Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Introductions and Updates

Well, I must apologise for how long it's taken for me to get back posting here.
For nearly two months I have barely been online due to a very nasty ear infection that due to my medications, health issues and history, I was not able to overcome.
I had surgery a couple of weeks ago to hopefully fix the problem. This means I can now get online without getting nauseous! WOOHOO!

Sooooo here are some updates on the birds and their training... I will admit that training took a back burner when I was sick as I noticed that my observation and reaction skills were poor and I was hampering new behavior training efforts.

Marnie has been maintaining her already learned behaviors well and is always ready to offer a wave if there is a pecan in sight.
She's been doing well with learning veterinary behaviors and was recently used as demo bird at a meeting of the Austin Parrot Society which concentrated on avian emergency care.
She has also been getting better about stepping up for other people.

Lucha is still the King of the Puffy Dance. Training sessions with him have to be very short as after any more than 5 minutes the feathers start fluffing and the whining starts and within a few seconds I am being displayed at.

We have made some small handling breakthroughs though! Lucha has never allowed me to touch him below the neck without a warning growl followed by a bite. But recently he has been tolerating quick, gentle touches of the back without giving any warnings.

Darwin is one hot mess of a bird.
After having weekly seizures of varying severity and lots of testing he has been officially diagnosed as having idiopathic epilepsy. Normal treatment is phenobarbitol, but we are trying to steer clear of that for as long as possible.
Close observation helped me realise that the seizures were normally following a stressful situation like the big birds squabbling, a loud noise or a blood draw. So, I have been trying to maintain a calm, stress free environment in the home to prevent the seizures. So far I have been somewhat successful, although it's hard to do as Darwin can be an instigator of stress a lot of the time.
Training new behaviors has become a challenge. If he gets to that point where he is not sure what you are asking of him and starts throwing out behaviors to see what gets him reinforced, it seems like he overloads his brain and he will have a small seizure. Established behaviors are not an issue and Darwin still recalls like a champ if there is a treat available.

And introducing...

Pip is a Black Capped Caique that I am fostering for Wings of Love Bird Haven. He came to me because he allegedly hated men... but I have not seen this at all! Infact Pip is one of the most social birds I have ever met. He happily steps up to everyone (male or female) with a cheery "Heeelooo".
Good news is that since being with me he has stopped the over preening and is slowely filling in his feathers.
A typical Caique he is very active and loves to hair surf... he also eats ANYTHING you offer him.
Pip is available for adoption through Bird Haven.

Puff was originally adopted from Bird Haven to a home in Austin last year. Unfortunately a combination of his fear, some bad advice and health problems in the family meant that he was returned to the Haven.
I picked him up about 6 weeks ago and have been slowly working with him since.
I first met Puff at Barbara Heidenreichs Workshop in Austin last year and he was already avoiding being handled. He responded well to Barbara targeting him around the cage though... so I was confident that he would learn to step up and have more trust in humans.
For the first couple of weeks I let him relax in his new big cage and get used to foraging and toys. Every time I entered the room I would walk over and offer him a treat. I then started leaving the door open so he could climb out... at first every time I came in the room he would run back in the cage, but after a couple of days he would stay on his door to get his treat.
A real breakthrough happened when I moved him into the bird room opposite Marnie... He was FASCINATED! Every interaction with Marnie was closely studied. I soon noticed this and thought here was a chance to use an adapted model/rival technique.
I started by offering them the same foraging toys. I would carefully load up Marnie's toy and then Puff's. He would watch her closely as she got out the treats and then use the same method to get into his own toy.
Normally I don't reinforce Marnie with a treat every time she steps up (because petting and spending time with me is also reinforcing for her), but with Puff watching I consitently cued, bridged and reinforced her (with his fav treat) for stepping up and down, making sure he could see well. I would then go to him and attempt the same. If he gave me his warning double click I would remove my hand and replace it with a perch (he showed no fear to this perch from the start), then repeat the cue. With in a couple of days he was jumping up on the perch on cue and from there we repeated the process onto my arm. He then went to spend the day on the play gym with Marnie and Lucha, carefully watching what Marnie was doing and eating. After about a week I started asking him to step up straight onto my arm from the play gym with immediate sucess.
Then surgery happened and Puff decided I was terrifying again (I did have a bandage around my head).
So for the past two weeks we have been slowely working back to where we were and this week he has been stepping up from the cage.
He's gradually regaining his confidence and I hope to be able to give him scritches in the future

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