There is nothing mystical
about your bird's behavior. It is not some hidden secret that only
your bird can know. The principles of behavior that have been proven
to work with humans and hundreds of other animals, will also work
with your bird.
Years ago, Darwin
(1809-1882) told us that behavior has *function*.
Simply stated, it means that all behavior has a reason for being,
and that reason is *value*. If a bird
finds no value in a behavior, the behavior will not continue.
For this page, we want
to focus on learned behavior while accommodating the natural inherited
behaviors of birds, to the greatest extent we can.
It's said that
learned behavior is a function of its consequences. It is this function
that we want to identify to better understand and influence behaviors.
be broken down into easily defined pieces (if you observe). These
pieces are Antecedent, Behavior and Consequences. To look at a problem
you have to be able to identify these three components.
Antecedents are the events
and conditions that immediately precede a behavior. They set up
you all know what behavior is-the actual "what happens".
Consequence is what happens
immediately after a behavior. The payoff....what the bird gets out
With these three simple
components and an understanding of reinforcement, you will be able
to direct your bird to learn more acceptable behaviors.
Let's take a look at
a simple ABC to see where this gets us.
Mrs. Smith has come home from work and taken her pet bird out
of its cage and put it on a playstand with treats. Her bird loves
being on the playstand and climbing all about.
Mrs. Smith decides the bird must go back into the cage.
goes to playstand and asks the bird to step up
put into the cage
if you really look at this you could wonder, but does the bird really
want to get put back in the cage? Exactly! If there is nothing the
bird desires following the behavior, it is going to become harder
and harder to get the bird to do the behavior.
future behavior* based on the above will probably be an unwillingness
to step up and then possibly a downward spiral to flying away and/or
So how could we change
the above? Actually, it's relatively easy. By changing either the
antecedent or the consequence or even both sometimes, we are able
to change behavior.
Lets take another look
at the above situation and change the consequence.
decides the bird must go back into the cage so she goes to playstand
and asks the bird to step up
tells bird how good he is, lavishes great praise and scritches
onto bird, before replacing him into the cage
Here, since Bird likes
the attention and the scritches, the bird will probably continue
to step up to get them.
Now of course,
we could take this one step further to see where we get.
Mrs. Smith has been busy and must replace bird to the cage.
She has asked him to step up and has rewarded him for doing so.
puts bird into the cage
down off her hand onto perch in cage
is shut, Mrs. Smith walks away
Hmmmmm. Do you
think the bird will continue to step off her hand with no problem
if this is always the payoff? Its unlikely. Again, we have to make
the payoff something desired by the bird.
The scratching of the neck once the bird has stepped off may work
or a favorite treat or just praise.
Your bird can also learn
new behaviors when we put the principles of positive reinforcement
The sky's the limit! The main point to remember is that each of
us must find what is reinforcing to our particular bird. What one
bird finds reinforcing is not necessarily what another bird finds
reinforcing. This is a very important fact and cannot be overlooked.
View the consequence from the birds point of view, not your own.
This page has barely
scratched the surface of how you can affect and teach your bird
more positive daily interaction with you and other family members.
It also has not explained the complete concept and workings of reinforcement,
but I hope it is enough to give you the desire to read more, learn
more and put positive reinforcement to work.
thanks to Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D, for helping me *Get it*
more information I would strongly suggest you take the online course
offered by Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D. called Living and Learning with
Parrots. There is a $50 fee for this course, to a designated bird-worthy
The course description
can be found at the BehaviorWorks
site. Back to Top
While you are waiting
for the course may I suggest you read some articles by Susan G. Friedman,
Ph.D. linked from the BehaviorWorks site
Books you could read
on Positive Reinforcement Strategies suggested by S.G. Friedman,
Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training – Revised
Edition, by Karen Pryor (1999). Bantom Publishers. ISBN 0-553-38039-
2. Here Kitty, Kitty;
Catherine Crawmer on Training Cats, by Catherine Crawmer. (2001)
ISBN 0-9710815-0-6. Web Site: www.cattrainingbook.com
3. How Dogs
Learn by Mary Burch, Ph.D. and Jon S. Bailey, Ph.D. (1999). Howell
Book House Publishers. ISBN 0-87605-371-1.
4. Animal Training:
Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement by Ken
Ramirez (1999). Shedd Publishers. ISBN 0-9611074-9-9.
5. First Course in Applied
Behavior Analysis by Paul Chance (1997). Brooks/Cole Publishers.
6. Latham, Glen. (1990).
The Power of Positive Parenting A Positive Way to Raise Children.
7. Gould, Stephen
J. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. W&W Norton Publishers.