Macaws on bicycles, cockatoos raising flags, conures snatching dollar notes from audience members. These are images that often come to mind when the word “training” is mentioned in conjunction with parrots. While it is true that training is responsible for those resulting entertaining tricks, this short list of behaviors is a gross understatement of the endless potential training with positive reinforcement affords avian species in our care.Training is simply teaching. When we train an animal with positive reinforcement we give it information on what it can do to earn desired outcomes. What behaviors we choose to teach are limitless. In addition to training birds for entertainment, we can use this form of communication to address behavior problems, to manage birds on exhibit, to teach birds to cooperate in their own medical care and/or to allow us to facilitate captive breeding practices.
Training is Science Based
Although training birds in general is not a new concept to avian enthusiasts, understanding the science behind training is just recently gaining momentum. The science behind training is called behavior analysis. This science focuses on how organisms learn. And truly we are all students of this science on a daily basis whether we are conscious of our application of its principles or not. Current trends in animal training choose to focus on using elements of this science that focus on kind and gentle strategies to create desired behavior and reduce undesired behavior. This includes avoiding the use of positive punishment and negative reinforcement. In its place, trainers learn the art and skill of applying positive reinforcement to gain cooperation.