Tuesday, October 6, 2015
We have recently started training one of the World Bird Sanctuary’s newest residents and education birds at the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center. Charlie the Harris’ Hawk is only 5 months old, and he is one of the first Harris’ Hawks to be hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary in a decade.
I am super excited about working with Charlie because 1) he is so young and curious, and 2) he is the first bird I have really gotten to train as a Naturalist. When we received Charlie at the Nature Center, his name was added to the board. Under his name it said “Trainer: CS, Secondary Trainers: DG, KM.” Wait a minute, KM are my initials! I get to train my first bird! Charlie and I are both fairly new so we are going to learn together.
This photo is a bit of an optical illusion—do you see a raptor or an odd duck-like looking creature? It’s just Charlie with his head turned a bit upside down. If you don't see the raptor, try tilting your head to the side.(photo: Kelsey McCord)
Training has so far involved eating food out of the glove, walking around, and crate training. Eating food out of a glove may sound easy, but when you are as curious as Charlie it can be difficult at times. There is so much to see and hear that food just isn’t always top priority. Charlie is always turning his head left, right, up, down, and even upside down to see what is going on around him. Be it people talking, other birds, insects, or leaves, Charlie has to check it out.
We are also walking Charlie around on the glove so that he is comfortable around people. He has even appeared in a few special WBS programs; Amazing Animal Encounters and Birds in Concert. In the Amazing Animal Encounters we explain to the audience that they are helping us train Charlie simply by not running up to him, which a bird could interpret as a threat. By walking Charlie around groups of people he is learning that he is safe and can trust his trainers and the circumstances. He has done awesome so far and seems very comfortable around people. He has even roused (fluffed out his feathers), which is a sign of comfort, at the Amazing Animal Encounters.
When Charlie gets his adult plumage he will look more like this photo of Sheldon, an adult Harris’ Hawk. (photo: Kelsey McCord)
We are really working hard on crate training with Charlie right now. We place a piece of meat on the lip of the crate, followed by a small trail of meat leading to a small pile of meat inside the crate. Charlie steps onto the lip of the crate, eats his snack, then either travels another step in for more meat or turns around ready to get back on that glove. We then start over: bring some more meat toward the front and put him back in front of the crate. The more we do this, the more comfortable Charlie will be with his crate. The further in he goes the better, but going in and out of the crate several times is good, too. My favorite session was when he went all the way to the back of the crate for me. He immediately came back to the entrance, but it was a huge step in the right direction.
Once he gets comfortable with being in the back half of the crate we will work on closing the crate door, for just a second or two at first, but then a little bit longer each time. Charlie will need to be comfortable being in a crate so that he can travel and participate in programs.
Charlie still has a lot of training ahead of him, but he is making great progress and seems to be having fun along the way.
Submitted by Kelsey McCord, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer