Northern Parrots are proud to have begun working with professional bird trainer Craig Fraser. Craig demonstrated his birds in free flight at the recent Think Parrots show and will also be visiting our Pop-Up Shop in August.
Tell us a bit more about you.
I’m 26, based in Warwickshire. I grew up in Montrose on the north east coast of Scotland.
I have always been animal mad! I went to dance school as a kid and was a junior associate at Scottish ballet, so I guess that helped to teach discipline, structure and commitment. I moved down from Scotland to live in East Sussex and the young age of 16 to work on a showjumping yard.
I have worked for a few top riders and been lucky traveling all over Europe with the horses! After falling off and being unable to ride for some time I decided to work in care, I had a job working with the elderly living with dementia and loved every minute of the three years! I have been back working with the horses fulltime for the last four years. I’m very lucky to be in a position to do my birds along with the horses!
Can you tell us more about your training technique?
I have been told I am extremely patient, I think this works in my favour! I take things in ring steps reading exactly when each bird is ready to move to the next step.
It sounds like you have a lot of training experience, and I imagine a lot of your success has been achieved with positive reinforcement techniques?
Yes, my entire success is based using positive reinforcement.
Tell us more about positive reinforcement?
So I believe completely on ignoring the bad and reward the good! I do not believe in punishment in anyway! The positive reinforcer for one bird may be a cuddle, for one it may be food and for some it may simply be you making distance between you and it.
Can you tell us more about your different birds?
My oldest bird is CJ the Green - cheek Conure who is my childhood pet she is 20. I have had her from 10 weeks old.
Lola the Yellow - crown Amazon is amazing and says a huge number of words on cue.
I have a pair of Sun Conures which free fly like superstars which I hope to breed and create a flock to fly.
Then we have the Macaws... I have Military’s, Scarlets, Green-wings, Blue-throats and Blue and Golds.
I have a baby long billed Corella Cockatoo called Vera.
Do you have any examples of how you’ve achieved successful desired behaviours?
So for Think Parrots I trained a Blue - throat Macaw to fly through a hoop. We started with very short distances building distance and difficulty until he was flying directly towards someone and at the last minute swooping up through the hoop above their head.
We started with a very large hoop but in the end had him fitting himself through very small ones. A good way to show how a Macaw would use its self flying through trees.
Tell us about free flight.
For me free flight was the childhood dream of all dreams! Each flight, each day from every bird feels as special and puts the same smile on my face as the very first time I achieved it!
How long does training a bird take?
How long is a piece of string? It’s important to remember that every bird is an individual. I have had some take years to train to the same level that another has only taken two weeks.
What advice would you give to people hoping to train their bird?
Be patient and respectful of what your bird is telling you and listen to when he/she is saying no!
We know you’re on Instagram, do you have any other social media presence?
I have recently set up a Facebook page called avian etiquette which I hope to grow and show what I do with the birds along with training tips. I am currently working in some footage to start a YouTube channel.
How can people get in touch with you?
I am contactable on my social media, email and by my phone number.
What are your plans for the future?
The real dream is to open up my own bird park and do some breeding towards conservation. I mainly focus on my free flight but have my Amazon who says a large number of things on cue and I’m currently working with some birds on the dollar bill truck and some other entertaining tricks.
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