Teaching A Bird To Step Onto A Perch

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I have a perch in my kitchen that adheres to my refrigerator, and when I bring Dreyfuss (my Maximillum Pionus parrot) in with me, I usually keep her there while I am cooking. However, I began noticing the other day that when I’d move my arm to the perch for her to ‘step up’ onto it, she was simply remaining standing on my wrist with her weight 10-19-dreyfuss-smon both legs. The problem kept occurring so I thought I’d take out my behavior analysis hat and try to figure out what was happening.

With more careful attention, I realized that I had begun for some reason getting a few seeds out as I moved my wrist to the perch. Initially, I pulled the seeds out after her pause for a split second near the perch and then she stepped onto the perch to get the seed (held on the other side of the perch). Being savvy to training, that really was all it took for that split second to become longer and I was holding treats in my hand at the time.

Ah, I was reinforcing her behavior of standing on my wrist when it was next to the perch because the consequence of her doing that was my pulling out the treat and luring her to step up. I was creating this problem.

People do this all the time with their pets. I was just working through this with one of my dog training clients the other day.

So, what did I do to resolve this problem with Dreyfuss? I held treats behind my back as I moved my wrist (with her on it) near the perch, and waited. I waited until she eventually stepped up onto the perch on her own, and then I said, ‘yes’ and gave her a treat. Then we practiced that some more.

Problem solved! At least this time. Behavior is always evolving, and we are always influencing each other’s choices. There will no doubt be future issues I will need to analysis. Beginning by stopping to think about the function of that behavior is a great start.


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