A Year In The Making

Zazu at 16 weeks old

The  day my life was blessed by a little Blue and Gold Macaw was June 13, 2009.  She was 16 weeks old and for some reason I was drawn to this little one with 3 of her toes missing instead of the cosmetically perfect other young Macaws that  happened to be at Sue’s aviary.  I always wanted a baby of my own.  I had seen all the bonding and fun people around me had with their baby birds that I never got to experience.  Not that I am complaining about being the permanent rescue home for Kacey and Chloe but, I just wanted a baby to call my own and that would have the same home for the rest of my natural life…and one I could train properly with no hangups.  I guess you could say I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.  I realized, there is no difference except in patience.

Kacey: The Mistress Of Mayhem

Kacey was by far my biggest challenge.  It took 9 months of training and getting to know her before she trusted me and I trusted her.  She was my first big bird and she will remain with me until I no longer exist.  She tests my patience on a daily basis to see if I will still respond.  Every now and then she will snap at me through the bars of her cage…I suppose it’s sort of a game to her to see if I still love her.  The snap comes and then the scratching of her head to say “YooHoo…I Love You…”  she’s very comical in her testing, I think that’s one of things I love about her so much.  She’s a content bird now and I adore her as my first child.  She’s a very independent bird…unlike the others.  She has adapted well to my fascination with different species and has excepted her other 2 sisters and her brother.  After all she was the only one in my life for a year until Chloe entered the scene.

"Lady Chloe"

Chloe was a sweetheart of a bird…she was  a barber of her wing feathers and every now and then would hit a blood feather that scared the wits out of me.  Back to the computer for more research.  This time I was searching for remedies on feather picking and barbering.  I quickly realized, there’s nothing much I could do except love this sweet beautiful bird who would eventually most likely start picking at other areas as well.  She has now started picking at her chest instead of her wings and I am once again beside myself.  I haven’t changed anything so my wits are strung out again.  I try everyday on a daily basis to help and correct it but this habit is stemmed from something much deeper than before I had her…I will never know Chloe’s whole true story.  All I know now is that she is loved by me and I will take the best care of her I can.

Now…a year after enters the famous Zazu

My friends have enthusiastically watched Zazu grow up on Facebook.  From the awkward, wing clipped, clumsy little Macaw with only 5 toes collectively to the magnificent Blue and Gold Angel she has become over the past year.  This past Wednesday (March 17, 2010…St. Patrick’s Day) was her 1 year birthday…we call it a hatch day.  I look back over the last year to see all that has gone on…  The controversy of me recalling a wing clipped bird at the beach, the fact that she was a baby and not a “real” rescue, the decision to harness train her or not, how to feed her, what to feed her…everyone has their opinion and I took all of those opinions and made my own opinion out of it.  With the help of  few trust worthy friends and a strong heart and mind, Zazu has turned into a dream come true.

Targeting started at the onset of my time with Zazu.  The first night I got her home, I was mixing formula and BOOM…I had a 16 week old Macaw recalling to me…yes it was because she was hungry…and no that is not how I trained her in the months that followed.  I was fortunate enough to know that she had fledged before her wing feathers were hacked so I did have a bit of an advantage.  The following months, once again, brought alot of online research, opinions, and training.  I started inside the confines of my home for the first 3-4 months and then ventured outside.  This was the scary part…although I had all the confidence in the world with Zazu’s and my relationship, accidents can happen.  I was getting the guidance I needed by a well-known trainer and without his help I would have never even thought about doing this.  Her first recalls were in the backyard…a place her and I were familiar with and where I knew if an accident should occur, I would be able to retrieve her.  These training, targeting (on ground and in flight) and recall sessions in the backyard went on for about 2-3 more months with the same sessions going on inside as well.

Let’s jump to the 6 month mark…the first outdoor experience in recall and target training away from the house.

Zazu recalling at the beach

Zazu had become confident as well as I had on the recall and targeting so I decided to take her to the beach one early morning.  Packed up with water, treats and a few birdie friends with their birds, we headed to Port Royal Beach in Naples, Florida on a Sunday morning.  I started out slow with some ground targeting work in the sand for about 20-30 minutes then we graduated to a few recalls ascending off the ground.  As the morning went on, we were recalling off the pilings on the edge of the shore and just had a grand old time.  Zazu was confident and bold and never skipped a beat or a perfect landing.  As the next 6 months went on, friendships were diminished, relationships were severed, and jobs were lost but the one thing that stayed constant was my relationship with Zazu.  She has always been there for me and has never disappointed me.  During the recall training process people kept telling me…be careful, are you worried she’ll fly off and never come back…so forth and so on.  Yes, of course that weighs in the back of my mind. But, with proper training and all the elements that come with proper training such as: Positive Reinforcement, Operant Conditioning, Food Management, etc. the scenario of Zazu flying off and never coming back under normal circumstances are highly unlikely.

Enter…the spook flight…

About a month ago Zazu  and I were having our normal training session in the backyard.  This consists of a few obstacles that I make her overcome on a daily basis such as flying down off the second story deck of the house while I stand in the backyard and recall her…as well as flying into and out of our favorite oak tree that I climb with her as well and have her target to the different branches downward for a safe recall land.  I live behind a middle school and take into account the different times that the kids are changing classes because they can be a distraction sometimes…I learned that this distraction needs to be dealt with.  This one particular day I did not time the distraction correctly and the physical education teacher decided to hold his class in the back of the school near my training session with Zazu.  A flood of children came running across the field and spooked Zazu into our training oak tree in the lot next door.  This wouldn’t have unnerved me as much as the fact that the spook flight occurred off the second story deck.  As I was frantically making sure I knew exactly where she landed I was thankful she targeted to her second obstacle.  Although watching her fly across the field was beautiful I do believe my heart skipped a beat as I walked calmly across the field.  Equipped with a referee whistle and a whole almond (her jackpot emergency recall treat) I could see exactly in the tree where she landed and, gave a quick chirp of the whistle, and a reinforcing “Come here Zazu”, she flew down out of the tree effortlessly, instantly on cue and directly into my hand.  Upon her landing I was greeted with an enthusiastic Macaw “Hi!!”  and a beak snuggle into my neck.  This particular recall could not have been achieved without proper training…and the circumstances could have been alot worse.  This has not stopped our training outside and now after a few sessions of training during the class change at the school, her distraction has turned around to a concentrated effort.  Zazu is by far the smartest Macaw I ever met…I may have that opinion because she is mine but she is very attentive and her concentration and willingness to work to get the job done is far more than I ever expected.

With only 3 more wing feathers on each side to grow out since that first and only hacking…and a year of training under our belt, she just celebrated her 1st birthday.  She gets stronger and more skills everyday.  Turns and banks on a dime like a Cessna and soars like an Eagle…The making of the past year has been one hell of an experience with Zazu…I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next as well as I think Zazu is too…

Zazu and Me: Best Friends Forever

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcloa1_angels-of-flight-the-ambassadors_animals

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4 Responses to “A Year In The Making”

  1. Carole Young Says:

    Christina, Another very beautiful video. Keep up the good work. Carole

  2. Fabulous Post. Good for you! And happy hatchday to Zazu!

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