Patience Christina…Patience…

Zazu on cagePatience is a virtue…we’ve all heard that expression before.  When it comes to training a weaned and partially wing clipped baby bird…that expression holds true.  The clipping of Zazu’s wings occurred before I knew I was taking her home.  If I would have known I was taking her home prior to the wing clipping I would have halted that process.  But, be that as it may, we work through our handicaps.  The problem with clipping and then deciding to fly an unfledged baby bird is that if they keep trying to fly and keep failing, the confidence level diminishes on the flight process and what you have is a bird that has never learned to fledge.  In this respect, if you find yourself in a similar situation, baby steps to your goal and alot of patience can be your best friend.  This has proved to be true with Zazu.

011My recall training with Zazu starts the day after I brought her home.  Of course baby birds LOVE feeding time.  Zazu loved it so much that while waiting for her formula on top of her cage, she “took off” fluttering through the dining room into the kitchen where I was preparing her food.  I quickly dropped everything and held out both palms of my hands and caught her on her decent.  This gave her the confidence (even with clipped wings) to fly to me for food.  I don’t know if I wouldn’t have reacted so quickly if she would’ve kept doing it.  All I know is that this first flight was the deciding factor to keep her flighted and start working on recall skills (and preparing for her wings to grow out).  Now the next deciding factor is where to start?  Who to get the information and guidance from?  Who would be willing to pass down flight experience and training?  Only one name comes to mind when you have these questions…Raz Rassmussen.  Raz and I had become friends over the Internet thanks to a few mutual friends who knew my passion about flying Zazu.  Raz’s African Grey, Carly Lu, is an exceptional bird and an unfledged one at that.  I had been following and reading Carly Lu’s Flight Blog for a while.  Photos now show Carly fully flighted and totally FOCUSED on her flights as well as flying over the ocean in San Diego.  I wanted Zazu to be that same type of bird.  Of course R+ training has to by all means accompany this training and that is where GoodBird, Inc. comes in as I stated in a previous post.

~Baby Steps…Baby Steps…Baby Steps…and a little bit of PATIENCE~

We must start from the ground up.  Although that flight through the dining room into the kitchen was great and gave both me and Zazu inspiration…we need to start at the beginning.  I believe recall is the art of trust, confidence, and an incredible relationship between you and your bird (that’s my idea of it).  The first step was getting Zazu to come to me…not so much in flight mode…just in general.  So we make some formula and hit the floor!  With feeding syringe in one hand and the other hand with my palm up and offered to Zazu…I always say, “Come on Zazu”…never “Step up”.  It’s my personal preference (I am not a professional).  I don’t want her to step up at that point…I want her to come to me.  I started about 5 feet away from her with both of us on the ground.  Trying to get a 14 week old bird to focus on you is like trying to get a 2 year old to understand calculus!!  Eventually…with PATIENCE!!

With a few tastes of the formula she realized I was the “keeper of the goods”.  Our training sessions always start from the ground up.  Training is always done before breakfast and before dinner.  This makes the “keeper of the goods” more appealing to Zazu!  The first 5-10 minutes I spend with her on the floor.  She started walking to me then as the weeks went on she started walking with little flight hops in between.  My recall hand (the hand with my palm out to her) never goes above 6 inches from the ground.  Raz says this builds strength…therefore I use it as a preliminary stretch out or a warming up time.  Once we’re going good on that, we always end different parts of training on a positive, we move to the perch!  This has been Zazu’s downfall…she LOVES her perch!!  It has been a bit difficult to get her to come off the perch even with formula in my hand “cheering” her on.  Therefore, we have started with simple, distance “step-up’s” off the perch and a reward of a small amount of formula.  After a few days of this…she hops off her perch.  Again, this is about 5-10 minutes of training on the perch.  When all is going well (remember…end on a positive throughout the training)…then we move on to a few flights.  Considering the partially clipped wings, we take it slow at first with a few comfortable flights (usually anywhere from 2-4 flights).  This stage of the training sometimes takes a bit longer because the response time is key.  According to Raz, the response time for the bird to recall should be between 3-5 seconds…anymore encourages latency.  Under her recommendation, when Zazu appears not focused and I cue her to recall, even though “cheerleading” can be essential at Zazu’s age, I put my hands down, turn my back for about 10 seconds and try again.  This, 99% of the time, encourages a strong immediate recall on cue.  The last part of our training consists of a couple of distance flights.  When I say “distance flights” this doesn’t mean Zazu soars around like an eagle for a few minutes in the house and then lands on me.  “Distance Flights” is stepping back a little further then the comfortable flights.  This provides training for “flight skills”.  In a recent email Raz sent me, she states, “…you’re really training two things at once: recall and flight skills…”  Great!!!  I have to multi-task!!!

With all this in mind, Zazu has been doing awesome with her training.  Here is a short video of  her 4th recall flight at her comfortable distance…


If you notice in the above video, it took a bit of “cheerleading” to get Zazu to recall.  This is due to the fact that there were 3 flights prior to this one and baby birds get tired.  Therefore, you do not want to overdo it to much.  When I see Zazu is getting tired (she tires a bit more quickly because of her wings being clipped), we end on a positive and get our favorite dinner, “CHOP”…which will be a different post on this blogsite.  A positive reinforcement (R+) is always given for a job well done.  In this case it’s Zazu’s formula.  She gets a small amount for each positive action.  Over the session of training I always start with a full 35cc syringe and use that as my R+.  She has started a new fascination for pine nuts so that is offered throughout the session as well.  I don’t want to have to carry around a syringe of baby bird formula after she’s 3 years old as her training treat.  Pine nuts are small so they are perfect for treats.  While a little on the expensive side, they are not offered except for that purpose.  Chopped almonds and sunflower seeds work just as well without the price tag.

So there you have it…our 20-30 minute training session in a nutshell!  Hope this helps anybody considering the “Free Flight and Recall” process with their birds…and it is a process…a very patient one!  I’ll leave this post with a positive…a video of the first 3 flights of a recall training session with Zazu.  In the meantime read Carly Lu’s Flight Blog…and don’t be afraid to ask questions!!!

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