Flight Harness Training Your Parrot

Learning To Fly

Flying is one of the most difficult and meaningful tasks a parrot can acquire in its life.  You can help your companion bird further develop these skills with the use of an avian flight harness. But first you must desensitize your parrot to the harness in order to ensure flight become a safe and stress free activity.  In the Early Parrot Education primary lessons program the following topics are covered for Flight Harness Training:

  • Desensitization to flight harness
  • Play, preening and towel cradling activities in early stages of EPE combined to further desensitize the placement of the harness
  • Wears flight harness comfortably at the fledgling age
  • Monitored flight without a harness (indoors or outdoor flight)
  • Monitored flight with partially groomed flight feathers (indoors or outdoor flight)

Stage One of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot – Introductory Stage

The importance of desensitizing the chick to a towel is to get the bird accustomed to the future lesson of cradling as this too will become a part of his lessons as he progresses though his primary education process. It will be expected that sometime during this bird’s life, he will have to be toweled. Birds that are not accustomed to towel cradling, are stressed unnecessarily more so in the event of an emergency such as a broken blood feather or even a simple veterinarian exam. And, stressed birds also show a much higher white blood cell count, which could be misinterpreted in diagnostic procedure.

Towel desensitization
Pinfeather preening & towel desensitization go hand in hand!

Stage Two of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot – Pre-Fledgling Stage

Pre-fledglings are also introduced to some items that will prove to be more useful in the future steps, such as flight harness and the sound of a low speed nail salon trimmer. While it’s not expected for the pre-fledgling to fly, or get his nails groomed, the desensitization process to these items at this stage will make future lessons a breeze.

The pre-fledgling does not have flight experience yet and so this primary lesson is merely to further desensitize to the placement and adjustment of the harness and wearing it on their bodies.

Flight harness training your parrot
Care must be used when putting on the harness as the crop has not yet completely regressed.

Stage Three of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot – Fledgling Stage

The clumsy-awkward flight of the fledgling must be supervised & guided when encouraged in a flight or indoor bird room.

A flight harness can be worn more safely at this stage for supervised flight outdoors as the crop has regressed considerably for most individuals, although caution must be used not to encourage flight with the harness following feeding of large quantities of food. Towel cradling exercises are continued and are more advanced due to crop regression at this stage.

Towel cradling
Towel Cradling Desensitizing Exercises Are More Advanced Due to Regression Of Crop

Stage 4 of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot –  Advanced Foraging Education

In preparation for future flight training, a flight harness is worn when chicks are first introduced to the outdoors. In this stage coping skills are not acquired for many situations, regression often occurs.

Take the time to marvel at nature with your fledglings before engaging in the physical activity of flight training with the harness; make sure your fledgling is comfortable in this environment that may be unfamiliar for those that have not had access to the outdoors earlier (perhaps due to season geographical challenges or fledgling living quarters that cannot accommodate for an outdoor flight).

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Caretakers should always be close by mentoring, supervising and protecting the fledgling from predators or any other potential threat.
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At this stage, the fledgling has more dexterity, confidence and experience when perching and so the installation of the flight harness can be attempted on a stable perch such as on this training stand.

Stage 5 of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot – Fledgling Acquiring Independence

Flight harness training outdoors- pectoral muscles have developed and conditioned to allow for controlled flight. Motor skills are fully developed at this stage as well as agility. Further desensitization and education of the environment surrounding the maturing fledgling is continued in the stage with the guidance & mentorship from the caretakers.

FLigh harness training your parrot
Inspection of the harness for proper adjustment prior to flight training will also continue to enforce the desensitization to the physical exam.

Stage 6 of Flight Harness Training Your Parrot –  Feeding and Environmental Enrichment

The matured well educated fledgling is comfortable to have the harness placed and adjusted ideally by more than one caretaker.  Foraging opportunities throughout the flight session will ensure the fledgling does not get hungry, as it is now weaned and no longer has the large crop to store quantities of food.

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Want to learn more?

Watch this brief video overview of flight harness training for parrots and how it’s implemented at the HARI facility.

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