So here I sit, wide awake at 3:48, the morning after Thanksgiving. It’s Black Friday and people are out busting down the doors of stores in search of great deals on gifts for Christmas. So, why am I up? My mind is preoccupied with two new birds in my immediate care. I have given plenty of thought to these two particular birds, taking them in, and my intentions of their care while here at my house.
Please allow me the honor of introducing you to Moon, Nature’s Nursery’s education Barred Owl, and Suki, a Blue Fronted Amazon with a path unknown. They are both currently residing with me for training. From the moment they both entered my care, which has been less than a week, I have begun teaching them a new form of communication with humans. I have done my absolute best with trying to interact with as much positive reinforcement as possible and it already shows in their behaviors.
Moon shows several behaviors of being afraid of humans and their approach. She hisses and clacks at the sight of anyone approaching her enclosure, she often flies to the top of her enclosure and will hang upside down, and she will fly around the enclosure with what looks like intentions of getting as far from the person approaching as possible.
Suki (just named yesterday)
shows many similar behaviors as Moon. She is fully flighted and shows body language of not preferring close human contact. By that I mean if you raise a hand to her, even to step up, she will lean her head back and growl. If someone approaches her she will either fly in the opposite direction or lunge.
The first two days of these birds being under my immediate care, I did a lot of observing before much close interaction. I needed to identify what caught their attention, how they interacted in their environment, and what their body language looked like when they came into contact with things they seemed not to prefer and things they did. The things they interacted with were potential positive reinforcers I could work with. The things they stayed clear of, I made sure to stay clear of them also when I was interacting with the birds.
To make a long story short, using positive reinforcement training and applied behavior analysis, Moon is now walking to me when I offer her food and Suki is stepping up onto my hand consistently, and not just for a treat. Their body language is the most important form of communication for me. Neither can tell me verbally “Hey, I don’t like you standing this close to me.” but their body language can sure show it. The more I respect that and react to it, the closer they come to me.
I’m often asked by people interacting with birds and other animals “How will I know how big of a step to take with the bird?” and my reply is always “The bird will let you know.” I always follow that comment with further detail and usually on the finite details of body language but I love making that statement because it is so true. If I’ve taken to big of a step when interacting with a bird or other animal, I try to back away before the bird backs away and this is usually more in the beginning interaction with the bird. The more I do this, the more I see the bird chose to stay. Communication and understanding is beginning to form between the animal and myself. It’s a new day, it’s a new way….of life for these birds and I love empowering them in my, I mean ‘our’ environment.
For daily updates on both birds, check out my facebook page.