Round One


One-eye is incredibly quick, in every sense of the word. I have some concerns about setting us both up for failure, but he’s raised my expectations surprisingly quickly. Today’s session picked up where we left off– he associates a food reward with a bridge (verbal click), and last session we introduced the cue– two short, sharp taps on the glove to call him to it. We did a few repetitions of this last time. We have already weeded out having the reward visible, and he’s gotten good at waiting for it to be presented. We’ve moved into variable reinforcement as well. Today we started with short hops and quickly moved to longer flights, always with the cue. He was very keen– almost too keen.

With him, it will be a challenge to train him to come only when given the cue, as I ended up with a hawk unexpectedly scrabbling at my shoulder and upper arm when he anticipated my call and came before I was ready. Neat breakthrough: I reinforced the cue with quite a few repetitions, then transferred the cue to a nearby perch. You could see him thinking about it, but he went for it after a moment’s hesitation and got rewarded. The rest of the session, he was targeting perfectly to anything I cued him to, including calling him to a perch and then to the glove for a jackpot. Great bird! Eager to see if the targeting will work to get him into the carrier…

Big Girl:

Big Girl is a picky, picky eater. We have not gone much further yet than trying to associate the bridge with presentation of food. The challenge is that she rarely wants what she’s offered– and if she does want it, she wants to eat it in large chunks. She was more interested in food bits today, however, so I took advantage of it and did two short sessions with as many repetitions as I could manage. By the end of it, she was flinging them everywhere instead of eating them, but she was looking at the glove when I clicked. We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes to get her ready to work.

The interesting thing was that although One-eye was not able to see myself or Big Girl, he could hear us perfectly well– and the repetition of the bridge was driving him bonkers! Made a note in the log to move him before training her next time.


Twitch is a bit of a mystery to me. She’s a big tough female, but she’s afraid of everything. Despite the nickname, it’s less a twitchy fear than a catatonic one, and she’s incredibly wary of everything. She pulls at her jesses, bates through doorways, flares her wings at the slightest provocation, and despises her carrier. Both she and One-eye came to us recently from another centre, so I’m not sure what her training history is… but for now, we have an anxious but beautiful mess on our hands.

Yesterday was Twitch’s first session — she sat on the perch with her wings out and hackles up and stared at the wall. She would not look at food, even when presented at beak-level, no matter how enticing it was. Eventually she made minor progress, but it was all-in-all disheartening enough that I wasn’t expecting much today.

I started small — she’s decently comfortable eating food from the glove while on the glove, but wouldn’t take food from the glove while on a perch. I gave her a few small pieces on the glove to get her started (using the bridge), then set her down on her perch and offered tidbits at beak level. Success! After a few repetitions of that, we went down to chest level, and then to foot level. There were a few interruptions, but she did very well all things considered, and we are quite a few steps ahead of where we were yesterday. I’m hoping this continues tomorrow!

Wee One:

This was Wee One’s first session. She very obviously had no idea at all what I wanted her to do– and I made a mistake in cutting her food pieces far too large and neglecting to wet them first. She filled up much faster than anticipated and got distracted by trying (and trying and trying) to put her crop over. She’s eager but undisciplined right now. Next session: smaller, slicker pieces, and we’ll give it another go!

Overall Challenges:

  • The birds are all fat. All of them. Not necessarily a bad thing, but response will be a bit slow until the weights sort themselves out.
  • New birds incoming: Two owls arriving next week, another RTHA possibly coming later in the month. I may need to cut down sessions with these guys (transfer them to other staff) to start with the new crew. We’ll have to see.

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Filed under Big Girl, One-eye, Twitch, Wee One

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