September 29th, 2005

some recent letters on free flying our parrots (food management to get stronger recalls)

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Here are some recent letters on free flying our parrots that I have posted on Free flight list.

This issue surfaced recently on stricter food management to reinforce the bonding of parrots to caretakers when taking them to fly free outside.


From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Fri Sep 23, 2005 12:51 pm
Subject: Re: now reinforcers - my take on this

If you intend to have a flighted parrot entirely at home, this is not
going to be any issue. Her security is already guaranteed even if
she is reluctant to come to you in recalls.

But when you take any parrot outside for total freeflight without
restraints, the issue is very different. Almost the difference
between your kids going to summer camp and your kids being send to
take back the head of Osama.

In the latter case, can you allow your kid to do that without at the
very least, a bootcamp to knock them into shape and to get their
reflexes to a level that they can be expected to get back to you?

Getting back to parrots, I view this as an initial bootcamp that they
are not kept in for the rest of their lives. As an icebreaker so to
speak that they can get to learning crucial stuff to allow them to
fly free outside. As the parrots get to learn, they may even get to
like what they learned. In which case feeding more or less is
getting to be lesser relevance than the training.

You must know what it will take, and your choice to take it or not.

Or you can just as happily allow your kids to go to summer camp and
not ever allow them to attempt to take the head of Osama.



Then Milko came along with a load of soul searching questions
(I got his permission to reproduce what he wrote)


From: "Milko Atchev" <milkoa@...>
Date: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:51 am
Subject: Free Flight LONG

OK. Here are my thoughts on FF after Dean's and all other posts on the
subject. This is my analysis of this issue for me and for my birds.

In the last year I walked a long way - from being enthused with the idea
that most (if not all) birds must be free flying outdoors to an
understanding today that most companion birds would be better off not FF-ing
outdoors. Actually I have to admit that it was to some extent the training
system some have been advocating lately and a post I received months ago
that made me see this picture more clearly.

To me the question - To FF or not to FF? - boils down to the following:

1) Do the benefits of FF-ing outweigh the risks? and another one:
2) Is it worth doing all the risk reducing things that we know at this stage
to achieve as much safety as we can when FF-ing a bird?

My thoughts on the first one: We bring these animals in our homes by taking
them away from their natural habitat where they have full freedom to do
whatever they want to do subject to the constraints imposed by the survival
instinct and the instinct for reproduction. We put them in a completely
different environment. An environment that imposes full control over their
lives. An environment in which their instincts are of little importance. An
environment that requires therefore a different set of skills.

I would think that the important skills that are needed in our homes for a
parrot are mostly related to their ability to entertain themselves
independently, the ability to exercise physically and mentally. The ability
to play and to forage for food and for fun. Flight as a means of locomotion
is important thing in both places - in the wild and in our homes. Just like
vision, hearing, taste, walking - all these "tools" they need in both
environments albeit they use them for slightly different purposes. In the
wild all these tools would be mostly used to ensure their survival and
reproduction. In our homes these would be mostly used to ensure
satisfaction/contentness with their life in this new environment. WE are the
ones who must provide whatever they need in our homes. It's up to us to
provide them with nutritious food, with fresh water, things that increase
their physical and mental adeptness in the new environment. I call all these
things/opportunities enrichment.

Someone may argue that FF IS some kind of enrichment. Some people may argue
that adding ANY kind of things/stimuli that exist in the wild constitutes
enrichment of their life in captivity because these things make the life of
a bird in captivity closer to its life in the wild. In other words, that
enrichment is anything we do to make their life closer to their life in the
wild. But is our goal to make their life in captivity as close to their life
in the wild? I don't think so. If it were so, then why not add some hawks or
other predators in our homes for them to develop skills they normally
develop in the wild? Why be selective when we try to make their life in
captivity be closer to their natural life? This is why my definition for
enrichment is slightly different. I view enrichment as anything we add to
the environment or any skill that we help them develop in this environment
that make them "happier", more successful with their life in this specific

Let me try to explain what I mean through an example, a parallel with us,
humans. We live in our environments and we develop the respective skills for
life in our environment as best as we can. Of course, there are different
environments where humans live that require different survival skills. There
are humans living in the jungles or humans living in the desserts but do we
need to develop skills for such kind of life in order to be successful in
our current urban environment? Do those who live in the dessert need to
develop skills that we, urban people need? I don't think we need these
skills. I think we need to develop those basic skills without which we'll
fail in our current environment - critical success factors/skills (CSFs).
But then, is it any good for us to learn skills, apart from the CSFs? Sure!
There are many "auxilliary" skills that complement the CSFs to make our
lives in our current environments more successful. Can the CSFs that pertain
to completely different environments be such complementary skills? I
honestly don't think so. I don't think that I need to be able to survive in
a 50 C heat without water for a period of 5 days in order to be successful
in my current environment. I don't think that this skill will help me be
successful in my urban environment. More than that - I think that acquiring
this skill and its further development can interfere with my successful
urban life. That is why I think that CSFs are appropriate to the environment
in which their lack results in failure. Anywhere else they are redundant.
And redundancy does not contribute to success. There can be a small number
of situations though, in which such skills can be appropriate.

Back to the birds - I consider free flight outdoors as a CSF in the wild. I
don't see how the inability to FF outdoors can be a reason for the birds to
fail in our homes, a reason for their life in our homes to be a constant
struggle. That is why I have real doubts as to how good the development of
free flight outdoors skills is with respect to their life in captivity. I
see this more as a redundancy interfering with their life in captivity. We
take them from the wild and put them in our homes to be fully dependent
creatures, to be our companions, our friends. Then, when they develop the
skills necessary to live "happily" in our homes - learn to be fully
dependent on us for food, water, shelter, love (completely different
skills!) we tell them: OK, I see that you are able to adjust to living in
different environments. Now that you suppressed your skills from the wild, I
want you to develop some of them again and to live on the edge between your
natural environment and my home. I want you to be fully dependent on me for
your food, water, shelter and at the same time I want you to develop all
those flight skills that you needed in the wild. I know that in the wild you
developed these flight skills because you had to. They were necessary for
your survival, they were necessary for you to find food to eat and water to
drink, to find a mate, to escape predation, to have fun and socialise with
your brothers and sisters flying together with them in your flock. Well, now
you don't need to have to bother about all these things because I provide
them to you. You will not be flying with your friends because in my home
there are none that belong to your kind and me being your current
friend/flock cannot be with you on this trip because I cannot fly. You are
all alone there. But still I want you to fly outdoors, to escape predation
as much as you can, to fly down from heights and to cope with all those
alien things out there.

Yeah, I know there's a lot of anthropomorphising that I am using to
illustrate my point. I hope someone will argue these points and show me how
wrong they are.

IMO, there are a few small groups of birds for whom this kind of life on the
edge is acceptable. Or.. has to be. These are the showbirds, birds who may
benefit from FF in terms of improving their odds for a healthy life and
birds who enjoy FF "inherently".

The first group - the showbirds - they just have to FF. That's the goal for
which they are there. Regardless of whether they like it or not. For this
group of birds I wish all showbird trainers could be able to select the best
FF candidate rather than have to work with whatever they have available.

The second group are birds that have health or other problems. What comes to
mind now is feather plucking birds and mutilators. So far as free flight
outdoor does help these birds stop picking/mutilating, it is good for them.
Generally speaking, these would be birds for which the disadvantages
relating to their condition outweigh the disadvantages relating to FF-ing
pet birds.

The third group - birds who inherently like free flight outdoors - many list
members have talked about them. Sure, I believe that most birds can be
taught to like the experience of free flight outdoor. But my question here
would be the same as Dean's - FOR WHAT? At what cost?

Actually I wanted to clear this up for myself before I FF my bird - Why do
I want to FF him outdoors? Because *I* would LOVE watching him fly freely
outdoors, or because I believed he would benefit from FF, because he would
gain more from free flying than he'd lose? I still don't know the answer to
this question. I have seen Jacky once flying outdoors. It was an accident
but I liked to think that he enjoyed flying outside. And maybe he did. He's
a wild caught so he's flown out for a few months. Maybe I'll find out if he
really loves this experience later on when/if we dare in the big outdoors
after we have done all our homework.

The second question above relates to all that we have to do to make FF as
safe an experience as possible. So far we know that it relates to developing
physical skills and to training behaviors that are relevant to FF. Learning
physical skills is something that we cannot influence too much. It is mostly
the animal himself that has to work for it. We can encourage this or that
(flying down for example) and that's all we can do about it. The second part
of this, training behaviors that are needed to be able to recall the bird is
specific both to the individual bird that we train and to us as trainers. I
think I agree that flying a bird hungry outdoors increases our chances to
recall him. When I say hungry I do mean HUNGRY to the point where the bird
is focused on the trainer and doing what we ask him to do without delay, yet
not so hungry as to be distracted by various foraging opportunities outside.
This additional security, this specific level of hunger can be achieved
through weight management from what I've learned so far.

So, do I want to encourage the bird to develop those physical skills? Yes,
sure! Unless they start interfering with his CSFs for life in captivity so
that the bird feels insecure, anxious, nervous in my home. I guess an
experienced bird owner can see the subtle (and not so subtle) signs of
nervousness and either adjust or have the guts to completely abandon this
training. I am not so sure that most novice owners of pet birds can see or
correctly read those signs though... If all goes well with the physical
training then there comes the teaching of the behavioral skills. This is
another area where an unexperienced trainer can screw up. An additional tool
for minimising the risks relating to screwing up when teaching behavioral
skills would be Weight Management (WM). That is, bringing hunger in the
equation. I personally believe the lavish use of WM with all birds to create
a lasting state of hunger as a precaution against losing them to be an
unethical solution. I view this as a last resort tool that needs to be added
to the bird-trainer set of variables to make up for the lack of one of them.
Either to make up for a poor choice of bird for FF or to make up for a poor
training qualities. Only for short periods after which the bird is taken
back to its free feed weight. Do I want to go there? No. But, if something
screws up and I know that I could have used hunger to prevent this and still
didn't use it? I guess I would still not regret not having used hunger.

So, what is my conclusion? Is it worth FF-ing my bird? Is it worth all this?
For what? Today I feel it is not worth it. Dunno what I'll think tomorrow.

Am I against FF? Definitely not! I love the idea. I loved seeing my bird
free in the park. I like our recall exercises indoor but I also have to
consider what he is first, and that is a pet and I don't think it's worth
giving up anything at this stage, to get freeflight. For now we are just
having lots of fun and flying indoors.



Then my answer to him

From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 27, 2005 11:30 am
Subject: Re: Free Flight LONG - telemetry shanlung9
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--- In, "Milko Atchev" <milkoa@c...> wrote:
> OK. Here are my thoughts on FF after Dean's and all other posts on the
> subject. This is my analysis of this issue for me and for my birds.


I see you are in a state of confusion.

But so am I.

Like you, I am not disputing the workability of the techniques. Those
techniques appear to work so well that I will use their criteria as a
yardstick to decide whether Tinkerbell (if we are reunited again) or
another parrot be taken out by me to free fly. If I am not prepared to
train that way to be assured of recalls at all times, I should not
allow my parrot to free fly.

My own emotional mindset may get in the way. I do consider Tinkerbell
and any parrots that I may have to be my equal and it is their richness
of life that is paramount to me.

With feeding around the clock, Tinkerbell never trained exactly as and
when the time I decided to train her. I lived with that accepting that
we will do our training as and when she was prepared to. So it may be
15 to 30 minutes later. Being my equal, she had the right to decide
too. I think I gained, in that my reading of her, and her willingness
to be trained, became that much better. I could not work to a rigid
timetable mostly because of work and partly because of my own
inclination. And I am one of those laid-back guys.

Recalling her sight unseeen from another room was more a result of my
laziness of walking over to her to treat her than an actively sought
and deliberately planned training procedure.

For my future bird, after the familiarization period, there will be a
brief boot camp of food management to get him/her started on training.
But I do have my knowledge of harness and line that I will use as

Harness and line is an intermediate step prior to total free flight,
which Tinkerbell graduated to at the end.

And a certain knowledge that telemetry devices are getting smaller and

Heck, those devices are small enough to mount and track idividual bees
and butterflies in articles published just 2-3 months ago.



and his answer to me


From: "Milko Atchev" <milkoa@...>
Date: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:14 pm
Subject: RE: [Freeflight] Re: Free Flight LONG - telemetry

Hi Shanlung,

Yes, I too consider my birds to be my equal and their richness of life
paramount. Certainly I am confused. LOL:) I wish I knew the answers to all
the questions that I have... There was time when I would firmly reject all
these considerations as not valid. Free flight was just another goodie that
all birds deserved to have, period. We'll see what my thoughts will be after
a year. LOL:)) Unfortunately, telemetry does not address my current
concerns either...

Take care,


Then there are some letters on telemetry


From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:25 pm
Subject: Re: telemetry shanlung9
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--- In, birdmanlv@a... wrote:
> In a message dated 9/26/2005 8:33:38 PM Pacific Standard Time,
> shanlung9@y... writes:
> And a certain knowledge that telemetry devices are getting smaller
> lighter.
> Shanlung:
> Although telemetry has come a long way, the size transmitter used
on most
> birds is the size of 1/2 a AA battery, and has an antenna on it
about 6-8

Even with an extremely well trained Tinkerbell, I do not think I have
the courage to let her free fly in those mountains and forests of
Taiwan. I have seen the power of spook flights.

On the open areas such as parks, there are too many cats that will be
a real danger to her as she lost completely the fear of cats thinking
that the cats are like my housecat Halftail.

Since she is extremely used to the harness, I was thinking of
attachment to the harness itself and the leash totally discarded. So
should she spook, I know immediately where she is and can retrieve
her before any cats get to her.

Around the house, I will have no worries as she did not wear harness
around the house and she knew the area.

Its only when taken out to new places (AND DEFINATELY NOT IN THE

As for the size of transponders, what I read is a lot smaller than
what you think they are, being mounted on bees and butterflies.

Take a look in

and for butterfly look in



From: "shanlung9" <>
Date: Tue Sep 27, 2005 11:34 pm
Subject: Re: telemetry - Holohil link shanlung9
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--- In, "shanlung9" <shanlung9@y...> wrote:
> As for the size of transponders, what I read is a lot smaller than
> what you think they are, being mounted on bees and butterflies.
> Take a look in
> and for butterfly look in
> Shanlung

The telemetry devices for the butterflies and bees are as low as 12
mg and still tracked for 1km or so

It took a bit of googling but Holohil is above.

Not as low as 12 mg, but light enough to clip onto harness.