A fun week of training birds in Florida!

Howdy ya’ll from sunny Florida!

I have been in the Sunshine State for the past three days at a fabulous facility, Natural Encounters Inc. This facility provides consulting, educational classes and bird shows for many different zoos around the world. I was lucky enough to attend this year’s professional training workshop. The facility houses more than 300 birds from around the world; they include all sorts of parrots, hawks, eagles, hornbills, crows…the list goes on!

So far I have learned two really big lessons:

1. Give the animal empowerment through choice

2. Always be aware of the environment from the animal’s point of view

Sounds silly, but these two fundamental lessons have really opened my eyes! Through demonstrations from my instructors and actively practicing my training, I am experiencing firsthand just how these two lessons work to effectively train an  animal.

Working with Kaya, an umbrella cockatoo!

Working with Kaya, an umbrella cockatoo!

The first day, we were assigned a bird for the week. I was assigned “Kaya,” an umbrella cockatoo. Our instructors told us that right now, that bird is a bank and we need to deposit as much trust in this bank as possible. The more trust deposited, the easier the training will be. It is very true! Through building trustful relationships, giving the bird empowerment and being more aware of the environment from a birds point of view, I have built a solid foundation with Kaya.

My goal this week is to teach Kaya to climb a rope and I am just about half way there. I hope to take the information I learn here and bring it back to Seneca Park Zoo to help train our Education Collection animals for our programs. I could go on and on here, but I will stop and write more during a later blog.

Signing off from the Sunshine State!

– Kenny Nelson, Education Animal Programs and Training Coordinator

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