Military macaw training and socialization

Military macaw who used to be a breeding parrot and was leery of people receives training, including how to step up, and socialization.
By David Dickson

If Colonel Potter the military macaw wanted to keep the world at wing’s distance, he sure found a way. At least for a while. You see, he had a pretty convincing scam going. He had a tough name. He had a tough look—his feather coloring could pass for army fatigues in a pinch. He had a mysterious past. And whenever anybody approached his cage, Colonel Potter let them know he’d rather be left alone. Then one of his caregivers finally decided to see once and for all what was under those ruffled feathers.

Breeding pair of military macaws

By way of background, Colonel Potter came to Best Friends with his mate, Major Houlihan (both military macaws), after a rescue group in Arizona closed and the birds needed somewhere else to go. Before that, these two birds had been a breeding pair. Breeding parrots are often leery of people because of the way some breeders mistreat or ignore their birds. Whether that was the case is anybody’s guess, but neither of these birds wanted anything to do with people.

Teaching a parrot to step up

That all changed when one of Colonel Potter’s caregivers, Wendy Hatchel, decided to call his bluff. Wendy was helping out with routine checkups, including weighing, and noticed the Colonel didn’t want to step up on her hand. In fact, he seemed downright confused about what she expected of him.

From that point on, Wendy decided to work with him every day. She figured she’d have better luck in a neutral location where Colonel Potter wasn’t in his element. So she picked the bathroom. Pretty safe bet he hadn’t been in there very often! For weeks, they worked on stepping up. She’d set him down on the ground, offer her hand and then, after a lot of waiting, he would step up.

Turns out he truly didn’t know what the heck people were all about. Stepping up was as foreign a concept to him as if Wendy had tried taking the Colonel to a bagpipers’ convention. But with lots of patience and TLC, he finally figured it out, never once trying to bite. Looks like he was full of hot air in the end! He’s not such a tough guy after all.

Continued socialization and training

Nowadays, Colonel Potter will step up for anybody, including strangers. Heck, he’s even learning how to pick up toys and drop them in a box! So much for Mr. Bad Boy. His mate Major Houlihan is still a bit unsure about this whole stepping-up business. But now that their secret’s out of the bag, it’s only a matter of time before she, too, decides resistance is futile.

Photo of the colonel by Sarah Ause

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