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#218371 - 03/21/10 07:47 AM Hi Everyone, Im back!!  
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anitamarie942 Offline
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Hi Everyone,
Its been way too long since Ive checked in, think its time I made an update...
Ive been working for the last year at the West Australian Birds of Prey Centre training raptors for free flight shows (and of course flying them in displays), rehabilitating injured and sick birds that come in and returning them to the wild and doing educational tours for schools.
Well - what a HUGE learning curve!! I thought I was a pretty sensitive 'trainer'in regards to parrots before trying this but I tell you what, you really learn the meaning of 'sensitive' when you're eyeballing a 6 kilo wedgetail eagle perched on your arm! The consequences for misreading their body language is having their talons go through one side of your forearm (leather glove,bones, tendon, muscle and all) and come out on the other side, crushing everything in between!! When raptors get agressive, they 'foot' you, that is lock on to their "prey"( your hand/arm) with their talons(this instinct happens in one onehundreth of a second)and basically, they don't let go. The more you thrash, the more the talons sink in (as if they had just caught a prey animal and were trying to kill it). I haven't had an eagle foot me(and never intend to), but I have had a black-tailed kite do it, and I can tell you, the pain bought me to my knees and I needed another person to 'unlock' her talons from deep in my hand. Interestingly, the power with raptors is all in the feet and the talons - the bigger eagles can exert up to one ton of crushing pressure PER TALON -this is what they use to catch and kill with. An eagles' beak has only the bite-down power of a budgie - these are basically their knife and fork - just used for shredding their food.
I'm lucky enough to have trained with some real experts from your way - Barbara Heidenreich, Susan Freidman and Steve Martin amoungst them. The training techniques are exactly the same for raptors as for parrots - each individual bird (let alone species) has different reinforcers but positive reinforcement training is, IMHO the ONLY way to go (believe me, you dont want birds to associate you with punishment when you are free flying them - you rely on the bond that you have with them (as well as food reinforcement) to get them to fly back to you!!.
My parrots - Mimi(MM2) and Puffin(RB2) are just my darlings, they are an absolute pleasure, Im still very much a cockatoo girl at heart (although Im quite partial to owls now as well!!).
For those that remember, Puffin had an accident last year that left him a bit brain damaged and partially blind and I had to get him clipped to avoid him hurting himself while recovering, which broke my heart. Well, I'm thrilled to say that he is doing just great and has just(the last month) grown enough flight feathers back to fly again!!! He needs a bit of a guiding hand, basically he is not confident landing or navigating yet but we are making great progress - I cant even tell you the way his eyes lit up when he flapped his wings and actually took off for the first time in a year!! Im so thrilled!! He is graduating to a bigger cage as soon as Im confident he has competent landing skills again.
Mimi is just as gorgeous as always. She has been my 'trainer' - that is, I take everything I have learnt from my trainers and try it out on her and she lets me know when I get it right!. She is doing pretty amazing 'tricks' these days as a result and we are enjoying the really deep bond that all these positive interactions achieve, which is the whole point of them, to me, anyway!
I'll post some photos soon, Im looking forward to catching up with everyones news!! Its great to be back!!
Anita, Mimi, Puffin (and a whole flock of raptors!!!)

#218375 - 03/21/10 05:21 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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EchosMom Offline
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Welcome back Anita and thanks for the update. Working with the raptors sounds very challenging AND rewarding.


Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#218387 - 03/21/10 07:11 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: EchosMom]  
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What a great update! The average parrot keeper thinks training is a tedious and arduous task if they have to work at it for more than five minutes. Then you run into complete idiots that want to go outside and "free fly" their pet parrot. It is just another whole universe for professional, free fly trainers. It is a full time, dedicated job. There is no room for mistakes and yet mistakes still happen. I am very happy to hear your version of training these raptors.

Glad to hear your flock is well! Didn't you do opera? Please don't tell me you had to give it up! cry

#218391 - 03/21/10 07:17 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Charlie]  
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Anita welcome back. Sounds as though you have been having fun! I can't imagine being footed by an eagle! Have gotten it from owls but luckily none of the bigger guys! Glad to hear that Puffin has progressed so well. Good job!
Nancy


Nancy & Cassie BE2
#218407 - 03/21/10 10:20 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: BE2Cassie]  
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Very glad you're back. I had been wondering how Puffin was doing, and am glad to hear about the progress.

John

#218424 - 03/22/10 01:54 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Bogie's Buddy]  
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Lucy's Mom Offline
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Welcome back. Great info!


Karen, Lucy (U2), BooBoo (CAG),Pina (BCC),Willie (Cockatiel),
Melody, Sonata, Penny & Dory(dogs)
#218446 - 03/22/10 03:16 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Lucy's Mom]  
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anitamarie942 Offline
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Thanks guys!!
Charlie - Im still doing opera, just not full time. Im contracted to the state opera company seasonally (yearly contracts) this year Im in 4 different ones - just finished Carmen actually. And yes - I do sing to the birds!!
As for free-flying...a whole different ball game, Im totally in agreement that it is ALWAYS a risk, no matter how well you and/or the bird in question are trained. It is definately not something I would recommend anyone trying with their own parrots - just too many variables we cant control. I wont risk doing it with mine, and I free fly birds for a living now!! As a matter of fact, I consider completely irresponsible for people to just 'try out' - esentially, you are risking the birds life, particuarly if their imprinted, every time you fly them and as their caregivers, rule number one is to keep them safe.
Here is a photo of a beautiful wedgetail eagle that has come in to us through starvation and I am attempting to 'bond' with. Ive named him Zen because, for a truly WILD bird, he has the most remarkably calm, trusting nature. He is still very young,, probably about 2 years old, now weighs 5.5kilos (you can see his size compared to me sitting in the chair, Im 6 foot tall by the way. For those that are interested, the way you bond with a raptor is quite different to the way you would with a parrot. Raptors are solitary birds - they are essentially by themselves as soon as they leave the nest ( approx 3months old), they find a mate at sexual maturity (3-4 years old)and the closest they ever to get to their mate is sitting side by side on a branch (except for the actual act of mating).My point is - they are non-tactile, they never touch each other as an expression of affection as parrots do so it means nothing to them - it actually confuses them if you try and 'scratch' their heads or anything. I am doing what is called 'manning' in the falconry world - that is basically having a bird on your glove for hours at a time. This is how you get them to trust you. I need to train this eagle to hunt before I can release him, which means free flying him, so this is the very first step in his training - getting to know me. You'll notice we are both pretty relaxed - Im having a beer after work, he's been sitting with me for about 2 hours at the point this photo was taken. Stunning, isn't he??

http://s657.photobucket.com/albums/uu299...020091355-1.jpg

http://s657.photobucket.com/albums/uu299...41020091349.jpg

If you check out the album these photos are in, you'll see some pretty cute babies(well I think so anyway!!).

Anyway, great to be back!! I'll post some more photos soon as I can
Anita x

#218447 - 03/22/10 03:31 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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Wow, that is just too cool!!!

My favourite raptor is the Harpy eagle. Wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of those talons though. LOL

Bev


Owner: DebRan Bird Toys
#218448 - 03/22/10 04:09 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: ZazuSally]  
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Stunning is putting it mildly, Anita! He is simply gorgeous and so regal and majestic!

Thank you for your wonderful update from the Land of Oz! I so enjoy reading your posts and am so glad that precious little Puffin is doing so well! Please post pics of Mimi and Puffin when you can, and keep us updated on your falconry work - how fascinating! I just love raptors, but certainly would prefer a parrot bite any day to being footed by their talons - yikes!

Welcome back!!

Annette


The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step - Old Chinese Proverb
#218468 - 03/23/10 05:33 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: MissYumYum]  
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Amazing!!

#218484 - 03/24/10 03:28 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Liisa B]  
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EchosMom Offline
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Those pictures are absolutely AMAZING! Thanks for sharing them with us Anita!!!!


Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#218488 - 03/24/10 03:51 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: EchosMom]  
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Lucy's Mom Offline
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I love that!!!!I have a BS in Music from Penn State and although I've sung concert music and different arias, I've never actually performed in an opera. To me, you have a terrific life in all possible ways...you work with Birds and you get to sing!!! I am happy for you and although a little bit jealous, I know how much work keeping your voice in shape is so I can relate to the discipline in your life. Thanks for sharing that. The picture brought tears to my eyes!


Karen, Lucy (U2), BooBoo (CAG),Pina (BCC),Willie (Cockatiel),
Melody, Sonata, Penny & Dory(dogs)
#218556 - 03/25/10 09:37 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Lucy's Mom]  
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I'm astounded at the size of Zen. I didn't know there were any birds that big! 1 ton of pressure in the talons? All I can say is you've got LOTS of courage. Thanks for the pics and info.


Pat

One Day At A Time
#218562 - 03/26/10 01:43 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Cleo's Mom]  
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He's beautiful! And the owl chicks are adorable!
Nancy


Nancy & Cassie BE2
#218568 - 03/26/10 06:04 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: BE2Cassie]  
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anitamarie942 Offline
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Thanks guys...Zen is very beautiful, for such a massively powerful animal he has the most gentle spirit.
Ive had some very sad news about him though...as I said, he came in through starvation and Ive been assigned to work with him (my first eagle that Ive been allowed train by the way). Ive noticed a couple of times that he has a way of cocking his head alot and startles easily when approached on the left side..I decidied to get his eyesight tested by the AV and turns out he actually has quite poor vision - explaining why he couldnt feed himself/hunt sufficiently in the wild.
Eagles have stereoscopic eyesight - they soar up to 2000m above ground and can clearly see their prey at this height - they rely primarily on their sight to hunt. Problem is, if they cant see, they die of starvation.
In Australia it is illegal to keep raptors as 'pets' - if they are non-releasable they must be either put on an education licence(as are the birds that we fly in our displays and take to schools)or euthanised. You cant just keep them without justifying to the government WHY. And now we've found out that he is sight impaired, he cant be released because he cant hunt and he would not be able to be flown in the display as he could easily get lost or land somewhere(or on someone) making for an extremely dangerous situation.
My boss is thinking about whether or not we could keep him as a 'static' display bird but I just dont know that a licence would be granted as we already have 2 wedgetail eagles on the education licence.
I am torn. He is a wild bird - I so strongly believe these animals should be free and I was so looking forward to releasing him and watching him fly away. It breaks my heart to see such a magnificent animal in a cage, is it fair to keep him that way for the rest of his life????? But what's the alternative - euthanise him....God, what kind of a decision is THAT to have to make. Thank God its not MY decision, although my input is taken seriously....Im totally confused and pretty damn devestated for him.
Yes - working with birds is a privelege and a gift - but I tell you what, when you have days like today and are faced with these horrific circumstances, when you lose them during displays or training, or you watch them die, or you've been out in the rain for 3 days straight tracking a lost bird...its not easy.
Pray for Zen bird people and let me know what you think about the decision??? Im going to talk to my darling Puffin now and have a cry over his pink feathers..
Anita

#218570 - 03/26/10 11:10 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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BE2Cassie Offline
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Anita I've worked with raptors that were taken in by Fish & Wildlife in this country. These were wild birds that were injured and could not be released. They were kept in zoos as eductional animals. Two Bald Eagles I worked with lived in a large outdoor aviary. One of them was shot and could not fly because of wing damage and the other was almost totally blind. They were male and female and bonded instantly. The male would call to the female(blind) to have her move if we came in to the aviary. Although not the ideal life for them it did give them some freedom and space and companionship. Are there any zoos near you that could take Zen in?
Nancy


Nancy & Cassie BE2
#218574 - 03/26/10 02:04 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: BE2Cassie]  
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Nancy,
Have you been to Avian Haven in Maine~checkout their website. Amazing! They may know of resources also. Diane and Mark are wonderful people...


Flock is Nina (U2), Tootsie (U2), Baby (LSC), Ruke (TAG),& Birdie (T2),
#218612 - 03/28/10 04:21 AM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Rukesmom]  
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Zen is amazing! It doesn't seem right to set him free if he has poor vision. I'm sure it's hard since you've grown attached to him.
Nancy, that's a great story about the bald eagles. I think a zoo would be something that might work.


Gail
#218629 - 03/28/10 07:01 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Bird Mom]  
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I will be praying for Zen.All I can say is I am glad I don't have to make the decision but really feel for the people that do.

Although his life is not a natural life now...it can still be a productive and content life if a zoo could take him in. IS there any chance of that happening?

ETA...how is Puffin doing????


Jan

Sometimes damaged goods are the best gifts the world has to offer
#218632 - 03/28/10 09:16 PM Re: Hi Everyone, Im back!! [Re: Janny]  
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RukesMom I haven't been there but checked out their site. It looks like a great place! Would love to visit there someday.
Nancy


Nancy & Cassie BE2
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