How To Build a Bond with a Rescue Parrot


I was willing to work with Petrie. I was even willing to fail. But after a few weeks of Petrie not responding well to my presence, I was feeling discouraged. I know a lot of bird owners feel the same when trying to establish a bond with their birds. Be patient, don't give up. It pays off! 

Quaker Parrot "Petrie"

I know progress would be made much faster if I were more diligent with training sessions. However, due to having other responsibilities and to keep from becoming frustrated with Petrie, I've taken it slowly. It took a week for Petrie to go from taking food from a spoon to taking it from my hand...really about a dozen times feeding from the spoon before I attempted hand feeding and succeeded. This was important because training without reward is almost impossible, but he wouldn't take food from me, even if I dropped it in his bowl. So this was the first step to target training.

I started target training. I showed him the chopstick I wanted him to target. Parrots are naturally curious and he was likely to touch it just to check it out. He did! I clicked the clicker and offered him a safflower seed (his favorite treat). The second time he avoided the stick and contorted his body around it, so I placed it closer until he accidentally bumped it, clicked, gave him a treat. I did this a few more times before he took the initiative to touch it deliberately. Click. Treat. I ended that training session. 

I came back about an hour later and started again. He was again avoiding the stick but after about a minute he touched it. Click. Treat. A light bulb went off in his head - he quickly touched the stick, I clicked and he looked to my hand for the treat. That's all it took to teach him to target - 2 sessions, less than 10 minutes. 


Quaker Parrot, "Petrie", Target Training

Target training is the foundation of all other things to be trained, of trust between you and your bird. There are other ways, of course, but I've found target training to be the fastest, most positive way to get there. 

Fast forward 4 weeks and I can now target Petrie around his cage, in and out of it, across a table, and from the window sill to his cage (he flies). 

I highly recommend target training as a hands-off, positive way to start building trust with your rescued parrot.


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