Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

Home    /    Volunteer    /    Employment    /    Contact Us    /    Map

Zoo Blog

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bird Training: It’s Nothing to “Bawk” At
Written by: Anya Russom
If you’ve ever spoken to a bird only to have it talk back, you probably understand that they hold a certain level of intelligence. You may not have realized that talking and mimicry, while impressive, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the skills that birds possess. In the wild, bird behaviors are primarily used as means of survival. Captive birds have it a little different, and while they still have the abilities, they may not have to use them in the same way. In efforts to retain these skills and enrich the birds’ lives, many zoos, rehabilitation facilities, and other similar organizations practice bird training as part of their animal care routine. Here at the Lake Superior Zoo, we are no different.

One great thing about our zoo is that we have a lot of birds. Better yet, we have many different kinds of birds. This allows for an extremely diverse, interesting, and educational look at the differences in species and how training should reflect those differences. For instance, we all know parrots tend to be crowd pleasers. Our Double Yellow-headed Amazon, Korbel, is able to speak and perform a number of tasks with her trainer, Lizzy. What you might not understand is how important vocal communication and socialization are to parrot species. One main goal of training is to build relationships between bird and trainer. What better way than with good, old-fashioned conversation? Through fostering this connection, Lizzy can ask Korbel to replicate natural behaviors, complete an exercise, or present herself in a way that allows Lizzy to check her physical condition. Korbel might be the star, but she certainly isn’t the only talented parrot at our zoo. We actively train Alex and Casper (cockatoos), Cricket (caique), and Pico and Sammy (macaws) as well.

Of course, the parrots are a colorful bunch, but like I said before, we’ve got a lot of different kinds of birds at the Lake Superior Zoo. This means we also have a lot of different training styles. For instance, you don’t train a parrot the same way as you train a raptor (bird of prey). There are different goals, expectations, and methods used to fully benefit the birds during their trainings. Our raptors are a special case. Most of them are rehabilitated or have been brought to us from less than ideal circumstances, and the differences between the species are very prominent. This means that their training has to be specialized in order to best suit the characteristics of each individual bird. One big difference between parrot and raptor training is the use of equipment such as jesses (ties on their feet) and gloves. These accessories are used to protect both the trainer and the bird, as well as better control the training session. One of the main goals in raptor training is education. For instance, our Education department staff are able to work with Bu, the Eastern Screech Owl, Lady, the Red-tailed Hawk, and Aries, the American Kestrel, in order to teach people about the biology and characteristics of birds of prey. Through training, our staff are also able to construct relationships that ease tension and anxiety when it comes to handling. This allows for easier check-ups and safe, educational opportunities.

Now that we’ve touched on the two best known types of training, let’s approach something different. Did you know that in addition to our parrots and birds of prey, we also train our kookaburras and crow? If you’re looking to see something a little different from a bird training, these are a definite must. What’s so different about a kookaburra training, you ask? Well you see, while our parrots and raptors are trained to stay still with perches and special equipment, the kookaburras are fully flighted birds. Their trainer, James, trains them in their exhibit. The majority of their sessions consist of target training and relationship building, which helps to direct the birds around their exhibit and get them accustomed to having a person in their space. This is an extreme benefit to both bird and trainer and serves as a huge advantage in case of emergencies. Corbin, our crow, has a similar training model, though due to being hit by a car, he is no longer able to fly. Being a wild-born bird, Corbin is still not used to people. However, being that he can’t fly, he is unable to be re-released into the wild. Therefore, as part of his rehabilitation, Corbin works with his trainer, Jessica, in order to acclimate himself to guests. He also works with target training and perch movement. This benefits both his health and his livelihood.

It’s easy to see why we have so many shameless bird fanatics throughout our staff, and I may be biased, but I mean it when I say that we do have the best birds in town. On a personal note, I’ve been professionally involved with this zoo for almost ten years, and before writing this blog, I watched five different bird trainings. Let me tell you, even after all this time, they are still incredible. Watching the birds demonstrate their intelligence is amazing, and seeing the relationships between bird and trainer is remarkable—especially that heartwarming look of pride after a successful session. But don’t take my word for it. Come see what has our feathers so ruffled. Each training is different and special, and we want you to see why we are so passionate. Our “Oh Fur Fun” animal enrichment schedule changes monthly, but for January-March, you can catch parrot trainings every Wednesday and Sunday at 12:00 and kookaburra trainings every Wednesday at 2:00! If you’re looking to see something featuring Corbin the crow or one of our birds of prey, we encourage you to give us a call! We are more than happy to organize zoomobiles and training sessions through our Education and animal care departments. So on your next visit, I encourage you to spend a little extra time with our birds. Get to know them; maybe have a little chat. I guarantee that before long, you’ll agree with us when we say that bird training is nothing to “bawk” at.

posted by Keely Johnson at


Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for your marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it,
you could be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and
will often come back at some point. I want to encourage continue your great work,online chat rooms have a nice holiday weekend!
I enjoy studying your publish. It is each useful and interesting to me. I will come back again once again to see your new posts
urdu chat rooms pakistani girls and boys ,indain girls and boys,us girls and boys and Uk girls and boys chat room

August 16, 2013 at 8:03 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

previous posts :

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]