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Old 13-07-2012, 09:20 PM
Tomster Tomster is offline
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Default Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

Hello, everyone. I am hoping to get some thoughts on behavioral training with a red-shouldered hawk. For starters, I am not a falconer. I work with a non-profit organization that cares for animals that cannot be released back into the wild (mostly due to medical conditions). The animals we keep are used in educational programs. We currently have eleven raptors, and I am just starting training (in the broadest sense of the term) with our red-shouldered hawk. For know I am supposed to be using an approach/retreat technique to get him used to my presence in the aviary. He is used to me going in and out to clean, but has no desire to let any person next to him. I have been working with him for about a week now, and the gist is I approach until he gets agitated or uncomfortable, and then I wait for him to calm back down. Once he relaxes, I reward him by leaving the aviary. He does seem to respond to this. I am hoping for some input, or if anyone has had experience training this type of hawk, and can give me any pointers for further on. I should say the long-term expectations are training him to hop to glove and be comfortable there. Of course I would want to curtail any non-desired behavior such as nipping or bating. Unfortunately his left wing has been mostly amputated, so flying is not a goal. Looking forward to hearing some thoughts. Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 13-07-2012, 09:34 PM
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Richey1973 Richey1973 is offline
Richard
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

Hi,
You would probably only get so far with this method. And the bird would have to be near starving to jump to your fist for food, and it wouldn't stay there, it would probably just try and snatch it from your glove. You would have to use some basic training and manning to get some control in the first place. So it would have to be tethered to do this.
Rich
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  #3  
Old 13-07-2012, 10:27 PM
Tomster Tomster is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2012
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

I agree, I think the approach/retreat is what I will be doing just to familiarize the hawk with me being in her aviary, and so that she will be used to me standing close enough to touch. I'll have to read up on tethering. Do you think that would be safe to do to a bird with a wing amputation? She seems to have fairly good balance, but has never been tethered before and so it would probably make her anxious, and she may hurt herself since she can't fly. I am kind of assuming at some point I would move on to training with tidbits, but that is most likely going to be some time in the future...I still have a lot of reading to do, but most of the information I can find is over my head since it deals more with the falconry aspect. If anyone has any links or suggestions for basic training techniques so I can read up before I continue bother you guys, that would be great.
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Old 13-07-2012, 10:53 PM
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Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

the softly softly approach in the aviary will eventually get results, but proper falconry techniques will get the hawk how you want it soooo much faster, the wing wont make any issues, so long as you use a bow or block perch,and not screen or raptor post type tethering set-up.
you will need a mentor falconer to get youself 'trained' to any degree in any time- and read read read.
Enjoy-dave
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  #5  
Old 13-07-2012, 11:14 PM
Muffins Muffins is offline
Ken
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

Same, if you want any results with her i suggest you learn proper falconry manning techniques from a falconer.

Same, if you want any results with her i suggest you learn proper falconry manning techniques from a falconer.
If you haven't already, she should be cast so jesses can be put on her. from their i usually start manning on the glove immediately.

If you haven't already, she should be cast so jesses can be put on her. from their i usually start manning on the glove immediately.
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  #6  
Old 14-07-2012, 12:24 AM
Tomster Tomster is offline
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

I'll have to look into my area to see if there is anyone willing to show me the ropes. Can anyone recommend a good book for a beginner? With how hot it is by me, tomorrow will seem like the perfect day to spend a few hours in an air conditioned library.
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Old 14-07-2012, 12:30 AM
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Kitana Kitana is offline
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

I used this technique with my HH and a friend of mine who works with zoo animals have great success using it, it is very well known in animal husbandry training. Falconers don't work this way often though, as we desire birds quickly trained so we can help them develop there muscles and respiratory capacities faster, but animal trainers work like that all the time. You should look up for zoos that use clicker training for biomedical and husbandry training if you need help.

The point is to never let the hawk become nervous when you approach. Never. Ever. If he does, you did a mistake and pushed it too much. You should reward a sustained calm behavior, not the return of the calm after an agitated moment. As you know, your presence is an aversive to the hawk and your removal a very powerful negative reinforcement. You want to use negative reinforcement to change the emotional state of the bird so it can soon eat from you and be switched from negative to positive reinforcement.

You will obtain better results as well if you go backwards at times. Let's say those numbers are the number of meters between you and the bird. You should mark the distance that you achieved, and work from there in a pattern such as this:

20 - 19 - 18 - 17 - 19 - 18 - 17 - 16 - 18 - 17 - 16 - 15 etc...

Going backwards makes it very easy to the bird to become desensitized to your presence, because compared to 17, 19 is easy! They do it to us all the time with gas prices, and we get so used to high prices that we applaud a price that we loathed only 2 years ago...

So yes it will work, it will be very low stress on that bird and since you are not pressed by time and don't desire a highly muscled bird with huge pulmonary capacities for hunting, you can afford to take that time. You'll be surprised how fast it will go: my trainer friend takes about 2 weeks to train bald eagles and great horned owls to eat from the fist with this approach and a little bit of weight control (they eat 90-95% of their ad lib portions).
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Old 14-07-2012, 01:00 AM
Tomster Tomster is offline
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

That seems like something worth trying- what would you suggest though if this particular bird gets a little nervous every time the door to the aviary is opened? She doesn't get overly agitated, but does jump from perch to perch and sometimes onto the walls of the aviary. Once I am in and shut the door, she is fine- feathers and head relaxed, no aggressive stance. It seems to be the jarring noise of the door opening that upsets her. Other than trying to open it slower, there probably is not too much I can modify there. :/ I might just have to work around it.
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Old 14-07-2012, 01:27 AM
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Kitana Kitana is offline
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

The thing with the door can be approached many ways, but the simplest is by using classical conditioning: the door = food + people going away = pleasant event. Just open it, throw food and go away. By adjusting her portions to just a little bit less than what she would eat on her own, you will create an interest toward food that will help the bird fight against its fears.
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Old 14-07-2012, 02:45 AM
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RT Alison RT Alison is offline
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Default Re: Basic Behavioral Training - Red-Shouldered Hawk

Bouncing walls is a sure sign of high weight if the bird already associates you with food. If it isn't hungry enough, it doesn't want to have to deal with you for food. It's telling you "Drop the food and get OUT."

There will probobly be a dozen or more negative reactions to my next paragraphs, but to each their own so here goes.

If this bird were mine...and the amputation was sufficiently healed... and I wanted the bird to be stable enough and manageable for display work:

Cast it in a towel, add double width anklets for shock absorbtion, jesses and bells. Tether it to a bow perch in a darkened room. Bring the weight down. Leave the bird to its own devices the first 24 hours, giving it no food, only a bath pan with clean water. Check in from time to time quietly, but don't enter the room at all. Next day sit in the darkened room with the bird. Once the bird settles, pick it up on the glove. It will drop over. That's what they do so lift it back up onto the glove. Eventually it will tire and realize it's efforts aren't getting it anywhere so it will sit on the glove. Do this in a darkened room free of obstructions and no interference from anybody, no interruptions.

Next immediate step is to offer the bird a tidbit. To do this, use a set of chopsticks or long plastic tweezers and offer the tidbit at beak level. The bird probably won't accept it so while its beak is open, brush the meat over its tongue. It may bite and flick it off. Try again. Chances are good the bird will eat it. Repeat this until the bird begins to feed this way, but don't over feed. The key is finding the weight at which it will overcome fear for food. If the bird refuses the tidbits completely, tether it back to the perch and leave the room for another six to twelve hours and try again. Eventually it WILL eat.

Once the bird is eating tidbits at beak height, start offering the food lower and lower each time and begin raising the light level. Eventually you will be able to plop the tidbit on the glove and the bird will lean over and eat it. This is a MAJOR milestone since the bird has begun to learn trust. It HAS to take it's eyes off you to get to the tidbit. The second it takes it off the glove, pop a toot on your whistle. From now on, every time the bird gets a tidbit, it hears the whistle.

Now for the fun. Leave the bird on the perch, put the tidbit on the glove and offer it at breast level. The bird will take it. Next time, lower the glove more. Keep this up until the glove is at perch level. This is the time to use an even larger piece of meat. Present it at perch level then slowly pull back on the glove. The bird should reach out and snag the meat. Don't let go of it, just keep on pulling back slowly so the bird has to step off the perch to maintain hold on the food. The next time or two will turn into the bird willingly stepping off the perch, onto the glove for a snack and at the sound of the whistle. By now you can start popping the whistle as you present the food. The association is there, but needs modifying. It was once a sound of reward, but now it's a sign there is food available on the glove.

You just trained this bird to come to you at the sound of a whistle for food. Next step is to increase the distance until the bird has to hop to the glove, not just step off. Given the bird's amputated wing, it will never fly to the glove, BUT the rapport has been established. You now have a relationship with the bird based on food association, not fear.

Move back to the mews or aviary with the bird. You will have found the bird's response weight by now. Forget all about hunting weight. You won't need it. Just find the [point where you get the best response and least aggravation or stress. Record all your weights (daily BEFORE feeding).

This method involves tidbits, but that's not the meal. The tidbits in training and manning are usually about half of the bird's total food ration for the day. The other half should be fed in one lump, tied to a lure and wet. Don't drown the meat to the point of washing it, just dip it in water until saturated. This helps keep the bird hydrated. Always feed the meal on the lure. Never let the bird drag the lure off to a perch. Do whatever it takes to make sure the bird eats every bit of it on the ground. Kneel on the lure cord or hold it solid. The bird needs to know you aren't a food thief. You are the sole provider and this bird will look forward to your arrival each day.

One note on Red Shoulders. I had one. Big pains in the butt. They have a tendency to learn very quickly... then forget everything you just taught them overnight. Some are so stubborn they are not worth training. Some can be total dreams to train. Mine was bright, but needed remedial training and continued manning. It would do you a lot of good to sit with the bird for extended periods before, during and after feedings. Begin walking around with the bird on the glove. Get it used to it since that's where most of its career as a display educational bird will be spent. Once it is steady and predictable, start exposing it to more and more distractions while on the glove. This includes kids, dogs, multiple people, car sounds, EVERYTHING. It needs to be bomb proof for the intended purpose. If it isn't, you have a liability on your hands. Not all birds are suited for this type of work.

I know I have probably left out something in this, but hey... it's better than just telling you to go get a mentor or to give it all up. Personally I wouldn't use that species anyway. They are noisy, more stubborn to train than a red tail and so on. For falconry they are the worst of both worlds. They have small feet so anything smaller than a cottontail is what's for dinner. They have the fluffy feathers and the size of many Red tails which keeps them relatively slow fliers compared to a Harris or gos. You wind up with a stubborn poofy bird that loves mousing, eating lizards and bugs, yet has trouble catching up to and hanging onto a rabbit. To be successful with one you need to put in the effort, wed it to feather, man the hell out of it and dial the weight in. Better than basic field skills will make the difference in failure or success.

I still think they are simply beautiful stunning birds, though and I do miss the juvenile passage RS I trapped wild. I released mine and opted for my current FRT to get me through my apprenticeship.
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