On a recent visit to the bird store I came across a Jardine's Parrot I recognized from last time. It has remained unsold for a while and is around 6 months old already. Besides the fact that parrot sales are down during this terrible economy, you could say that Jardine's Parrots look rather dull in front of all the Sun Parakeets, Cockatoos, and Macaws. To make matters worse, this little Jardine's Parrot didn't even know how to step up.
When I reached my hand into the tank housing the two available Jardine's Parrots, all havoc broke loose. The two terrified parrots fled my approaching hands. I was unable to get one out without a bite. However, once I got a hold of its neck all matters were settled. With the restraint of my parrot hold, the Jardine's struggle was over while I protected myself from additional bites.
Within minutes the parrot calmed down and sweetly cuddled as I held it against my chest. As time progressed I was able to hold a looser grip on the bird with less fear of biting or fleeing. I was able to pet it on the head and neck and hold it any which way.
I was surprised to find out that the bird did not know how to perch or step up. Well it was obvious in the tank that it didn't want to step up, however, it wouldn't step up outside of the tank either. While I held the bird in my hands it stayed calm but would get very uneasy when I tried to let it perch on my finger. The Jardine's Parrot became scared when I approached with a finger to ask it to step up. Worse yet, if I pressed my finger toward its belly to edge it to step up, it simply knew not what to do.
The Jardine's Parrot simply did not know how to lift its legs to step up to perch. Having gone unsold for so long, the poor little bird never learned to perch while living in a flat bottom tank. This is good for the younger birds but they are not expected to go unsold for this long. It had trouble perching on my finger because it curled its toes instead of wrapping them around my finger. I had to straighten the toes out to show it that it can grip my finger better that way.
Although scared at first and unable to step up, this Jardine's Parrot turned out to be really sweet. As long as I held it close, it did not try to bite and let me pet it all I wanted. I carried the parrot around the store with me for nearly an hour. The bird was starting to get the hang of perching. However, when I put it down on a perch to poop, it would not step up when I tried to take it back. Yet when I grabbed it with my hands to pick it up, it did not protest one bit. I was amazed that here was a bird that preferred to be forcefully grabbed to being in control and stepping up. This is quite the opposite of most parrots around though this is not the first Jardine's Parrot I have made this observation with.
I began working on the basics of step up by using a finger to pry its toes off the finger it was perched on. I slowly lifted that foot until it would have to pick the other foot up to follow. I also used a slight disbalance in the hand it was originally perched on by tipping it downward while offering the rock solid finger to step onto. I began adding a reward to the process as well. What reward could I possibly use on a bird I do not own, that isn't hungry, and no training supplies to use? I used stability, attention, vocalization, and height to reward the Jardine's Parrot for stepping up. First I lowered the hand it was perched on to the height of my stomach. Then I offered my other hand slightly higher. The early step ups were forced to demonstrate to it what to do but soon enough it was picking its foot up on its own to step up. Then as soon as it stepped up, I lifted it up to eye level and made excited sounds. This was positive reinforcement based training at work here and it shows that not all positive reinforcement needs to be food. This method proved to be positively reinforcing because the Jardine's Parrot was more readily stepping up with each trial. Positive reinforcement is measured by its affect on behavior and the behavior was increasing. Success.
For a parrot unaccustomed to perching or much exercise, I'm sure this was challenging. I gave it breaks longer than the actual training session bits for scratches and cuddling. Then I would ask for a step up again and it would do it. Before the end of our short interaction the Jardine's Parrot would simply pick up its foot on the sight of my approaching finger (almost like wave) in anticipation of stepping up. The bird even stepped up for other people and let others pet it as well.
Besides stepping up, I also managed to teach it petting etiquette in the time I held it. I only pet its head if it would let me hold its beak (like I do with Truman). It enjoyed the petting so it did not mind being held in this way. There were children attending the store who were disappointed they couldn't pet the other birds so I carried the Jardine's around and let them interact with it. One lady commented that it's a great idea to hold the bird's beak during petting that way as I let her daughter pet the Jardine's. You don't want the children to get scared of parrots from getting bit and you don't want the parrots to learn to bite. So prevention is key.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to convince anyone to buy the bird and I surely couldn't buy it either. However, now that the bird is a bit more used to hands and knows how to step up, it will have a better chance of finding a good home. Someone will become entranced by this parrots sweetness and will have a cuddlebug on their hands. The store owner was impressed and grateful that I tamed the bird a bit for her. She told me to leave the bird out front to showcase it for buyers.
Even if you don't intend to buy another parrot ever again, it's still a great experience builder to go to a store, rescue, and breeder to handle some parrots. It's win/win for everyone. Most stores/rescues are too busy to give all their birds sufficient handling time and will appreciate an experienced/caring parrot owner to spend time with their birds even if they aren't buying. By handling other birds (possibly bigger or more aggressive) it will give you greater confidence in handling your own. The eventual buyer of the bird wins too because they will acquire a more socialized bird that is accustomed to handling. The biggest winners of all though are the birds themselves. They can really use some love and attention. Here's a brief clip at the bird store and how I was working with the Jardine's Parrot.