Tonawanda News — QUESTION: We have a two year old male Umbrella
cockatoo. At this point, he does not fly, scream
or talk. Any suggestions on how to get him to fly or mimic? -- Mary N., Tonawanda
ANSWER: No flying, screaming or talking looks like no problems to me. He sounds like a very well-behaved bird. Earlier this year I reviewed a DVD by Barbara Heidenriech, which can be viewed on Critter Companions’ Facebook page. For training a parrot to mimic, exposure is best. Playing sounds over a computer/CD or repeating the same phrases is how it is done. Once you hear something that sounds kind of like a word, you should make a big deal about it and give your bird attention or treats. Give more treats the closer the sounds resemble the word you want.
At work we have seven macaws that are a little over 1 year old. About two weeks ago, two of them started to mimic “Hi,” and “Hello.” The other five, nothing – just squawks. If you want your bird to mimic, keep repeating yourself. Parrots do act like human 3-year-olds.
To get your bird to fly is going to be a little trickier. Has your bird’s wings been trimmed ever? If your bird has been trimmed previously, every time he has tried to fly in the past it has been very negative for him -- he has crashed.
Barbara Heidenriech, the guru of parrots, says that the best candidates for flight are those who have never been clipped (especially during fledging) and have had ample space to practice flying daily. Larger birds such as macaws, cockatoos and amazons have a tough time getting lift even after getting their flight feathers back which also makes it tough to get them to voluntarily launch.
That being said it is not impossible to train but it will be a slow process (and sometimes more time than it is worth.) There is usually a distance that they can reach the hand with the beak and then must flap a little to keep balance to cross the divide. Reinforcing the flapping is a good step at that point. You might also experiment to see if you can find that distance in between the hop and step. Then hopping to little flights, little flights to longer ones.