Parrots are highly intelligent and intuitive. These birds have been monitored and tested for their cognitive and intellectual abilities and the results have shown that they possess a similar intelligence level to that of a young human child. For many owners part of the appeal of parrots is the ability to teach them tricks. Teaching new parrot tricks is not only entertaining for both the owner and the parrot but it has the added benefit of helping improve the parrots behavior and it has a positive effect on the sociability of the bird also.
Teaching a parrot is similar to teaching a child in that you should keep the sessions short and impactive and do not let boredom or tiredness become a factor which could possibly turn the training session into a negative experience for the parrot. Other similarities include waiting to start the session until both owner and parrot are ready, make sure the location is free from any distractions and it is important that your chosen location is well lit and your parrot is comfortable in his training environment. As parrots are very intuitive the owner needs to make sure that they are calm and free of stress when they start the training as any sign of impatience of frustration will be picked up by your parrot and will have a detrimental affect on your parrots learning.
A basic tick that is the most common to begin with is teaching the parrot to ’step up’. This involves the parrot stepping onto the object that the owner places in front of him such as fingers or a forearm for larger birds. For best results a piece of food should be used to entice the bird to ’step up’ onto the desired object and the owner using a calm steady voice to say ’step up’. Once the bird has completed the ’step up’ the food is given to the parrot as the reward and positive reinforcement. This simple task will be the one most performed throughout the parrot’s lifetime.
A further trick that can be taught is to ‘turn around’. This occurs when the parrot is on its perch and you offer him a piece of food. As the parrot moves toward the food you move it slowly behind the parrot who now has to turn his head completely around to see and ultimately get the food. Some types of parrots have to be gently encouraged to complete a full turn whilst others will do a complete turn on the perch unprompted. Once the parrot has completed the turn then the food is given once again as the reward.
Probably the most popular form of training is teaching your parrot to speak which is very entertaining but also has the benefit of solving a potential problem if the bird screeches too much trying to get attention. The best way to start is with just one word containing one or at the most two syllables. The majority of owners try and teach their parrot ‘hello’ as the first word but whatever the word is, the owner repeats the word slowly and evenly until you get a response from the bird. The response may not sound like the word you are teaching the parrot but it should be given a food reward at this point as ultimately you are trying to get the parrot to respond to the human voice. Owners will then need to keep repeating this particular technique until the parrot starts to mimic the word at which point the owner can move on to a new word and ultimately increase the parrots vocabulary.