Making sense of training terminology

When talking about training and behavior; misunderstandings easily happen. When translated into real life and actual training, misunderstood information can not only result in us not getting the results we want from our hard work, but in some cases it might even lead to not so pleasant experiences for the animals that we are training.
One way of preventing these misunderstandings and understanding each other better is to speak the same language: in our case, that means using correct training terminology.

The four quadrants of operant conditioning are a very important part of your training terminology repertoire. These words describe the consequence of a behavior (what happens right after the animal has done something) and what effect that will have on the animals behavior in the future.
Positive reinforcement is one of these quadrants, and describes a consequence that will increase the frequency of a behavior.
I.e  Parrot steps up -> Parrot gets his favorite treat! The result will be that your parrot steps up more often when your hand is presented in the future. This is also why we can train parrots to do things like wave their foot or say something on cue. Pretty straight forward!

Training lorikeets to station using positive reinforcement; lory nectar in a syringe.

Training lorikeets to station on differently colored platforms using positive reinforcement; lory nectar in a syringe, in this case!

The one thing that tends to confuse people the most here, is the use of the words “Positive” and “Negative”. In this context, these words have nothing to do with “good and bad”. Instead, they are used to describe if something is added or removed. Nothing more, nothing less! In the example above, the consequence was that a treat was added; hence it being called positive reinforcement.
Positive -> something is added
Negative -> something is removed

Now that we know if something is added or removed, we want to know what effect that will have on the animal’s behavior. Here’s where we use the words reinforcement and punishment.
A reinforcer is something that increases the frequency of a behavior, punishment is something that reduces the frequency of a behavior. Also pretty simple!
Now, let’s put it all together!

Positive reinforcement: adding something to increase the frequency of a behavior
Positive punishment: adding something to reduce the frequency of a behavior
Negative reinforcement: removing something to increase the frequency of a behavior
Negative punishment: removing something to decrease the frequency of a behavior

Duck being trained target a mop handle using positive reinforcement in the form of mealworms, so that he can be shifted inside in a more pleasant way. He has a history of being brought into his house at night using negative reinforcement.

Duck being trained to target a mop handle using positive reinforcement in the form of mealworms, so that he can be shifted inside in a more pleasant way. He has a history of being brought into his house at night with negative reinforcement.

We already have an example of what positive reinforcement can look like, so let’s take a look at the other three quadrants!
An example of Positive punishment could be hitting a child for disobeying you. You add an aversive (something unpleasant) to make something happen less often.
Negative reinforcement could be getting a bird in to his cage by chasing him. When the bird enters the cage, the unpleasant experience of being chased stops, which results in the bird entering the cage quicker the next time you start to chase him. Note that in order for something unpleasant to stop, it has to be added first…
An example of negative punishment would be removing yourself from a parrot that is playing a bit too rough for your liking. By removing something the parrot likes (your attention) you are reducing the frequency of an unwanted behavior, i. e adding too much pressure with his beak when you are playing. Another example is removing the freedom to go outside if your child doesn’t clean his/her room to make them clean more often.

One thing to remember is that you are not the one deciding whether a consequence is a punisher/reinforcer or not: the bird is! Shouting “shut up” to a screaming parrot might be intended as punishment, but is suuuper reinforcing to many parrots and will result in them screaming more to get your attention. Similarly, a sunflower seed may be offered as a reinforcer, but if the parrot doesn’t like sunflower seed, you won’t see any increase in behavior, and the seeds are not reinforcement.

Please also note that the quadrants were not created equal. Positive punishment and negative reinforcement might work sometimes, but often come with many unwanted consequences that can be detrimental both to the birds mental health as well as our relationship with our animals. Instead of chasing the bird for it to go back to it’s cage for example, a better strategy would be to teach him to go inside using positive reinforcement: like with the duck in the picture above.

Hope this helps to clarify some things. : )
Happy training!

Getting started with foraging enrichment

“It doesn’t work on my parrot!” is a phrase i hear surprisingly often in relation to foraging enrichment. Though i understand the frustration in the parrot owners that put down a lot of work into foraging activities for their birds, who just aren’t responding with the enthusiasm the owners expected, in my experience there’s pretty much always one thing the owners of these birds have in common.

Just getting a confused look in return for all your efforts trying to enrich your parrots' lives with foraging enrichment?

Just getting a confused look in return for all your efforts trying to enrich your parrots’ lives with foraging enrichment?

Foraging is indeed a very natural behavior to parrots, but it’s also a learned behavior, just like any trick you might teach your pet. “If i do X, Y happens”. In many ways, the process of teaching a parrot a trick and teaching it how to forage is the same! The main difference is that when trick training, YOU are (almost always) delivering the reinforcement. When foraging, on the other hand, the reinforcement is delivered by the environment itself.
This also means foraging can be taught in pretty much the same way: by using shaping and dividing the behavior into small approximations.

Some parrots are super curious and want to get their beaks into pretty much everything... Others need a bit more help to succeed with their foraging endeavors! It all depends on personality and past experiences. (PS, the parakeet is a plastic toy!)

Some parrots are super curious and want to get their beaks into pretty much everything… Others need a bit more help to succeed with their foraging endeavors. It all depends on personality and past experiences.

And here’s where people often go wrong. We have a tendency to be so excited over wanting to improve the quality of life for our companions that we go all out on the first try. The parrot, who until now has always been served it’s meals in a bowl, looks at us, utterly confused or even scared of the crazy things we just suddenly decided to add to it’s environment, and has no idea what do to. We become frustrated and decide that the bird simply must be to dumb, or that foraging enrichment isn’t his cup of tea.

As with most other things: some birds will of course figure out what to do immediately. Others won’t, though.
That’s why we sometimes need to start out slow. Let’s say you have a scared African grey that has never foraged before, is scared of new things and has been served food in the same bowl for years. Just something as simple as adding another food bowl at the other side of the cage might be the first step you want to take.
After that, you can add criteria just like you would when teaching any other behavior, maybe add food to a stainless steel skewer, a treat cage, or just place it on top of the cage/enclosure to make them work a bit more for it, and slowly expand your parrots’ foraging repertoire until they’re total pros.

Young corella learning how to forage for food in straw. Starting out with a lot of food to make it easy to succeed for this young and inexperienced bird!

Young corella learning how to forage for food in straw. Starting out with a lot of food to make it easy to succeed for this young and inexperienced bird.

Foraging is one of the most important forms of enrichment you can provide your parrot with. In the wild they would spend a lot of time finding and obtaining food. It provides them with a healthy activity (which also means less time for chewing furniture…) and helps keep them fit- and active. When they get to choose, parrots actually even prefer to work for their food, even if the same food is freely available. This is a phenomenon known as “contra freeloading” that i will be writing more about in the future. This means you do not have to feel bad for “making your birds earn a living”. On the contrary: it’s one of the best things you can do for them!

Go creative! This enrichment consists of a ripe mango smeared onto some plant foliage. For chickens, insects was added to the "goo". For a parrot, you could add some seeds or just use the mango.

Go creative! This enrichment consists of a ripe mango smeared onto some plant foliage. For chickens, insects was added to the “goo”. For a parrot, you could add some seeds or just use the mango on it’s own. When using fresh foods, make sure you remove it before it spoils.

Here are some tips on getting started with foraging:

  • Just like when trick training, it can be a good idea to start off with something that your parrot really likes. Once he’s got the hang of the foraging concept, you can start incorporating all kinds of food items; including pellets, fresh veggies and even chop!
  • Start off on a level that your birds can handle. If they’re scared of the enrichment you’ve presented or just aren’t getting it: take it back a notch and work your way up. Think shaping!
  • Foraging does not have to be expensive, store bought items. And if you make your own foraging items: they do not have to be flamboyant, beautiful creations incorporating lot’s of different materials etc. Personally, i like to save that kind of things for the toys, which are in a different category of enrichment. The important part is that they are time consuming and lets your bird use his mind and body to work on obtaining a goal. Plain wood, paper cups, toilet rolls, cardboard boxes, plant foliage, hay, wood chips etc will often do the trick!
  • Make sure foraging enrichment is easy and cheap for YOU to implement, as ideally it should be done every single day!
  • Foraging doesn’t have to be a “device” or “item”. For many species, especially parakeets, cockatiels and many other birds that would naturally search for food on the ground; scattering seed or pellets among wood chips/hay is an excellent form of enrichment, for example.

    This is a pretty big (and fun!) topic that i will make sure to write more about in the future.
    In the meantime, happy enriching!

Some thoughts on Harness training parrots

Lately, it being summer and all, I’ve seen a lot of people trying to harness train their parrots. It makes me very happy to see people taking the time to do it in a force free manner using positive reinforcement, as opposed to just strapping the harness on an unwilling, uncomfortable and even scared bird as some people unfortunately choose to do!
Some owners have great success, some less success, and this post will be about some of the things that I feel it’s easy to forget when you are new to harness training parrots.

The number one thing I think separates training things such as allowing a harness on their body, towel training, being in a crate and similar things to training other behaviors like many tricks, is that we rely much more on classical conditioning (you know, Pavlov’s dogs!) and animals emotions, and not “just” operant conditioning (if I do X, Y happens).

Just like being harnessed, being toweled can be an aweful experience, or a wonderful one. Can you guess how Eris is feeling about it? : )

Just like being harnessed, being toweled can be an awful experience, or a wonderful one. Can you guess how Eris is feeling about it? : )

This means, that as opposed to when teaching, say, a wave, where the bird just have to lift his foot to earn a reinforcer, we now need to teach the bird to like to have something wrapped around it’s body; something that can be really scary to many species and individuals, and this is indeed a bit trickier.
In reality, what this means is that we as trainers need to be very, very observant, looking a lot closer on each response we get from the animal, always paying attention to that ever so revealing body language to avoid creating even the slightest fear response.

For example: two birds putting their heads through a head loop in an aviator harness can look vastly different.  One might have relaxed feathers, almond shaped eyes, it’s weight distributed evenly and reach in to the loop without hesitation to earn it’s treat. Another bird might have big, round eyes, the feathers on the head/body lying flat, the bird “standing high” on his legs with the wings tightly folded against it’s body, and with twitchy motions try to get the treat that you are holding on the other side of loop, quickly pulling his head out again as soon as he’s got it.
What does this tell us? In the first case, we have a relaxed bird enjoying the experience.  A perfect time to move forward in the training process to the next criteria.
The other example… Well, even though this bird is doing the same thing as the first one, it’s not feeling the same way about doing it. Here’s where most people go wrong and keep trying to push the bird even though he’s doing everything in his power to tell you he’s uncomfortable. Sure,he is reaching for the treat after all – apparently he wants it really bad – but he is not having fun. What you are doing here is actually hindering the learning process in the long run by making things too difficult for the bird and working him when he is too stressed! If a bird is presenting the same or similar body language as the one in the second example: take it back a notch. Work more on just being close to the harness and presenting relaxed body language, and make sure that everything you do with the harness leads (no pun intended) to a pleasant experience for the parrot. Or, like Barbara Heidenreich (www.goodbirdinc.com) said: “Take it slow to get there fast!”

Here’s a video of some early harness training with a relaxed and eager student, my Grey parrot Eris. I am doing a few minor mistakes though, see if you can spot them! : ) This was early on in the training, hence the very frequent reinforcement!

Some quick tips for harness training:

  • Always pay close attention to body language so that you never create a fear response, or make the bird uncomfortable.
  • Rewards heavily and frequently, especially early on in the training process. Remember that the more reinforcement history your bird has with the harness, the less chance you will have to move back in the training process if something your bird doesn’t like were to happen.
  • Divide the harness training into super tiny approximations, and do not move to the next one if the parrot is not showing comfortable and relaxed body language at the current step.
  • Choose your training sessions wisely. Don’t try to work on harness training (sitting still, paying attention) if your parrot is in the middle of a hyper-fit. Instead, work on some flight training or tricks where he can move around, and save the harness training to when the bird is somewhat calm.
  • Don’t be a tease. Do not present a treat and try to pull it away slowly when the bird reaches for it to “get more behavior”. That will just make your parrot frustrated, and teach it that reaching for treats results in them being moved away, and, by proxy, that harness training sucks. Presenting a treat is like a making a contract: “Get here and it’s yours”. We don’t break contracts!
  • Remember that getting the harness on the bird is not all. We also need to work on feeling relaxed outdoors, not to mention getting the harness off!

Pet parrots and flight

To me, flight has always been a big part of why I love birds. Since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with flying, and made birds (with corrects wing shapes for each type of bird, even!) out of paper that I played with. A friend and I even made plans for our very own human “flying suit”, though I’m glad we never got to test that one out…

Fully functioning vs. clipped is one of those hot topics in the parrot community, and I realize many people clip their parrots with the best of intentions there is: i have no doubt it is often done with the bird’s best in mind. This article is written as a way of expressing some of my own concerns about the practice of clipping wings, and why it might in fact not be a very good idea.

Flying macaws! Photo by Inge Norberg
Flying macaws! Photo by Inge Norberg

The case for flight
Ethology is the study of animal behavior. We look at how animals behave naturally, why that might be so from an evolutionary standpoint, as well as what behaviors are actually important for the animals themselves. This is how we know foraging enrichment is important to parrots and increase their well-being for instance: even though they don’t need to work for their food in captivity where food is free and plentiful, it is a very important behaviour to them since they have evolved to do so.
From an Ethological and animal welfare point of view, it turns out that what is known as “Vigilance behaviors” are super important to animals, especially prey species like our parrots. Vigilance behaviors are basically different strategies and behaviors developed by animals to avoid predators, which in turn enables them to avoid being killed or injured. For parrots, like most flighted animals, flying is one very important vigilance strategy.

You might be thinking “sure, this might be important in the wild, but there are no hawks in my living room”. This is true indeed, but that actually doesn’t make these kinds of vigilance behaviors less important to captive parrots, or any other prey species for that matter.
We can all become startled sometimes, even us humans that aren’t a prey species in the same way. If that happens, being able to get away from that scary thing/situation is extremely important for our psychological well-being. Being denied the ability to do this can actually be a source of chronic stress, which in turn leads to a suppressed immune system and sometimes effect things such as learning ability negatively. It can also lead to parrots being even more scared of even more things/scenarios that they wouldn’t have reacted to if they knew they were capable of removing themselves from scary situations. Sometimes, it all turns into a bad cycle of being scared -> not being able to get away -> being more vigilant and scared of even more things. This can also lead to parrots being less inquisitive than they would have been if they were flighted. Why risk investigating stuff if they might be dangerous and you can’t get away from them effectively?
Another downside is that when flight is not an option, when cornered, they often take to the only other option they have in the face of a potential danger; fight. A bird that is frightened and knows it can’t get away may very well lash out as a preventative measure when startled because of this, and an “unpredictable biter” is born.-

Senegal parrot in flight
Senegal parrot in flight

Another very important thing for parrots is control, like in the case of vigilance behaviors above. Lack of control is one thing we know has a very negative effect on welfare. In fact, providing animals with as much choice and control as possible is one of the main strategies of increasing welfare, and is one of the reasons why practicing force free management strategies is so important. If you’re familiar with training terminology, control is also a primary reinforcer: something animals are naturally willing to work hard to gain, just like food, water or safety as described above. Animals are even willing to put themselves through unpleasant experiences just to feel in control, and to feel as if they can affect their situation by behaving.
To us, being able to move about freely and go where we want to go is such an everyday thing that it might be easy to overlook how frustrating and stressful not being able to do so might be. Often, we can even observe this stress in the form of stereotypical behavior or displacement activities. The “I wanna go there-dance” is very common to see in parrots, where they stand in place, rocking back and forth, often with wings kept slightly out from the body, with a very “horizontal” posture, as if they were just about to take flight. This is sometimes accompanied by vocalizations, and, if we’re not careful, it can lead to comfort behaviors such as preening being performed excessively to cope with the stress; i.e feather destructive behavior.
Some parrots show this behavior so often we don’t even think about it, some people even think it is a “dance” or random cute behavior, but it is actually a pretty serious indicator of stress, and one that parrots with limited/no flight abilities show way more often than a skilled flier that can choose where to go on his/her own.

Timneh african grey in flight
Timneh african grey in flight

Flight is of course also very important to birds physically. Obesity is on the rise in humans, and the same thing sadly goes for parrots as well. Flying costs a lot of energy and there is just no way of a bird getting the same amount of quality exercise from climbing or flapping alone. As for building muscle, the same goes there. The pectoral muscles in birds make up a big part of their total body weight (at least they should!) and helps protect the breast bone from fractures and other injuries.
Flying also helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, helps strengthen bones, and has all the same health benefits that regular exercise has for us humans. Exercise also helps release different “feel good-hormones” and can contribute to us feeling more content and less anxious.
I very often use regular flight training as a preventative measure: letting a bird get a bit tired under controlled conditions by doing recalls, A-B flights and doing tricks/behaviors where flight is involved is a great way to decrease the chance of unwanted behaviors like screaming, chewing furniture and having a rambunctious bird climbing all over the place. Just like a dog needs regular, daily exercise to do well in a home setting, I believe the same thing goes for all animals that would naturally spend a lot of time on the move.

Another common issue with clipped birds is broken blood feathers. I’ve overheard people saying this is “normal”, especially in young birds, which it is NOT. It is painful and potentially very dangerous. This happens more in clipped birds since, unlike unclipped birds, the new blood feathers growing in do not have the support of other, fully developed feathers. This renders them very vulnerable and prone to breaking.
Further, the sense of balance and coordination in clipped bird fades in comparison with that of a skilled flyer. It takes more than most people realize to travel by wing, and this is something a clipped bird will never get the chance to practice in the same way. This often also leads to birds with a much poorer sense of balance, which in some individuals leads to them becoming more “skittish” and showing more fear responses as they are afraid of losing their balance, being unable to brace the fall if they should lose their footing. In many instances I have seen parrots that actually bite when they are being moved, especially when perched on an unfamiliar person, because they are scared of falling or losing their balance.
Parrots also use their wings as an aid when climbing, and to communicate with each other, as well as many other things.

Grey parrots safely enjoying the outdoors in an enclosed balcony
Grey parrots safely enjoying the outdoors in an enclosed balcony

So why clip?
The most common reasons for clipping are:
Taking a bird outdoors
To protect it from household dangers
Being able to control the bird more easily
Preventing a bird from escaping
Taming and reducing aggression

Clipping to take a bird outdoors
This is not recommended under any circumstances, for the simple reason that clipped birds can fly. No matter how bad the clip, if the wind is right it can carry a bird longer than you’d ever think. Sadly, many people have lost their birds this way, and there is often an even smaller chance of getting a clipped bird back than a fully flighted one, since a clipped bird has no way of escaping the many dangers outdoors, or navigating its way back to you even if it wanted to. If taking a bird outside, please make sure it is properly restrained in a harness, travel carrier or outdoor aviary.

Protecting parrots from household dangers
A hot stove with boiling pots, toilets, windows, mirrors, ceiling fans… The list goes on, and these are of course dangers that should be taken seriously. I do however not think that clipping is the answer. For one thing, I personally would not feel right taking on an animal and placing it in an environment with many known dangers, if altering the animal physically was the only way of keeping it safe. Being a behaviour and welfare nerd, that just doesn’t rock my boat. Instead I advocate doing it the other way around – making the environment safer for the bird, both through altering the environment itself where possible, as well as through some well thought out management strategies. For one thing: no birds in the kitchen when we are cooking. Simple, yet effective. Should a bird for some reason end up in the kitchen when a pot is on the stove, they have been taught to land- and stay on the play area in that room, to minimize the risk of injury until they can be removed.
Any items that might be toxic or harmful are put away, and as a safety measure the birds are taught cues such as “drop” for emergencies. Any water that might pose a risk for drowning is covered, and the bathroom door remains shut, as well as the lid put down, unless we are in there.
Windows and mirrors is generally only a problem for the young fledgling or for a previously non-flighted bird learning how to fly. We can teach birds about these weird things by allowing them to investigate them while not in flight, letting them tap the surfaces with their beak while on our hand for example. We can also avoid crashes in to windows by teaching them where to land through positive reinforcement. When my birds fly, they have a number of spots in each room where they know it is safe and fun to be, and they therefore aim for these places, even if it is a startle flight and they take off in panic. If flying to these designated perches/places is practiced enough, they will generally aim for them even when startled. Providing a window-perch can also be an idea, as the parrot will probably land on the perch instead of hitting the window, if it is a skilled flyer.
Having had birds for almost 15 years now, I’ve only had one adult bird crash into a window or mirror, and that was a previously clipped cockatiel with terrible flight skills at the time.
To sum it up, there are tonnes of strategies for making our homes a safer place for parrots. We can never keep them completely safe as accidents can happen to anyone. By being proactive, arranging the environment as much as we can, as well as training our birds, we can drastically increase their safety without having to handicap them. It should also be noted that a clipped bird is not even near safe from harm, as there are multiple instances where a clipped bird has fallen into a pot of boiling water, drowned, been stepped/sat on, or killed by other household pets. I would argue that a clipped bird is not safer, but simply exposed to a lot of other kinds of dangers.

Protecting parrots from household dangers (or our things from them!) isn't always easy, but clipping is far from the only- or best option
Protecting parrots from household dangers (or our things from them!) isn’t always easy, but clipping is far from the only- or best option!

Clipping to gain more control over the bird
Now, this one really bugs me, sorry to say. I understand how some parrot owners can feel desperate at times, but this is almost always out of lack of knowledge. The good news is, you do not need to limit your bird’s choices, like the choice to fly away from you or perch up high, in order to control it! As previously mentioned, providing parrots with as much choice as possible will greatly increase their welfare, and depriving them of it, as is the case when clipping, will very likely decrease it. Instead, this can easily be accomplished through the use of positive reinforcement training and force free management strategies. With positive reinforcement training, we can teach birds things like going back to their cages when we ask, flying to us or a designated perch, coming down from a spot that’s too high up for us to reach, and so much more, all without even having to touch them. We can also teach them to get along with other family members and pets. I will provide resources for information on this at the end of this article. By providing parrots with many areas that are okay for them to be, and making these areas super fun/reinforcing to the bird, we can even teach them to stay off our precious stuff and only chew what they are supposed to chew. It is definitely possible to live with flighted parrots without chaos, mayhem and a wrecked home. It just takes a bit more work than a snip with the scissors, but on the other hand: the rewards for us, and more importantly for the birds, are tremendous.

Clipping to prevent a bird from escaping
Again, it’s all about management. There are so many options, like putting netting up in our windows and balconies and much more, all depending on your living situation. It is of course always a bit more difficult when family and kids are involved, but it is definitely doable as demonstrated by hundreds of people world-wide.

We can also prevent disaster by training our birds, so that our chances of getting them back should they escape are much better. Most of the time, lost birds don’t get lost because they want to, but because they just don’t know what to do when they are suddenly flying outdoors. They might lack the flight skills necessary to fly in windy conditions, often several metres off the ground, and are not used to being in a strange environment. By letting our birds experience a lot of different environments and pairing them with good things, we can make them comfortable in unfamiliar placed and increase the chance of them not freaking out if they are suddenly loose in one. By training a solid recall, generalizing it to different environments and helping them work on their flight skills, chances of retrieving a lost bird are also improved.
Basically, my thoughts are that if we are not confident in the fact that we can keep a bird safe in a certain environment without altering it physically, with all the downsides that brings with it, maybe we should consider not bringing a bird into that environment.

Eris enjoying the great outdoors safely in her harness
Eris enjoying the great outdoors safely in her harness

Clipping a bird to tame it more easily
Again, this is sadly a decision based on ignorance. Instead I recommend reading up on training with positive reinforcement, and taming the bird by making yourself into a valued recourse, instead of something the bird just can’t get away from. After all, we want our birds to be with us because they want to and like us, so why start the relationship out with force and fear when there is no need?
The same thing goes for birds that show aggressive behaviour towards other family members or household pets.

If your bird is clipped/has poor flight skills/doesn’t want to fly, or maybe can’t because of medical reasons, here are some tips:
Of course, work on them becoming more comfortable flyers.  If you have just gotten your bird and it was clipped young by a breeder, please consider having an imping procedure done on the bird for the sake of it’s health, even if you want to keep it clipped later on. Imping is a fairly simple procedure where donor feathers are fastened into the old, clipped feathers that are still attached on the bird, and should be performed by an avian vet. It is SUPER important that young birds are allowed to fledge properly, and never, ever clipped before the age of 1-2 years.

If your bird doesn’t fly for medical reasons, it is a good idea to try to increase it’s choices in every day life as much as possible. One way of doing this is by making the areas where your parrot is allowed more “handicap-accessible” through the use of ropes/perches (if placed up high they won’t be in the way for people) between different play areas, and making it possible for the bird to follow you through the house on it’s own.

If you have a bird that is perfectly capable if flying but doesn’t really want to for some reason, it might not have been encouraged to fly when young or has been previously clipped for example; positive reinforcement training is a great way to improve flight skills in a way that is fun and rewarding for the bird, which will often lead to them flying more on their own as well. Starting with short A-B flights or even jumps, gradually increasing distance, and later moving on to flying down from/up to higher places inside, flying around corners, through door frames etc is a great way to bond, build confidence and exercise. In my experience: the better the flyer, the less the risk of flight-related injuries. This is why it is so important to actively encourage your parrot to fly and practice his skills in a controlled setting, so that when for example a startle flight occurs, the chances of injury are very, very small.

One last thing
:
Another thing I would just like to mention before wrapping this up, is that keeping pet parrots flighted does NOT equal flying them outdoors. Even if your bird loves you and has a 100% solid recall indoors, it does not mean you can let it loose outside. Flying outdoors is vastly different and requires a whole other skill-set, both from the bird and you, and should not be attempted by most people/parrots.