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!
This article tells you how you can teach your parrot the turn around trick on cue. The turn around trick, also called spin by others, is where the trainer shows a cue and the parrot does a 360 degree turn around on its perch. This is a very easy trick to teach and can be considered a beginner trick. Any parrot from a budgie to a macaw can learn this trick. The only requisites are that the parrot be tame and already target trained. If this is not the case or if you simply need a refresher, check the target training and taming article before continuing with turn around.
The turn around trick is taught by targeting the parrot in a circle. So the first thing to do is to refresh your parrot's memory by doing some targeting. Make sure your parrot is willing to turn its head toward the target stick and to follow the stick. Hold the target stick behind the parrot so that it makes a 180 degree turn to touch the target. If it is not doing this, you can try holding it at 90 degrees and then move back to 180 when the parrot begins to turn toward the stick. Of course promptly click and reward the parrot whenever it touches the target stick.
Next work on getting the parrot to turn 270 and then 360 degrees to touch the target stick. Get it started by holding the target stick just ahead of where it is reaching and continuing to turn the stick around the parrot so that it can follow. Keep the pace such that the parrot can keep up with the motion of the stick but does not have the chance to touch it before completing the 360 degree turn. Continue practicing the turn around target method until the parrot reliably turns around to follow the stick. However tempting it may be, don't lure the parrot around with a treat instead. The targeting method is more effective because it learns the behavior rather than just going where food is. At this point you can start saying "turn around" or whatever the cue will be. Also you can stop letting it touch the stick upon completion and just click/reward when it completes the turn. It is important that the click is when 360 degrees have been turned rather than too soon or the bird may not learn to turn all the way.
It is convenient to have the parrot on a perch and below you so that you can target it around in a circle from above. This later helps transition the cue as well. I do not recommend teaching this trick on a flat surface because it is harder to get a precise 360 degree turn. On a perch, turns have to be a half or full circle in order for the parrot to perch. For these reasons an adjustable height Parrot Training Perch is the ideal tool for training this trick.
The next stage is to switch the parrot from following the target stick around to following your finger around. Hold your index finger along the target stick to accomplish this. Start by holding it high on the stick but progressively hold it lower and lower so that less of the target stick is visible and your finger is more obvious. Eventually don't hold the stick at all and see if the parrot will follow your finger around instead. Once you can get your parrot to turn around by following your finger rather than using the target stick you are ready for the final step.
Now all that is left is to recede the finger turn and it will become the cue. Start by targeting the parrot around less and less with your finger so that it still completes the 360 turn. Move your finger 3/4 way around, then 1/2, 1/4, etc. From the inertia of previous training, the parrot should continue completing the 360 turn with less and less targeting with your finger. Eventually you should get to a point where just showing your finger in a vertical orientation. At this point it's just a matter of switching this motion into the cue which can be a twist or flick of the finger. Just keep practicing and gradually switching the finger target to the finger cue that will become the permanent cue.
As soon as the parrot has caught on to the trick, I recommend mixing it back with previously known tricks so that it does not forget those in favor of the newer one. Once the parrot has completely learned this trick on a perch, you can practice it on a flat surface as well. Here is a video of how I taught Truman the turn around trick in just two training sessions:
Here is another video about teaching a Budgerigar, Cockatiel, or other parakeet to turn around. You'll see that the technique is exactly the same and very suitable for any sized parrot: