Tag Archives: Ouch

A Sticking Point

Today was a wash on all fronts. The cold overnight dropped One-eye and Big Girl’s weight faster than expected. I thought I’d fed them both up yesterday and was expecting them to have gained weight, but instead they were ravenous and had either held even or dropped. This is mostly a psychological hunger rather than a physical one, but it doesn’t make it any less ‘real’ to the birds or to their trainers. It just means that even though they are healthy and in good shape (nowhere near to being ‘lean’ let alone starving), their brains are evaluating the temperature and how much they got to eat yesterday, calculating the difference, and are reporting back with “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IF YOU DO NOT EAT MORE”. I should have given them a day off and fed them both up. Hindsight is 20/20.

I did a session with Big Girl in the morning that went nicely, so I thought I could leave her be for a few hours. Long story short, the result of that decision is three punctures/scrapes and associated bruises on my upper arm. My fault, again– but the result is that I fed her up so much she could barely swallow. I hope that takes the edge off for her, and puts her back into ‘work mode’ without stuffing her all the way up to ‘bored and disinterested’.

One-eye was the same, if not worse. A frustrated, frantic ball of feathers. He wasn’t listening well enough to get rewarded, and that was making him offer progressively more uncontrolled behaviours (which also didn’t get him rewarded) until it culimated in him bumping into a window and having the closest thing to a honest-to-god teenaged hissy fit that I have ever witnessed in a raptor. With a coworker’s help, we switched gears to some long glove-to-glove flights down the indoor hallway to work out some of his energy and ensure enough rewards to calm him down. By the end of the session he was tired, full, and much more reasonable to handle.

Live and learn– and I will make it up to them later. Luckily for me, raptors live in the moment and rarely hold grudges!


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Filed under Big Girl, One-eye


Despite the title, today was a good day. Even with the depressing amount of paperwork I needed to attend to and the fact that I was teaching all morning, I got quite a few training sessions in.

Blinky and Kohl:

Approach-retreat (also called ‘pressure and release’) is not having much of an impact on Kohl, but Blinky is showing progress. Kohl is very food oriented, so we may change her training style in the near future and focus on food response. Blinky let us touch her toes today, which is great– and both of them are getting multiple sessions a day from multiple trainers. I am hoping to see some marked progress in the next week or two.


Because of the progress Twist made yesterday, her trainer and I did a session together. She was very nicely behaved and continued to show improvement from yesterday, but we’d like to see her stop ‘stabbing’ at the food with her beak, and hope that will come in time as she realizes that the food is a constant that won’t be taken away from her once presented. Her first ‘step-up’ was actually footing the glove and trying to pull it closer so that she could get the food (bad manners!), but by the end of the session she was stepping up nicely without being too keen.

Her trainer took over in the afternoon, and from the notes in the training log, it sounds like they had a good session!  It’s going to be great to watch this bird’s progress.

Big Girl:

Poor Big Girl. She was used twice in program this morning, which doesn’t happen frequently, and she tolerated it with good grace… but when I put her back in her mew the second time with no sign of food reward or clicking, she gave me a “SERIOUSLY, IT IS TIME FOR TRAINING NOW” look.  Well… to be fair, it was probably more of a “where the hell is my food, pathetic human slave” sort of thing, but still.

Morning session went nicely. She started offering step-ups halfway through, which was great– we did about 25 repetitions. The afternoon session was really an ‘evening’ session, and by the time I got her inside and ready to go, she was beside herself.  I should have let another staff member do her session earlier, mea culpa. Still, we made the best of it– when I realized she was too hungry to work rationally, I gave her a decent hunk of chicken and let her rip it apart. She ate every scrap, including all the bone, and when she had finished feaking she was ready to work. A few of her step-ups were a little hackled and grabby, but for the most part she was very good and went back like an angel.

Tomorrow, I’ll make sure she gets worked earlier in the day.

“Food now?”


Today was interesting with One-eye– in our morning session, I took him out into the lunchroom to try and work him over longer distances. At longer distances, however, his poor vision became more of an issue. He missed perches left, right, and centre– skittered on to the floor, nearly landed on my head, and popped onto the window sill once. I should have started with shorter jumps to get him used to the new place. Luckily, he learned fast, and midway through the session he was much better. Unfortunately, we got interrupted by some incoming staff who wanted to observe and chat, and as soon as my attention was off One-eye, One-eye’s attention was completely off me. He was bored and irritable by the end of the session, and quite frustrated by the cue/no-cue thing.

Our evening session was quick and dirty, and entirely based on only rewarding a flight to the glove when cued. He is, I think, about 65% of the way there. We had a few more ‘visible checks’, when he starts to initiate flight when I raise the glove, doesn’t see the cue, and checks himself. Usually, he comes instantly when cued. Every so often, though, he has a fit– he comes repeatedly to the glove when I haven’t cued, and ignores me when I cue. I think (I hope) that it’s an extinction burst, and that it will be followed by him cementing the behaviour firmly in his brain.

Considering he’s been trained for years to come to a raised glove with no cue, extinguishing this behaviour is probably taking longer than it otherwise would. I’m really proud of him, even when he has his ‘hissy fits’!

Wee One was displeased that I was training so late, and tried to eat my finger. Little duck.

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

Volunteer Day

Today was not a normal day to begin with, and my attention– admittedly– wasn’t on the birds. We had a crew of volunteers in from another centre for training, which was going to take up most of the day. I did a restraint demonstration, and we did health checks on all the birds in the outdoor pens.

Unfortunately I only had about three hours of sleep last night, and I hadn’t eaten. I was fumbly and muzzy-headed, and manipulating raptor beaks and talons when you’re not feeling well is about as smart as juggling knives when drunk. I have a modest number of punctures and bruises to serve as an abject lesson to myself in the future. That said, I am happy to report that everyone out in the pens is fat and happy, despite the snow and cold.

Due to the heavy workload and the extra bodies, training was hit or miss today.  Still good for the most part, though!

Big Girl:

We definitely crossed a line overnight. The cold weather may have done it– she went from keen to aggressive, and was snappy this morning when I went to weigh her. She did step up nicely, and was good to weigh. I figured the aggression was due to her weight dropping a bit too much overnight, and did a session with her right there on the scale to get some food in her. She was great. No hesitation! But as I knew I’d be busy and wouldn’t be able to get to her again until late in the afternoon, and the food I’d given her wouldn’t last her through the day, I took her for a short walk and then– once she was back in her mew– I wrapped up a food reward in a tube of newspaper and tied it into a knot.

Big Girl is a bird that needs a lot of environmental enrichment in general, but this ‘toy’ was new to her and sometimes she ignores food rewards even when they’re hidden, so I wasn’t sure if she’d go for it. I should probably trust the eagle: when I checked on her a few moments later, a snowstorm of finely shredded newspaper had exploded all over her mew, and the food reward (judging by the content squint she gave me) was eaten.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to her in the afternoon, her patience was long gone. She was far too keen for food, and she met me at the very end of her tether, lunging when she saw the food bag. Although I did get in some hand feeding, it was pretty obvious that she was too irritable and hungry to be in the game. I left her with a large hunk of rat and some chicken, and we’ll see what she’s like tomorrow morning. There’s a pretty narrow line for her between “I will flick this to the ground, because it doesn’t interest me and neither do you” and “GIVE ME THE FOOD I WILL DIE I AM DYING RIGHT NOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GET OVER HERE IMMEDIATELY!” Obviously, neither of these extremes is conducive to learning.

Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully the larger meal will take the edge off and we’ll be ready to try again.


The champion of today! Twitch was great. She sat on the perch and took food rewards very nicely. I had to do a few at chest height, but mostly she ate them from foot-level. She took quite a few on presentation after hiding (the movement of the glove on reveal scared her yesterday, so I was very slow today and she managed much better). Better, the two step-ups I got yesterday were leveled-up to ten nice step-ups and one good hop.

She did get ‘stuck’ staring twice– I don’t know what else to call her strange shell-shocked behaviour– but she seemed to snap out of it a bit faster than before. I saved some food to reinforce on the way back to her mew (through the scary hallway), which worked well enough that I will continue to do it in future sessions. My food held out all the way through the scary hallway, and she was calm on glove the whole way… but I ran out of food rewards just as I got to her mew, and the anticipation of being free and away from me was too much for her to sit quietly.  Ah well, live and learn– I’ll work on that tomorrow.

For a few seconds today, when she had stepped up nicely and settled on glove, I got a glimpse of the bird I hope she’ll soon be– the one behind all this blank staring and wariness of everything and everyone. Maybe I imagined it, but she seemed entirely different for just that moment in time. I am eager to see that again.


I was a complete jerk to One-eye today. I used him as an ‘example’ training lesson for the visiting volunteers. He was a trooper, targeting very nicely considering there were 16 extra bodies crammed into the room to watch him work. Obviously the extra distraction made things take a little longer, but he was pretty good at ignoring everyone. We did work a bit on trying to get him to come only when cued, and I think I saw some improvement, but it’s hard to tell with all of the other factors in play.

He was being so good and the volunteers were so interested in the training that I let a few other people try to give him his cue to come to glove. This went surprisingly well, but you could almost see the Metal Gear-style “?” pop up over his head when the first volunteer called him to glove. By the end of it, he was distracted and a little frazzled by all the new people, so I ended the session with some short basic hops. Tomorrow, it’s back to just him and I, and I’m looking forward to it.

With all the hustle and bustle, Wee One got the day off. I’ll try to double up tomorrow to make up for it. We’re off to meet a new RTHA that may be coming home with us, so it’ll all depend on timing.

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Filed under Big Girl, One-eye, Twitch