Blinky’s Pantaloons

Although I was supervising an event elsewhere in the park for the morning, I got a chance to spend a good amount of time with the birds in the afternoon. I did a training session with an especially beloved volunteer using Wee One’s older brother, which went very well. One-eye came down nicely from free-loft, and doesn’t seem to have gotten too big for his britches considering his unexpected overnight freedom. The two new owls were a study in contrasts….


Kohl is a difficult bird to read. Compared to Blinky, she seems more ‘well adjusted’ to the hustle and bustle of her new surroundings… but she’s also the more flighty of the two. Today’s session involved opening the door to her pen and waiting until the count of three, then clicking on retreat. The first time, she was excellent. The next time, her ‘flight’ response tripped– and she didn’t calm down until I’d left for a while. I think I moved too quickly, based on an assumption that she was the calmer of the two birds. I will take a step backwards for the next session, and perhaps work only on opening the door a tiny amount– or perhaps even standing in front of her pen.


Blinky, on the other hand, showed more progress than I was expecting. I was able to open the pen door and lift the glove up to the platform she was sitting on. I could get about 6 inches away before her ‘pantaloons’ (our nickname for their lower belly and leg feathers) puffed out in alarm. For the record, raptor pantaloons are utterly adorable. When a red-tail’s pantaloons get wind-blown or the down layer underneath pops out, I always inform them that their underwear is showing.

Anyway, just like with Kohl, I held for three seconds and then clicked on retreat. After five or six repetitions, she stopped lifting her feathers on approach and was content to just stay still. For a brand new owl, that’s pretty amazing progress! We’ll see what she does next time!

Big Girl:

One of my coworkers did Big Girl’s morning session, and I did a quick afternoon follow-up. Her weight is back up, but she’s still fairly responsive. Just a session full of bridging on presentation of food, and Mrs. Picky deigned to eat most of what she was offered. She does not like legs, but she seems to be getting over her dislike of chick heads. Thank god.

She was calm and attentive throughout. I think it’s time to start testing her to see if she understands the bridge. When she was finished, she feaked all over the glove. She’s such a good girl now, after her period of randomly-directed aggression earlier in the fall. Big doof.


One-eye, as I said, came down to the glove pretty nicely from being freelofted– I was worried I’d either have to chase him around, or that he’d be so eager that he’d nail me in the face as soon as I walked in. It’s always nice to avoid extremes! Luckily, he was lean today and ready to work. We worked on the ‘point’ cue today, which he is getting very good at now– he is getting a little more prone to anticipating my point, which leads to some interesting mid-air corrections when he realizes I didn’t cue to the perch he expected me to. Still, I am finding I can point from further and further away, and he quite deliberately follows the line of my arm to the nearest perch and goes there.

Two new things: one, I tried to work some jump-ups from a perch on the ground to my glove held above my head. He was quick to come up, but his missing eye gave him some trouble and he seemed to avoid the perch he was supposed to land on more often than not. He ended up on buckets, a chair, and a leaning perch that was drying after being washed. The second new thing is that he may finally be getting the picture in regards to cues– that I want him to stay where he is unless he’s cued to the glove. He ignored a lifted glove three times in a row, twice, and then came immediately when I cued him. That said, he also came to the lifted glove repeatedly without being cued earlier in the session, so it may just be coincidence. We’ll keep working on it.

I flew him in the hallway at the end of the session, since he seems to enjoy it. Four 75′ flights, and he wasn’t winded. Not bad for a one-eyed, “retired” and massively out-of-shape hawk. I hope he’s enjoying his new life as a Genius Bird as much as we’re enjoying having him here!


I’m off work for three days, because it is my birthday weekend. I may go in on Monday to train– or not, depending on timing. Regardless, enjoy your weekends, and updates shall resume when training does!



Filed under Big Girl, Blinky, Kohl, One-eye

8 responses to “Blinky’s Pantaloons

  1. K

    Here from your DA! Just wanted to say that this blog is fascinating, and I’m really enjoying everything I’ve read so far. Forgive my ignorance, but I was wondering if you could maybe supply those of us with a lack of raptor training experience (but an interest nonetheless!) with some meanings to some of your training/bird terms? I feel like I’m getting the gist from context, but would love it if you’d be able to clarify a few? Looking forward to your next update! 🙂

    • Hi there!

      Sure, I can do that– could you help me out by identifying what you’d like clarified? I can make a glossary based on that and other terms as they pop up. Thanks for reading!

  2. K

    Oh goodness, that’s embarrassing, I meant to include that. On the plus side, the second read through’s picked up a few clarifications that I actually missed the first time (like ‘bridge’), so yay! I also managed to figure out the four letter abbreviations for the birds, save for one – AMKE. American Kestrel?

    crop/cropped up
    spinning on the glove (while I can work out what this is, I’m curious as to the problem it presents)

    That’s all I can find this time!

    • K

      …I fail at this comment system already. Wow.

    • Yep, AMKE = American Kestrel. I’ll try to put up a list of the alpha codes for the raptors soon!

      The crop is a storage organ for food in many bird species. All raptors except owls have them. When training using food reward, non-owl raptors swallow food into their crop first. It fills up (or they ‘crop up’), and it makes a visible lump– when the crop is full, they have to ‘turn the crop over’ or ‘put the crop over’ (which, depending on the bird, can either be a quick head bob or the Broadway production of the century…) to move food from the crop to the stomach. Some birds can hold a lot in their crops, but Wee One fills up so quickly that training for any length of time is a bit of a challenge.

      A mew is the raptorial equivalent to a stable– it’s where they live. Interchangeable with ‘enclosure’, ‘pen’, etc. They can either be tethered in their mew, or free-lofted– free-lofting is being at liberty in their pen. In falconry, birds are usually only free-lofted during the moult. Our birds are generally free-lofted unless they are in active training. For young birds, free-lofting too often or too early can lead to some behavioural/attitude problems, or at the very least make training take a lot longer than it needs to.

      Feaking is rubbing/conditioning the beak on a surface. Here’s a video of a red-tailed hawk doing it on her perch. It’s a sign of a content, comfortable bird.

      The new RTHA’s spinning on the glove is a behavioural issue– a) it doesn’t look ‘good’ in front of a group (she flaps and sometimes trips herself), and b) it gets her equipment tangled and the handler is constantly untwisting her jesses. It’s not neurological, it’s just a behaviour she’s learned to do when stressed to keep watch on her surroundings– she turns in the direction of the blind eye. I am pretty sure this behaviour will go away as she gets more comfortable, as it did with One-eye.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

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