being calm and having a great time. I was even able to put her on people's arms to pose for pictures and she spent over 15 minutes on my friend's arm. She had a fantastic time and came out a more social bird at the end of it. Check out the photos and video of Santina's Coney Island adventure.