September 20th, 2005

Some 2bit thoughts on harness letters

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It started with this letter

From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Mon Sep 19, 2005 6:14 pm
Subject: My 2bit on harness

Hello Cindy and Melani,

There are times I wish I just remain quiet or not even get
into this list to talk of harness.

Never have I said that harness is a cure all. But instead of
drawing a curtain over the use of harness, I set out the conditions
in which harness can be used to take out your parrot safely.

All these years you have seen for yourself that Tinkerbell would be
out with me , many times from dawn to dusk.

When we were together at home, almost religiously, we would be going
through all kind of recalls and go-to exercises. She would be cued to
go to another room and cued to get back to me out of sight, maybe 20-30
times each night, in four to five sessions. (I tried to fit that into
TV commercials). Of course, when we were outside, she did plenty of

Even with superb recalls, I knew I could not rely on my vigilance to be
100% at all times when we were outside from dawn to dusk.

When she was out in times of calm, I have written before that even when
she was in flight elsewhere, or circling above, she would come out of
that at my cue to return to me. I know only of a few who can get their
parrot to 'turn'.

Yet I find I cannot mentally as yet rely on such recall training and
bonding to hold my parrot with me in case of spooked flights. Perhaps
what happened to her at her first free flight was a coincidence that
never be repeated again, she spooked and later, was further attacked by
a pigeon size bird which send her off to the horizon.

Neither could I rely on 'vigilance' alone from dawn to dusk. The
harness is to avoid inflicting the consequence of your mistake on your
poor parrot.

My thoughts on commercial harnesses are well known. has some of those letters.

When you are there, take a look at "Playing music to ducks". That may
be some of the factors that you never see , or hear, when you 'think'
all is well when you take your parrot out. Or go into June 2005 to
read what I wrote on "spooking zones".

Take your time in getting your parrot used to harness. I cannot stress
enough that this process can never be rushed. Take a very soft ribbon
to play with your parrot. Loop it around the head as a game. Drap it
on her body. Do all you can to get her used to it.

Forcing a harness on a parrot is a serious mistake. You all have so
many years ahead that a couple of months more, or less, should be

Take your time, it will be time well spend.

Warmest regards



From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:02 pm
Subject: Re: My 2bit on harness -Cindy

Hi Cindy,

Then you know the very circumstances how the harness on Tinkerbell
came about. Its interesting what I wished for in those earlier
letters actually took place as I hoped for. That she could come with
me to the many beautiful parts of Taiwan.

I envy your crow. Long ago, I had a Nias Island Hill Mynah, the
largest sub species of Hill Mynah. Most unfortunately, that was
during a time when little of training , or keeping , was known and he
was kept all the time in a large cage. I cringe now when I thought of
the miserable life I inflicted on him in my past igorance. Your crow
has you, which is must better than that HM with me at that time.

The best harness for your crow is the one that you have to make
yourself. That you can fit exactly and loosely on him.

I wrote enough, and have so many photos on the different stages of
making that harness. I cannot recommend any commercial harnesses at

Make sure the leash length is always appropriate. Maybe 4 feet long

Get your crow to let you stroke his back and under the wings as a
game. Get ribbons around the neck and stroke him at the same time
also as a game. Then you slowly go on to headloop and the rest of
the harness.

Training times are bonding times too. I do not think you can ever
spend too much time on bonding and training, provided that is
enjoyable to both.

Birds are intelligent. They know the limitations of harness and
leash. You too got to do your part and be careful as to where you
fly him.

Do have fun.


--- In, "Cindy" <crowcalling@a...> wrote:
> Shanlung,
> I apologize. I sort of jumped in/interrupted this thread after
> seeing your initial response. I've been away from this list for a
> long while, but it was your posts that I remember most - when you
> lost Tinkerbell for that time. I was so impressed with your story
> and your initiative to create your own solutions.
> I would like to be able to take my crow outside - other than
> always in a carrier. I might re-look at creating my own harness.
> I've noticed during training and playing that my crow is fine with
> flying while holding a long telephone cord in his beak. It doesn't
> slow him down at all being a very strong flyer and quite acrobatic -

> in fact he enjoys it!
> I might start there - since this is the behavior he has offered
> me. I also always gently drap things like ribbons around his
> shoulders during play. He does very well with that.
> I've made many mistakes with my birds out of ignorance and still
> do. Currently I am training my crow to go into his carrier on cue
> and it is taking a very long time. Right now he will open the door
> himself and walk in for treats, staying inside for about 4-5
> seconds. This is hard behavior to teach a crow I've been told, and
> harder for him because of my forcing him inside in the past for vet
> visits.
> Strong recall and going into his carrier are first so that I can
> at least take him to other safe indoor locations and retrieve him
> easily. He recalls - but only when it suits him - or if he sees me
> leaving, he always flys to me, not wanting me to be out of his
> Regards,
> Cindy


From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:56 pm
Subject: Re: My 2bit on harness - Chris

The biggest hurdle is that TInkerbell is not with me. I get
to see her only when I visit Taiwan as I did for a month in mid June
this year.

All circumstances are different. Taiwan is too beautiful a country
not to explore. We would be going to new places all the time and in
rugged terrains, many of which were never repeated again. Even when
we go to the same location, the places were never repeated to
develope any familiarity.

I knew my time there may be ending, and I like to go to as many
places as I could.

As mentioned in earlier letters, we would be out almost from dawn to
dusk, either on motorbike, or walking on paths. The carrier was only
used in bad weather.

Our travellings were not going to a familar spot, fly the bird, and
back home. As said, the circumstances of what we do and how we do
may be different from others. She was very much an integrated part of
all our activities the entire day. I would like to think even those
with very much tighter training than what I have done may have
hesitated in taking their parrots out the entire day/days and almost
always to new places. Many of those places are so rugged that search
and recovery cannot even be imagined. Her safety must always be my
top priority.

Even in evening outings after work, we almost always go to different

In that last month before we left Taiwan, her harness was always
removed when we were in the apartment neighbourhood. Recalls were
always from A to B that time. Maybe it was getting dark, or she was
getting tired after the day, but she never did those aerial arabesque
that she would do earlier in harness.

But she was entirely free around the neighbourhood.

So is un-harnessed freeflight only around home or in the same
familiar location all the time full freeflight?

Or flights in new constantly changing locations and out from dawn to
dusk less than full freeflight beause a safety restraint is in used?

Maybe those questions can ever be answered and we all need to seek
our own roads to walk on.



--- In, "Chris Biro" <chrisbiro@s...>
> Hello Shanlung,
> > Yet I find I cannot mentally as yet rely on such recall training
> > bonding to hold my parrot with me in case of spooked flights.
> > what happened to her at her first free flight was a coincidence
> > never be repeated again, she spooked and later, was further
attacked by
> > a pigeon size bird which send her off to the horizon.
> I cannot help ask what seems like an obvious question as I read
your account
> here. Is it possible that it is because of your use of a harness
that you
> cannot take that next step to actually fly your bird at this point?
Has it
> become such a crutch that you are not trying other approaches and
> both your skills where they need to be advanced? I am pleased with
the great
> amount of fun you two have enjoyed and I know the list members have
> enjoyed your accounts of your adventures. But I cannot help wonder
if your
> harness is not YOUR biggest obstacle. Sorry if this may sound a bit
harsh. I
> wish only the best for both of you. You of course are free and
welcome to
> continue using a harness forever if it suits you. But I think it
> to point out that such use might hinder you moving to full
freeflight. Just
> my thoughts.
> Parrots: More Than Pets, Friends For Life
> Chris Biro
> Nature's Choice Essentials Website:
> ESENCE Website:
> Freeflight List:
> Tel (206) 618-2610


From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 20, 2005 2:43 pm
Subject: Re: My 2bit on harness -Melani


It is inevitable that you will have your own very strong bond with
your Bosun. I cannot see how else it will be.

Just make sure he knows you are his equal even if he thinks otherwise.

I know what I say is politically very incorrect. But you know my
firm conviction that they are empaths.

So when you tried to force a harness on them, they will know it. And
as you found out the hard way, forcing something on any parrot will
make you a lot more sorry than them.

I do believe that when you treat it as a game, and I mean sincerely
as a game, they react to that as a game and as fun.

As long as it is fun to them, almost anything can be done.

You just need to judiciously 'up' the level of that 'game'. With
clicker training and bribes, and always MENTALLY, thinking it as game
and fun.

If and when, you do get to a place where music is being played to
ducks, you will
be glad all those games that you have been playing pay off.


--- In, "Melani" <m_darrell@y...> wrote:
> Shanlung, I love the way you think and speak and act with regards
> your friend Tinkerbell. As I wrote before you have been my
> inspiration of human-avian relationship since I first read your
> thoughts and troubles and triumphs and enjoyed your many
photographs -
> I hope one day to have the sort of bond with Bosun that you have
> created with Tinkerbell. I have read the comments of other posters
> and I can see where any form of restraint could be a danger or a
> detriment, but as you say it is not possible to be so constantly
> aware of what the bird is aware of - and I like the idea of being
> able to have Bosun go with me into crowds and gatherings without
> holding my breath that something doesn't frighten him into bolting.
> have had him with me dozens of places without a single problem in
> past - but now that he has flown away - I know I will not be able
> relax until I am certain of his safety in my hands. I have miles to
> go before a call back response can be assured/trusted - I thought
> were much farther along than this weekend proved we were. I will
> the ribbon approach to getting Bosun to reconsider the harness. I
> have not forced it on him - but months ago when I first slipped it
> him he freaked out and maniaclly tore it from his body
> speaking only as my straps are well made). Since then all I have to
> do is pick it up and he lets me know that as "the biggest toughest
> Parrot in the forest" he is having none of it. I will try try
again -
> I like the gentle playful approach you suggest. As you say we have
> many years ahead together and at least 7 months before going
> is going to be an issue so we have hours to practice.
> I hope you will never cease to offer your 2 bits - in my opinion
> your wealth of experience makes them worth many times their weight
> gold!
> Melani


From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 20, 2005 2:52 pm
Subject: Re: My 2bit on harness - Vicky


I am considering very seriously on getting a pair of Vos Ekkies.

You are giving me ideas on what I may be calling the female.



--- In, "Vicky Shoemaker" <vjfshoe@w...>
> I still listen on this list and still get the most help from
> experiences - that is why my bird is named after him. I find it more
> hopeful for my needs in my area and hope I am as successful as he is
> day. I have a very long road ahead but maybe some day I will have
> stories too and in them will be mentioned Shanlung, Tinkerbell and my
> Shanlung Too!!!!!
> Vicky
> For Love Of Kirsty

I think I will be hung, drawn and quartered

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I think I will be hung, drawn and quartered with this letter.

I hold off writing this for a long time since I got back recently from Taiwan as I hate to be the one rocking any boat, or made to take one side or another in the current debate of food management.

I am in that class of Joe, and I must say I will be using his system for my next bird or parrot notwithstanding the observations that I made during my recent documented visit with Tinkerbell in June/July this year.

For some of the background first.

Even though I was advised on food management in my early days with Bird-Click (look at that letter from Melinda that I included this time) , the way when I first met Tinkerbell was such I could not do what was so accurately advised.

I trained within that limitations of a parrot who ate her full.

I was observant enough with her to train her when she wanted, or willing to be trained. There were 5 named perches in the living room and other named perches in dining room a passage and corner away. When she was ready for training, she would fly to named perches in the order named, and fly back to me for sunflower seeds or bits of sashimi salmon.

She would even fly to named perches in the other room and wait there for treats. I got lazy. So after she flew to other room, and presumably on the perches as named, I called her to fly back to get her treats of sunflower seeds, or sashimi, or durian or lychees as seasonally dictated.

Before each session (normally during TV commercials if I am lucky), I would call her name. If she looked at me with that gleam in her eye that she was receptive, the session would proceed. If she did not bother to look at me, or look at me with disinterest, I did not bother with training that I knew she was not going to do. There were times she demanded her training during exciting TV episodes by flying to my shoulder and chewing my ear. I then forget that TV, turn off mobile phone and play/trained with her in cued go-to and recalls. Of course, when we were out with her in her harness, we would be doing a lot of recalls. But never go-to, as we were always in different locations and we were out because we enjoyed going out together.

We kept doing those recall exercises at home as we all are told, AND I FIRMLY BELIEVED IT THAT AS WELL, recalls must be firmly inprinted if we are to take a flighted parrot out, even if wearing a harness. We also liked doing those exercises as well.

I taught all I could to Mr Yu for a year, and in mid Oct 2004, my wife and I had to leave Taiwan and Tinkerbell handed over to Yu and family.

Yu took her out regularly in harness. But I did not realised until I got back in June 2005 and blogged that visit.
(blog starts here

Yu never did recalls with Tinkerbell at home or outside. It seemed that she just sat on his shoulder all the time when they were out.

I thought I spoiled Tink with feast around the clock. But Yu and family spoiled her even more. To that extent that she refused sunflower seeds totally.

Since I was there again with Tinkerbell, you all do forgive me if I wanted to feast her, or at least let her join me in my breakfast, lunches and dinners for the time we were together. I think I did write in my blog that I discussed with Yu that it would be a good idea to feed Tink less so she would take her sunflower seeds as treats. I was hardly in a position to demand that Yu introduced food management at that time. I cannot take the chance to aggravate my relationship with Yu either.

Food management was the last thing on my mind.
But please remember that she was always in harness and leash so my worries of her flying off was a lot less.

From the very first when I got her, we did recalls from the motel to the temple and she did perfect recalls to me. She refused any sunflower seeds and bowed her head for headrubs. She came so nicely at the many recalls that first day , rejecting vigorously all my treats.

If you have read my blog, I was aghast that Tinkerbell stopped taking sunflower seeds. I thought the seeds were rotten and bad and bought fresh good seeds that she loved. But Tinkerbell turned her nose at them. Yu also never continued the nightly recall exercises. The only recall, if any, was that Yu would hold up the harness and Tink would fly to him as she recognised that she would go out.

If you recalled, I even blogged how Yu and I agonised if we should use the harness to recall her at home to chuck and lock her into the cage before we go out to karoke the night away. You recalled we both agreed that would be too mean to do that to her and we did not.

As it was very late by the time I send Tinkerbell back to Yu, neither was I able to reintroduced recall training in her new home.

I even had to reintroduce Yu to making recall cues for Tinkerbell. Tink prefered to fly to me as I blogged, but eventually, she got the idea and flew to Yu as well.

I took Tink out with me the whole day. All those activities were blogged. You can go to that entire series to read how frustrated I was at her not taking treats. She knew from the time we had breakfast, we would go on to lunch and dinner. She knew too, the choice of food I ordered for myself would be her choice as well. Not only she refused the seeds I offered. At one stage, she seemed so frustrated at my insistence of treats to her that she tugged the box out of my hand to spill all the seeds on the ground.

I was too used to taking her out on harness to consider doing otherwise. But in our daily outings, her recalls to me were superb and on cue. She even remained in her position (although I had to step back and fixed her with my eyes and hand signals to stay put) until the recall itself.

Not once in the hundreds of recalls done by her in my recent visit, did she accepted even a sunflower seed from me. She wanted more, the headrubs and snuggle to my ear that was of course , always available for her all the time.

What I related is anecdoctal and good only for Tinkerbell and me, and that she was on a harness so I never had to fear she would fly away.

I do not wish for this to be an argument against proven sensible food management in training. The relationship between me and Tink is so unigue that it perhaps is a quirk and more the exception than the rule.