Whether you’ve just brought home a new baby bird or you’ve been living with your parrot for 20 years, it’s never too late to teach your bird something new! Working on tricks with your bird serves two main purposes: it stimulates your parrot’s intelligence by introducing something novel, and it strengthens your bond by spending quality time together. In fact, even spending just a few minutes a day working on a new trick can help relieve boredom and give your bird something to look forward to. As an added bonus, both you and your parrot will have fun showing off to friends and family!
Before you start teaching your bird any tricks, you will need to master basic handling techniques if you haven’t already. With a new baby parrot, one of the very first things you will want to teach them is how to step up onto your hand. This will enable you to take them in and out of their cage easily. Your bird may be reluctant at first — this is normal. Be patient with them and shower them with praise when they do finally step up onto your hand with ease. If the time that they spend out of their cage is a positive experience, they will be more eager to step up for you next time, too.
Learning New Tricks
Once you and your bird have begun to establish a trusting relationship, you can start working on some tricks together. Keep in mind that different birds mature at different rates. A 6-month-old conure or cockatiel may be excited to work with you on a trick, while an African Grey or macaw of the same age might not yet be ready to learn. Always work at your bird’s pace, and stop if they become bored, frustrated, or uncomfortable.
After learning how to step up, an easy trick to transition to is a handshake. Extend your finger to your bird, but don’t let them step up onto it. Stop them with just one fit and give a gentle bounce. As you do the action, give a command such as “handshake” or “how do you do?”.
Once your bird has learned to shake hands, you can transition to waving. Start with a similar action to a handshake so that your bird only lifts up one foot. But instead of allowing them to shake your hand, hold up your hand and give a command like “wave” or “say hello.”
This next trick relies on a different strategy. Observe some of the actions your bird does on its own. What happens if you sing or put on some music? What about if you start bouncing around the room? Many birds like to bob their heads, spin, or bounce around. All you need to do is figure out what your parrot enjoys doing, and then pair it with a command!
Tips for Success
- Keep training sessions short. Five minutes might be plenty.
- Don’t expect mastery after the first session.
- Keep commands simple and consistent.
- Keep treats on hand as a reward, but only offer a treat after the bird performs the desired action. Make sure the pieces are very small so that you can resume training quickly.
- Offer plenty of praise and use excitement in your voice for a job well done.
Everything Your Parrot Needs
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