My brother just sent me this awesome video clip that shows why clicker training for birds is so powerful.
This footage is some of the very first clicker training sessions that he has done with his birds for a theatrical trick he is training them to perform in one of his shows called, Parrot FX; a show he will be performing at Silverwood Theme Parks in northern Idaho this year. I hope lots of you guys come out to see them, it should be a great show!
But I didn’t post this to tell you about his show…
I posted this to show you a perfect example of just how advanced clicker training can get with birds.
The end goal of this training routine is to have the bird hover in front of the fan and hover there for up to 30 seconds.
If you watch the video, obviously we have a lot more training to do to get that far, however the reason I wanted to share this with you is because if you listen carefully you can hear my brother ‘clicking’ the instant the bird hovers in front of the fan.
See what I mean by watching:
Did you notice how my brother clicked the instant the bird spread out it’s wings to hover?
Without using a clicker this trick would be impossible to train, because we need to communicate to the bird the exact instant she is doing something that we want her to do. If we were to say, “Good Bird”, just the time it takes to say would make it impossible to teach the bird what exactly we thought was good.
This is called, “Capturing” a behavior. Which means that our eventual goal is to take something our birds do naturally, and then put it on cue. In this case, our Rose Breasted Cockatoo is ‘Hovering’ naturally, and we want to capture that behavior of ‘Hovering’ and get her to repeat it when we ask.
But because we’ve conditioned the bird to know that a ‘click’ means she has just done something right at that specific instance, it will only be a matter of time before my brothers bird will start to hover longer and longer in-front of this fan to earn her ‘clicks and treats’. To be fair, this bird is no newbie to clicker training and will catch on only because she has already been clicker trained so many other, (much simpler) behaviors.
It’s a pretty advanced example, but a beautiful illustration of just how advanced clicker training with birds can get.
If you’re reading this and confused as to why in the heck this works, here’s a video we made to show you why clicker training for birds works, and how to get started teaching it to your bird.
Clicker Training For Birds 101 [A How To Get Started Video]
Remember that Timing Matters
The reason this is going to eventually work for my brother is that he ‘clicks’ when the bird is not flapping. If he were to click even a 1/4 second late when the bird started flapping again, he would confuse the bird and prolong how long this trick will take to train.
Luckily most people don’t need to have my brothers near perfect timing when just starting out clicker training their birds.
But that’s no excuse for not working on it!
The closer you can get to having the click happen the exact instant your bird does a behavior you want him to do.
If you’d like some practice with this and improving your timing, here’s a suggestion.
Pick up a copy of our Taming, Training & Tricks course and teach your bird the ‘Wave’ command that we teach in that video.
Once you’ve taught the trick, do this extra step to practice your timing… while your bird’s foot is up in the air waving at you, start clicking when he slightly wiggles one of his toes. Remember to click at the exact instant you see the toes wiggle or it won’t work. If necessary you can use your finger to gently poke your bird’s foot to induce a toe into wiggling.
Once it wiggles, click/treat and repeat using the principals we teach in our course for ingraining a behavior and in time, not only will your bird wave at you, but he’ll wave and wiggle his toes at the same time.
I’ll Even Bribe You To Do it!
I think this is such a helpful exercise for timing, that I’ll give the first person who sends a video of their parrot doing a wave with toe wiggling to us a $100 credit to anything in our store. Just send an email, with your video of the completed version of this toe wiggle trick to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line that says, “Chet Says I get $100’s of free stuff”, and we’ll ship it off to you as your prize.