Thursday, January 17, 2008

Whistling futility

In the post just prior to this one, I mentioned that we don't work with any of our birds and their speech. It is slightly different when it comes to whistling. Of my 6 birds, only Max and Calypso whistle. Over the years, I have made intermittent attempts to teach them certain tunes. Generally, these have not been successful, but every once in a while I'll get the bug anyway and try another tune. Lately, I've been working with them and some Mozart. This usually means that I'll get their attention and then whistle it as we shower together or as they watch me prepare dinner.

Calypso doesn't really like to be videotaped, so I have to just describe his reaction. As I've mentioned before, he is very sweet, but not the brightest bulb. When I go to him and start whistling, he starts whistling back, but not in a way that's reflective of what I'm doing. He makes up his own tunes, which mostly just repeat the same tone over and over, with slight variation. He came to us knowing how to whistle "Charge" and will do that sometimes. But he is so earnest when we are facing each other and whistling back and forth. He absolutely loves doing this, so I set aside any expectations and we start whistling together. I will try to get this on video at some point.

Last night, I videotaped a little session with Max. (Note: in both videos, that is me doing the whistling. I am not a good whistler.) She is so funny! In this first video, she does whistle a tiny bit, but starts dancing also. Then, towards the end, you can hear her say, quickly, "gimme a kiss!" (I have mentioned often her obsession with kissing).

I included the second video because of what she does towards the end. She knows I want something from her, but she does not quite know what I want (Max: I want you to whistle the Mozart). So she goes over and does the latest trick we've been working on during her clicker training. I'm not quite sure how the final trick will end up, but right now, she goes to the cup holder on her stand and does a half-flip so she ends up hanging upside down.

I've thought about having her flip back up (this is a trick that Beeps does), but she already flips around her figure-8, so it might be something different. I keep hoping she'll make a move at the end that will decide what direction we go. Ideally, I'd be able to tie it into the routine we do where she's looking for a job and showing off the skills she has. Not sure what, though. Acrobat, perhaps?

In other Max news, she's at pretty close to 95% for flighted recall. We've been working with her to recall to rooms where she can't see us, and to recall from scary places and to scary places (a couple of back bedrooms that we keep closed off). We will never take her free flying outside (way too risky for us!) but we work on this so that if she does ever get outside, we'd have a better chance of getting her back. We do not expect that she will get outside as we are extremely careful and have implemented a double-door system when entering and leaving our house, but you never know.

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