In August, 2015 I traveled to Australia on honeymoon. We got to see many parrots and other animals around that beautiful country. This article is about the wild Cockatiels and Galahs we saw in the vicinity of Pine Creek in the Northern Territory.
We made two sightings of wild Cockatiels. The first was during lunch by the lake at Copper Dam. The distinct call of Nymphicus hollandicus came through the air as a handful of Cockatiels flew by. I followed them with my eyes as they landed in a dead tree across the lake.
Some more Cockatiels arrived and they congregated in the tree. There were around a dozen Cockatiels in total. They spent a few minutes in the tree alternating circling flights with rest. Cautiously, several Cockatiels flew down to the shoreline. A few quick steps and they were wading at the waters edge. More came down to join them. They didn't spend a whole five seconds on the ground before they took flight back to the safety of their tree. The same Cockatiels repeated this drinking endeavor at least three more times.
Most of the cocktail party departed but a few Cockatiels stayed for a nap in the tree. The Cockatiels were too far and too quick when flying for water, so I was not able to get any video of the process. But here's a video of them in the tree and a photo of them getting a drink.
The second encounter with Cockatiels came on the morning of the following day. Driving from Pine Creek back to Darwin, we spotted Cockatiels foraging on the ground by the road side. I approached them slowly but it was disturbing their feast. I couldn't get close enough to get footage and a few steps closer and they flew off into a nearby tree. Much like the Cockatiels at Copper Dam, these birds were very cautious on the ground.
The birds spooked and went into the tree. I took this as an opportunity to get closer and station my gear hoping they would come back. They watched from their high vantage point for the danger to subside. A few brave birds came down first and then the rest followed. I would discover that I wasn't the only reason they'd take off to the tree. Every few minutes, the whole flock would fly back to the tree for a bit before coming back.
What was even more interesting than watching Cockatiels feeding on the ground was to discover that Galahs were amongst them! The two different species of Cockatoos would remain in their own distinct factions, but in very closer proximity to each other. In fact, when the flock would launch, they would both fly back to the same tree together.
There were about two dozen Cockatiels for the half dozen Galahs. The large flock was visibly subdivided into smaller group units. We could hear Red Tailed Black Cockatoos in the distance but they did not mingle with the Galahs and Tiels.
The Cockatiels scurry around the ground on quick legs. Some birds look up while others have their heads down eating. But here's a fascinating thing. They are absolutely quiet while eating on the ground. It makes perfect sense, but it is the polar opposite of the endless Cockatiel chatter you hear when they are flying or perching.
It was an amazing experience to get to see these birds in the wild and what they do. It makes me appreciate them even more as pets and I hope that we can learn a bit from their wild habits and apply that knowledge toward making our homes an even better place for them.
Oh no! The Parrot Got Out! This is the newest video posted by Parrot Wizard, a short Horror Film about what might happen if the psitta-beast got out of its enclosure. The short film features Marianna Samushiya and the well-known trained Senegal Parrot, Kili. Marianna comes home but soon realizes that she's being followed.
It took several days of filming and even more of editing but I am pleased with the results. I used a mix of techniques to bring you the story and action. From classic pan shots to steadicam tracking, you will enjoy the heart pumping action and terror.
Here are a few behind the scenes looks at the making of The Parrot Got Out:
So dim your lights, set youtube to fullscreen, change the play quality to 4K or HD, and get ready to witness the horror of The Parrot Got Out:
Recently I had the pleasure of being visited by Professor Andy McIntosh to talk about birds and flight. Andy is a retired professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory from the University of Leeds in the UK and on the board of directors of Truth In Science (an organization promoting teaching intelligent design in the classroom in the UK).
I got in touch with Andy because I found his talks about birds on youtube and found them quite interesting. I give a similar presentation at NYU every year about the Evolution of Flight (a comparison between flying machines and flying organisms) and found it quite surprising that Andy can look at the same facts but come to different conclusions. In either case, we both share a fascination with the mechanisms of flight and the astounding complexity of birds. Regardless of which interpretive conclusion prevails, the presentation of the facts, mechanisms, operations, fossils, and stories is a marvel to learn.
So without getting any further into background, let me present to you an interview - straight from my bird room and with the help of Kili, Truman, and Santina - with professor Andy McIntosh:
In this video and with the help of Kili, Truman, and Santina, Andy McIntosh discusses many topics related to birds and how they fly. A few of the topics include how feathers work, how the flight muscles are special in birds, how the avian breathing apparatus is like no other, archeopteryx fossils, and about his conclusions on how birds are too complicated to have evolved through natural processes and are instead the products of design. Dr. McIntosh concludes that:
"They want to be in the air and obviously they are designed to be in the air. Everything is telling me as an engineer, stroke mathematician, somebody who is used to asking the question 'why are things the way they are?' All these features tell me that there is a brilliant mind behind these creatures."
So after watching both presentations, do you think Kili is an evolved dinosaur or one of God's created creatures?
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.