Something has been in the works for a few weeks that I now feel comfortable to announce: Steve has a home! (And it's not mine!) Due to logistical concerns, he'll stay at our house for a few more months; it's looking like he'll head to his permanent home in November. I am just so excited for Steve, as I could not have wished for a better home for him. I'll post more details in the future.
Yesterday, I finally started clicker training Steve. He is such a fast learner!
With clicker training, the first thing you have to do is "charge the clicker" -- click and then give the bird a treat as soon as possible so that the bird makes the association that click = treat. Steve had caught on by the third charge; I could see his eyes pin and he made a slight forward movement at the sound of the click.
Since I had 15 tiny pieces of cashew ready as treats (Steve's favorite food, or possibly just a close second to pistachios), the fact that he picked up on the main idea behind training (i.e. click = treat) so quickly meant that we could move on to the next step: targeting.
I use a straw as the target, and when I first put the straw in front of him, he seemed slightly scared and moved back. I moved the straw back a few inches until he was comfortable again. Click/treat! On the second attempt, he was no longer afraid of the straw and beaked the target. Click/treat! This continued until I ran out of nuts.
This morning, we picked up where we left off, with Steve stretching to the left, right, up, and down to beak the target. I am amazed at his fast progress. This guy is just so smart and his new family is going to have so much fun uncovering his personality!
Right now, I'm planning on two sessions a day -- in the morning before I hide his pellets and in the afternoon when I get home from work. At these times, Steve should be hungry and ready to work for food. Of course I will watch him and not train so frequently if he's not into it, but based on his reactions, and those of my other parrots, he'll love it!
I'm hoping that, with clicker training, I can have him nicely stepping up for his new owner by November. In any case, his new family is very excited to continue training him, and understands that he may take a long time to completely come out of his shell and want to come out of his cage.