During the hurricane season of 2004, Florida endured a phenomenon never before encountered in recorded history. The "Sunshine State" took the brunt of not one, not two, not three, but four major hurricanes! Three of these amazing storms, Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, blew directly through Central Florida and impacted the two animal facilities maintained by Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI).
Phoenix Landing, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, was founded in 2000 by Ann Brooks to promote and protect the welfare of parrots, especially those with potential lifespans of 40 to 60 years. They have placed more than 250 parrots with new homes and manage a network of 80 foster homes for parrots awaiting adoption. Phoenix Landing's commitment to the welfare of parrots, however, goes far beyond locating adoptive homes for rescued and abandoned parrots.
Ah, summer! For weeks I haven't been able to get anyone on the phone, businesses don't answer their e-mail, professors are unreachable, my family is camping on the beach, and trainers I need to talk to are tracking down their ancestors in Iceland or bird watching in Belize or going fishing.
Everyone is playing. Play is a highly important part of life. I think it's also a highly important part of clicker training. No, I don't mean as a reward—following the click with a game of tug, say, rather than a treat. That's okay in its place; but that's not what I mean.
Note from Karen Pryor: This paper reveals a fascinating piece of scientific detective work by Gail Peterson, Ph.D., a professor of behavior analysis at the University of Minnesota. During World War II, Skinner and some of his graduate students conducted classified research on pigeon-controlled guidance systems, at a secret laboratory in Minneapolis. One day, while waiting for government approval on their next steps, they decided to pass the time by trying to train a pigeon to "bowl."
Back in 1979 I taught a training course for keepers at the National Zoo. The zoo had a display full of abandoned cockatoos, some of which had been relinquished for behavior problems, others simply because they had outlived their owners. They were so hungry for attention and stimulation that one of my students taught a bird several tricks (hanging upside down from a branch, for instance) with the 'click' being a tap on the glass with her class ring, and the primary reinforcer nothing more than a chance to pretend to nibble her ring through the glass. Ever since, I have been touched and saddened by the loneliness and impoverished environment of many captive parrots and their relatives.