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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Polly wants a cracker... » » Parrots please (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

JJDrew
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I'm currently developing an act that incorporates my young parrot. I've learned a lot about dove magic here, and the parakeet info was useful, but there was relatively little on parrots. It goes from doves and rabbits right into horses and tigers. Are parrots particularly hard to perform with? Many of the techniques for doves are transferable, but many other aren't. I'd appreciate any tips or information regarding training and working specifically with parrots.
Bob Sanders
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JJD,

One of the Grammar Hosts, Tim, is the man to ask about parrots. I have one that isn't ready for prime time yet. And it may be a long while. Tim enjoys more success with that than I do. It can be done!

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
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AmazedWiz@Yahoo.com
RobertBloor
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JJDrew,

What kind of parrot are you using? Different birds will respond in various ways to different things.

Also, regardless of the bird remember it's not up to you to decide the bird is ready to perform. That parrot will perform when it so chooses. (Hey, they gotta mind of their own ya know? )

Post back and I'll see how I can help ya.

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
JJDrew
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He (maybe she, I don't see any reason to have that checked until he/she goes through puberty, when sex-based medical conditions become an issue) is a 6 month old Bronze Wing Pionus.
Don't worry, I know not only will he perform only when he so chooses, but also only IF he so chooses. If he never gets to a level of preparedness to perform, that's cool. He's an awesome bird just to have around. I just need advice as to what sort of things go over well with parrots in general. I've got, according to books, between 25 and 40 years to work on actually training him. Smile
For example, I've heard that it's possible to "hypnotize" a dove by turning it on its back and then rubbing its stomach. No WAY would this work with parrots, the only way they'll lay still on their back in your hand is if they trust you completely not to drop them or let anything happen while they're in this vulnerable position. Some may not ever take to it simply because they don't LIKE being on their backs.
However, there may be tricks of the trade of this sort that do apply to parrots. Example: I've gotten to where Miko (my parrot) will hang onto my finger and allows me to turn my hand over until he dangles upside-down. I originally tried this a couple of times with no success, he wanted no part of it, until I discovered what had been making him edgy by seeing another parrot do a similar move.
I had been following the advice of a magician friend of mine who works with doves and who explained a way to grip them and simply turn them over. This grip necessitates turning the bird over backwards. The bird I saw perform (it was a cocatoo) practically dove over the side of the hand, but went FORWARDS. Once he could see where he was going, Miko was fine with the idea and now he has a ball when we play "oopsy-daisy." It's details like this that are difficult to find in books but make life much easier both for the trainer and the bird.
Has anybody had such things happen to them, where they try and teach something with no success only to discover they've been going about it the wrong way? That topic alone would make a useful and informative forum.
RobertBloor
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JJDrew,

I have a blue front Amazon and she's the most amazing animal I've ever seen.

She would hang on my finger when I first got her (she was a year old), but it was only recently (nearly 3 now) that she started to lay on her back in my hand. And she'll ONLY do it if she's holding on to a toy or her nail file.

Perhaps one day she'll do it without a toy.

Honestly...I don't think there is any real way to "train" a bird to trust you "quickly." It looks like you're well aware that they'll trust when they're ready.

When I do training with my bird I started with the most basic functions. Step ups, step downs, etc using reward treats (part of a peanut or sunflower seed).

By establishing the fundamentals of training first you'll be more well off for training to do "tricks".

But I would say always go for the fundamentals. Start every session with a brief 2 or 3 minute recap of the last session.

And remember, they're not always in the mood. My parrot often lets me know she's not in the mood, sometimes at the expense of a little bit of flesh.

That said, the times I've been bitten by her where ALL my fault. Everyone of them. And that's simply because I didn't read her correctly. The signs that she wasn't in the mood were there, but I ignored them and got what I deserved.

Drew, you seem like you've actually got a good handle on your parrot. (or perhaps the parrot on you) I'm glad to see that you love this bird first as a companion and not an on stage assistant.

It drives me nuts when magicians exploit parrots simply because they, "need" one at that moment.

Cheers mate!

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
nix225
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JJDrew,

You're right about the amount of trust and time it takes to "hypnotize" a parrot. It took years for Rusty, one of my macaws, to get to the point he's at now. This is one of those behaviors that we developed through play instead of a scripted training schedule, and as Robert points out, has to be done on the birds terms.

Even though Rusty has been performing this for years, sometimes in a new situation he'll be a little more concerned with the new surroundings and less focused on his performance.

As a matter of fact, I did his bit as a Stupid Pet Trick on Letterman in November, and while he performed flawlessly during rehearsal, he was a bit grumpy during taping. Most likely he was a little uneasy with the differences from the rehearsal; that is, the addition of the band, audience, crew and production people, etc. Some parrots are very suspicious of new situations, whereas others just 'go with the flow', regardless of how you raise them.

As usual, Robert makes some great points (as he does in all his posts) about training and more importantly, performers exploiting their animals. It's one thing to work with your pets, quite another to acquire an animal as a prop. Especially parrots since they require hours of interaction on a daily basis.

I don't post often here, or on any of the other magic boards for that matter, because it seems many of the posters who want to get involved with parrots are unaware or unwilling to make the commitment. However, if you want any specific advice on parrot matters, you can pm me or go through my email link at parrotpros.com. My wife and I have been working with parrots for over 20 years and have been performing full-time with our pets for over 10. Although we usually do theme parks, we do incorporate a fair amount of parrot magic in private/corporate shows.

As a matter of fact, we put Rusty into a hypnotic trance as part of a mentalism routine. If you want to see the hypnotism bit on Letterman, you can go to the Late Show website, click on DaveTV, click Big Show Highlights, scroll down and click on Nov 17th-Stupid Pet Trick. Enjoy.

Mark Obarka
RobertBloor
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Hey Mark,

How've you been?

Quote:
Especially parrots since they require hours of interaction on a daily basis.


Daily for sure. These birds are 'routine' animals. Change the routine and there will likely be hell to pay.

Recently Sara and I moved from Biloxi, MS back to Albuquerque, NM. During that process the play time with Rayme definitely was cut back. Boy did she let me have it when we finally settled!

Screaming. Biting. All around attitude problem.

But ya know what? These birds are SO routined that after two days back in "the usual routine", the screaming was cut in 1/2 and she's not nippy any more.

Anyone reading this post now or in the future. If your parrot is having behavior problems, my first recommended solution is to evaluate YOUR behavior first. 99% of the time if you change your behavior, even slightly, it can be the fix you need to help your bird.

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
JJDrew
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To add to the behavioral problem comment, the books "Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot" and "Birds for Dummies" provide a lot of insight as to what behavior of yours might be affecting the bird and how to go about correcting it to have a more harmonious relationship.

UPDATE: Feb 12, 2004

Ok, I have a behavioral issue. Usually Miko is a very cheerful bird. However, when he's in my room, sometimes he'll climb down from his cage, squeeze between it and the wall, and chew at both the wall and the cage while making a heartbreaking drawn-out whining/crying noise. He's not stuck there, he has complete freedom of motion, and if I pick him up and put him back on top of or inside the cage he's immediately cheerful again.

The only other time he makes this noise is occasionally when we're driving home from work in the evening and he's REALLY tired. It's his "I'm tired and the car is moving around and keeping me awake and I'm tired and it's dark out and I'm tired" noise.

Is he lonely? Is he making the noise to get my attention (If so, it's obviously working, though I don't go to him until he's silent for a bit)? He's just begun moulting and is a bit moodier than normal, is it related to that?

Any ideas?
RobertBloor
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JJDrew,

Ah the joys of "parront-hood".

Many birds will put themselves in what appears to us as a dangerous/stuck/jammed position only to have us run to the rescue. It may very well be the bird is seeking some more play time with you.

As for the molt - it's that time of year. I'm over in New Mexico and the cold dry temps have Rayme spilling down feathers and flights/tail feathers everywhere.

If your bird is molting, give it a little more leeway with the attitude. Try to imagine what it'd be like for you having to get new skin twice a year.

Also, try taking him in the shower with you. Let him get nice and wet. I know when Rayme is molting she absolutely loves a good bath twice a week. It helps the molt tremendously.

Other than that - patience.

Sounds like you're doing well.

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
JJDrew
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Miko certainly does love a good shower, he gets one twice a week and they'll be more frequent once the Phoenix summer begins. He tends to chirp his head off at full volume (I think he likes the echo in the enclosed space), I bust out singing and boy do we make a racket! Smile

I think the crying thing is because he wants to get out and about. Most days he either accompanies me to work, to visit other people, or to run errands (the folks at Home Depot love him and he likes riding on the cart). Anyway, I've tried to make sure we at least go for a walk every day and it seems to have fixed the problem. Nothing's more annoying and destructive than a bored parrot (except maybe a bored human child).

I'm beginning to see that he has quite a sense of humor as well. At first I thought this was coincidence, but I'm becoming convinced he does it on purpose. When he's at the store where I work he usually hangs out on the counter-top and chews on his toys. When customers come in, they rarely notice him until he moves. Well, he's begun to purposely freeze until they're near him, then he does something to draw attention to himself and watches them jump backward and yell when they realize that he's alive and not a toy or prank. Two days ago a lady leaned right over him, not six inches away from the top of his head, looking in the display case. He turned his head to look up at her and boy did she scream. He clearly gets a kick out of it. Since part of what the store sells is a section of practical jokes, he fits right in with the fun.
Lou Hilario
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JJdrew,What kind of act do you plan to use your parrot with? Pionus are small parrots.
Magic, Illusions, Juggling, Puppet & Parrot Show ^0^
http://www.louhilario.net
RobertBloor
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JJDrew,

It wouldn't surprise me if your little guy has seen the pattern in holding still and getting folks to react. Birds are brilliant like that.

My sister's Congo will let you get close and then "woof" at you. When you jump back the bird laughs.

You can't tell me that's not all planned out.

Sounds like you're doing well with him! Cheers!

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
JJDrew
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Small but smart! He loves chewing up playing cards and will willingly take a classic force (I have to watch him when I practice flourishes, he always wants to grab the cards). He's therefore a terrific method of revelation. "Ok, look at your card. Don't show me. Oh yeah, and don't show the bird either, OK? ..." He'll dangle willingly from my hand and we both enjoy the fun when I hold him up by the feet for a group of people and loudly ask, "Did anybody drop this?" You've heard of an alligator purse? It's got nothing on a parrot-pouch! Smile

On a more serious note, he's getting used to the idea of a dove pan, and since his species isn't well-known here, I'm planning a routine using a flaming dove pan where he'll play the part of a phoenix. It seems to be believable, someone asked me what species he was the other day and when I smilingly replied, "a phoenix" her response was, "Really? Oh neat! I've never seen a phoenix before!" (I'm not joking, she really said this).

If nothing else, I'll let him sit on a T-stand during the performance and eat an almond while I do the magic. Voila! Instant misdirection!

Basically I'll take the things he likes to do anyway and work them into the act. What sort of acts do you use parrots for?
Jkta99
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Sorry but I have not read all of the post on this thread but I work for a well respected Avian Veterinarian and just this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Bird Conference, at which Steve Martin spoke. If you don't know already Steve Martin has been training birds for over 20 years and the things that I learned from him are as follows:

1. People only get bit when they do not understand the signs that the bird is trying to give them. Steve said that of all the bird experts that study birds in the wild only three of them have ever seen a bird bite another bird to the point of bleeding. This means watch your bird and understand when they are not comfortable.

2. Birds have to want to do what you want them to do. So this means what is in it for your bird? Give him treats and such.(Things that he does not get everyday)

Steve made many good points and if you would be interested in some of the material that I recieved from him I would be happy to scan it and email it to you.

James

Here is my email if you would like to get in touch with me jkta99@aol.com
RobertBloor
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James,

Those are good points. I've said it before that the times Rayme has gone for flesh before were my fault cause I wasn't paying attention to her moods.

Thanks for your posts!

Robert Bloor
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
-The Declaration of Independence
sfx
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Hi All,

I am a childrens magician and have been seriously thinking about including birds in my act. I was origionally thinking of using doves. however I was recently given a Patagonian Conure as a gift. This is probably one of the most lovable birds I have come accross. As an absolute novice in this area where should I start with training the bird and are conures the type of birds which would work well in shows. To me my birds safety and well being are paramount so I would like to do this properly or not at all.

David
JJDrew
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To start out, look into the two books I mentioned earlier on this thread. They don't have much on teaching specific tricks, but they'll teach you how to interact with your bird, look out for its health and well-being, teach it basic good manners, and many other vital points.

Second, since most of the material about using birds in magic refers to doves, take it all with a grain of salt. Doves are fairly docile birds that in the wild spend a lot of time on the ground. Parrots and conures are generally VERY opinionated about what they like and don't like, and what they'll put up with. In addition they're built for climbing. They're a whole different animal. It's almost like comparing dog training and horse training. The techniques overlap, but what they'll willingly do differs greatly.

The best training takes natural behaviors and builds on them. As to whether or not a conure would work well in a show, it depends a lot on the individual bird (is it shy around strangers? Is it a born show-off?), and what you mean by working well. It depends what sort of show you have in mind.

Well, that's the most I can intelligently contribute. Most of the other people who have written on this thread can probably give you more detailed and better advice. Good luck to you with your conure, it sounds like a lovely bird.
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