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A bit about my background

March 8, 2009 1 comment

I find it so absolutely important to know about the person of whom one is reading, especially if they are seeking advice and information from which to learn. It is for this reason that I am wanting to share my information to you, the reader.Seven years ago I bought my first bird and had absolutely no clue what I was doing or what I may be getting myself into. Since that first day with my Umbrella Cockatoo, I have continued daily learning and searching for information in regards to avian behavior and welfare.

I began traveling and attending numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars of Barbara Heidenreich’s and Dr. Susan Friedman’s over a couple of years and still do. I then moved on and completed Susan Friedman’s LLP and a year later completed her 16 hour LLP TELE course for Veterinarians & Professionals focused on Applied Behavior Analysis.

In the meantime I was reading the writings of Sid Price and Steve Martin, which lead me to signing up and completing two consecutive years of workshops through Steve Martin’s Natural Encounters. I have one workshop left to take in finishing the series of three. Through these workshops and Barbara’s lectures, I have found active training to be one of the most important forms of enrichment in which we can offer to our companion parrots and the birds in which we interact. Positive reinforcement training usually involves numerous forms of enrichment including: auditory, visual, nutritional, tactile, and social. It also builds the trust and relationship between the bird and the trainer.

Observing birds in flight, especially companion parrots, one can see the effects the empowerment over their environment gives to them. It exudes in their self confidence, security, and decline in negative behavioral issues. This caused me to enclose my entire backyard in aviary netting and actively train my parrots for flight, agility, and skill through the technique and fluency of positive reinforcement training. I then went in search of education and experience of free flying of parrots. It also reinforced me in sharing my observations on their behavior with others.

2008 FlyAbout at Cockatoo Downs

The positive effects I saw in flight training took me to Chris Shank’s FlyAbout 2008 at Cockatoo Downs in Dallas, Oregon. There I spent three days submerged in training and education of teaching and learning free flight. I had the opportunity to work and train one of her parent raised, red vented cockatoos that had a history of no physical human contact. Three fantastic speakers Chris Shank, Dr. Susan Orosz, PhD, DVM, Dipl ABVP& Dipl ECAMS, and Barbara Heidenreich all spoke and taught about training, health through flight, and technique in free flying. Free flying is the act of flying birds outdoors with no restraint. A detailed review of the FlyAbout 2008 can be read in a review I had written in the Fall 2008 issue of IAATE’s (The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators) newsletter called The Flyer. http://iaate.org/

I began hiring out my training services with my first per diem project of training two Blue and Gold Macaws for an opening exhibit at The Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. That is when I was officially bit by the training bug hook, line, and sinker. I will never stop training using positive reinforcement training because of the enrichment it offers and the relationship it creates built through trust between the bird and the trainer. The reinforcement I get through training a bird to behave through positive reinforcement training is simply priceless let alone ethical with all or most choice left up to the bird. It’s the bird’s reaction and willingness to be trained that reinforces me coming back.

I presented my first research at the 29th Annual Association of Avian Veterinarians Conference and Expo in Savannah, Georgia. My research was on enrichment and how lack of it increases abnormal repetitive behaviors in captive animals with the focus on companion parrots and my observations from a clinical setting in performing behavioral consultations. This is a true fascination of mine in which I continue my research and application to companion parrot behavior and captive animal behavior. I have just completed my second year of presenting my research at the 30th Annual AAV Conference and Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in August 2009. The first topic I was extremely excited to present was Contrafreeloading & Its Effects on Avian Behavior. The second I was excited to share my work and experience in training parrots and raptors on the topic of Empowerment & Its Effects on Avian Behavior. I have been asked to share in presenting a master class at the 31st Annual AAV Conference and Expo in San Diego but haven’t yet decided if I will. I will always continue my search for further education in behavior modification through applied behavior analysis and positive reinforcement training. This next year will take me to new dimensions in each including working very intently on a few projects.

I also focus and specialize in teaching birds to forage and increasing their levels of complexities within their environments to accommodate their intelligence level all the while focusing on reducing abnormal repetitive behaviors induced by captive environments. This is a broad statement and includes many levels of working with a bird or animal. This is what I find truly fascinating.

I currently travel and speak on companion parrot behavior, training, and enrichment and now that spectrum is flowing over into my work with raptors. I present workshops and also workshops as fundraisers for numerous organizations. These I love because I love helping in raising money for good causes. I spoke at the 5th and 6th annual Parrot Palooza at Bird Paradise in Burlington, New Jersey. I was asked to come back in 2010 and gladly accepted. I also write the newsletters for Bird Paradise which can be found at http://bird-paradise.biz/ and click on “Newsletter”.

I give numerous workshops to bird groups, societies, veterinarian clinics, and stores. These have been a great success which I gage by the attendance, the repeat requests to give more, and the interaction and reaction from the bird owners. They are some of my favorite to give. My workshops are geared toward parrot behavior, training, and/or enrichment.

I also currently design a line of enrichment and foraging toys for companion parrots. I’ve been desinging and expanding my line of toys for six years now. This is another area in which I truely enjoy because I design them to aid in modifying or preventing negative behavioral issues in companion parrots and the cool thing is, I get to see and hear from others how they work. My line of foraging toys was also presented in Scott Echols’ foraging lab at the 30th Annual AAV Conference and Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have just recently started selling my toys to the public. To see the line, feel free to e-mail me at aviansanta@gmail.com.

Program Great Horned Owl

A new found enrichment

I am the director of training and enrichment for the birds of prey at a wildlife rehabilitation center near where I live. http://www.natures-nursery.org/ I started training their birds of prey because I wanted to fine tune my training technique in working with companion parrots. I started working here with the intention to learn through what the raptors could teach me and staying for about six months and then leaving. Well, here I am over a year later and have no intention of ever leaving. I am hooked and I love working with these birds. I’ve had the honor of living with a Great Horned Owl for a few months and still share my residence with a program Screech Owl. I get to see first hand how training behaviors through positive reinforcement techniques truely enriches their lives. I am here to stay and love the care and concern the facility promotes through education and conservation. I have since spoke with the director in my long term goals of training and attempting to begin a new program through the raptor division. I also focus heavily on alternate ways in enriching the lives of those that remain in captivity due to imprinting or injury.

I am a member of several very worthy organizations dedicated to the education in aviculture. These I really want to list because I believe in their causes are so profound for the future of education, conservation and welfare. I am a professional member of and sit on two committees for The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators. I am an active member of The Animal Behavior Management Alliance. I am a dedicated member of and support The World Parrot Trust http://www.parrots.org/, a passionate supporter of The Indonesian Parrot Project http://www.indonesian-parrot-project.org/, and a supporter of The American Federation of Aviculture http://www.afabirds.org/.

I am one of six administrators for an online community dedicated to the welfare and education of the companion parrot society called AvianNation http://aviannation.com/. I have been a member here for about three years but have known many of the members for seven years and we have all grown in our passion for the welfare of parrots together. It is a place I call home with members I consider family and visit and interact numerous times throughout the day.

I have just returned from being asked to speak at The Philadelphia Zoo at the annual Docent Council dinner. What a fascinating and educating experience this was for me. The Docent Council of The Philadelphia Zoo provides a strong foundation of education and conservation of all the species at their zoo. I was given several guided and personalized tours including a behind the scenes tour of their new McNeil Avian Center. My eyes were opened to the serious dedication to the survival, protection, and education of all species and I had the opportunity to see how serious the Council is in attaining further education for the benefit of the animals. I just can’t say enough in regards to how impressed I was. Dave and Sandy Schaefer were very cordial in offering me accommodations while I was there. What a fantastic and couple who provided me with laughs and continual education during my stay. Thank you. Happy birthday to the new baby orangutan that was born there the day I left. How happy the parents Tua & Sugie must be. Happy 150th anniversary to The Philadelphia Zoo! http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/

A few things I am currently pursuing and working on consist of going back to college to more aggressively pursue my interest and fascination in behavior. Major progression is being made at the wildlife rehabilitation center in which I work. I am very excited for some of these upcoming changes and will post about them as they evolve. I am also very excited to have begun my education and initiative in attaining my falconer’s license. I have thought about pursuing a license in falconry for well over three years now and am driven to continue due to the education and the success it has on the well-being and future of the raptor itself. I am also pleased to have spoke at the first annual parrot lovers cruise to Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. http://www.parrotloverscruise.com/home . What a fabulous group of people with their focus on a great cause; conservation of parrot species in the wild.

I give and offer different in-depth and detailed workshops in the areas of behavior, training, and enrichment. If you are interested in any of these, please feel free to contact me. My e-mail is aviansanta@gmail.com.

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