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Old 10-24-2019, 10:47 PM
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Re: parrot flying exercises - outdoors?

Donít even think about flight outside the house, even in a batting cage until youíve done a few things first:

Recall Training
Recall in the safety of your home is complete different from recall in a new place. Parrots get distracted by new environments. Your bird will likely be hesitant to recall in a new place. Even if you bring them out to socialise in new environments all the time, you will need to train your bird to be able to recall in new settings (many default to a freeze or flight).

Desensitisation/Bombproof Training
Now, no bird is going to be bomb proof, but you have to train for anything you can think of. A batting cage sounds like a contained area, but what if it collapses, a bird dive bombs to attack, the spacing is large enough for your bird to dive through, etc? Even if you were in a gymnasium, what if the doors opened?

Those sudden sounds can spook a bird and send him out of range. A sudden light streaming in can also trigger a bird to fly. I know our little guy is alarmed when he hears crows and other birds of prey.

What if some idiot human starts distracting your bird? (Yes, I had a child throw a water bottle at Cairo before.)

These are all examples of sounds and distractions you need to train for.

Descent Training
Your bird is probably used to the height and safety of home. That means he might not know the basics of flight navigation - wind, steep descent, etc. You have to prepare him for the heights he might have to navigate from. Itís easy to go up, but itís another to go down. A bird who doesnít know how to descend steeply is likely to get stuck in a tree/rafter for hours or even days (yes, Iíve seen this happen).

Stamina Training
This is contentious for some, but you have to read your birdís body language. A domesticated bird donít have the stamina of wild birds because they just donít get the flight time. And if they fly in the house, itís normally in short bursts (think a sprint versus a marathon). You need to train for a marathon. And tbh, itís easy to tell if a bird is new - they donít glide worth a beep. But you also need to learn how to not push your bird too hard. Cairo often flies to me, checking if he can land; Iíll wave and ask him to ďkeep goingĒ; if heís tired, he hovers like a helicopter and then I have him land immediately, but if heís got a tiny bit of energy left, heíll go for another loop around. Now, if you donít establish this basic communication safely, your bird will land elsewhere.

You must never assume your bird is fully-trained and itís a done deal. You must keep practicing as if your bird is untrained. People who think ďoh, heís fully-trained, weíve done so many good flightsĒ are also the most likely to lose their birds. You keep training the basics.

Other things to look up - boomerang, ascending, contact call, etc.

Do NOT attempt flight outside your home until you have established the basics of above. And when you step outside your home to conduct training, have your bird on a harness and start with recall that just requires your bird to HOP from training perch to your hand.

The free-flying community where I live also recommends never putting your bird on a perch other than the training perch or yourself. You do NOT want your bird to think that perching just randomly anywhere is safe - they do not have the instincts/experience of wild birds. They also recommend training your bird to recall to one person and one person ONLY. The more people your bird is trained to recall to, the higher the risk.

Outdoor Factors
Birds of prey have snatched up large birds (I know of one African Grey) before while in their backyard in urban settings before. Can you train your bird to not get taken by a hawk? No.

Crows and other predators (including humans) have chased off birds before. I have seen bng macaws getting chased off by crows and lost forever. Can you train your bird to fend off a murder of crows? No.

In fact, one of the best trainers on the forum lost his bombproof macaws to a human flailing around with a ladder - the macaw took off and was taken by another human. Can you control your bird being spooked and avoid being taken in by another human? No.

My vet doesn't even take in ff-ers. They run too high a risk of picking up diseases, and she doesn't want to put her other patients at risk of catching a disease from the ff-ers (F10 can only take care of so much). It's a known but hush-hush fact in ff-ing communities that they catch and spread diseases through silent carriers. Can you train your bird not to catch a disease? No.

Free flying and recall is pure training. That being said, all the pro free flyers will tell you:

If you do want to attempt flight out of your home, you must accept the fact that your bird might get lost.
Full stop. Period. This is a risk you must be aware of and must be willing to take. No matter how well-trained your bird is, you cannot account for everything (Murphyís Law to live by). And these free-flying folks who say this even attach a $2k GPS tracker on their birds and still expect to lose them.

How Cairo does it
Some context on where I'm coming from: my bird was a free-flyer with his previous family. Thoroughly trained with a professional guiding Cairo's previous owner. And Cairo lives to fly - I could never take that away from him. We do fly outdoors on a harness and a Kevlar line in a park where it is not a claimed territory by any predator, except for humans who show up later in the day. There are predators that occasionally fly through, like crows and a few sea birds, but we don't fly when they're in the vicinity and the moment I see them, Cairo calls out to me and I recall him in. I keep in touch with my local ff-ing communities, and I respect that they have the ability to risk losing their bird to a variety of factors. While Cairo doesn't cost as much as the macaws and other birds they fly, he means too much to me to let go. And the moment Cairo shows signs of not keeping up with his training, I stop all outdoor flights (even if we always use a kevlar line) until he is solid again. I am incredibly strict on him for his own safety.

My position on this is to neither discourage nor encourage you, but to let you be aware of the risks and basic yet mandatory steps to take.
Parront to Cairo (pronounced chai-row, or 菜肉)*!
*He grew up in a Malay-speaking family, so we have to respect his name and preferred pronunciation

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