Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Freedom the Bald Eagle's Training Journal - Entry #4

Here is our October update on Freedom’s training with a journal entry from Dan Hnilicka, Freedom's principal trainer.  (See past entries starting here.)

Part of our responsibility in the care and management of our winged education ambassadors is to keep their minds as healthy as their bodies.  One way to do this is to provide enrichment in how their food is presented.  This encourages natural behavior by engaging the birds’ minds, feet, and eyes, as well as making the activities of finding food and eating last longer.  The birds do need to be taught how to interact with their enrichment activities, however. 

In this video, Freedom was presented with his rat lunch, but it is inside a pumpkin, carved by our TRC volunteers!  Freedom recognizes his lunch, but not the object in which it is housed.  You can see how he is a little hesitant as he first approaches the pumpkin.  He is able to grab a piece of the rat, and then quickly moves to a safer location in his housing in which to eat it.  He is still curious, so he takes a moment to consider, but then approaches the pumpkin with more confidence.  He even eats one piece right there!

You can clearly see his process of learning how to interact with his enrichment in the video.  The photos also capture his “journey”. 

The last photo was taken the next morning.  Freedom did “disassemble” his pumpkin into tiny pieces! 

Note – the leather straps on Freedom’s ankles are part of his equipment, called bracelets and jesses.  As you can see, he has learned how to move very comfortably with them.  They are used with all of our education birds in their management. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Let's Talk About Tail Molt!

Darner the American kestrel graciously agreed to be the model and teacher today for a lesson on tail molt!

Raptors have 12 tail feathers - six on each side.  When they molt, which is the process to replace these and other feathers due to wear, they will ideally molt symmetrically.  So - if you think of the tail as six feathers on the left side, and six feathers on the right, then the tail molt should happen with the 6's on the left and right molting at the same time.

You can see from the photo that this is true.  While some feathers were hidden a bit when Darner was on the glove after lunch and a spritz water bath, you can see very clearly that both of Darner's number 6's and number 4's are coming in nicely. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Freedom the Bald Eagle's Training Journal - Entry #3

Freedom looks to Dan for their training session.

We’d like to share another step in Freedom’s training with a journal entry from Dan Hnilicka, Freedom's principal trainer.

We often get comments from the public about how comfortable on the glove the birds appear during programs.  While it is a reflection of their trust in their handlers, it is also a result of many hours of training.  One behavior that Freedom is currently learning that will be transferred to when he is on the glove in programs is “targeting.” Targeting is a behavior in which an animal touches or orients a part of its body to a specific target. The target could be anything from the end of a stick, a glove, a buoy, or even just a specific perch. Currently, Freedom is learning to target his face towards the colored end of a stick (you can see this in the second photo). Essentially, if Freedom looks towards the end of this stick, he receives a treat. Learning this simple behavior is beneficial for Freedom’s future husbandry and management, but also his future behavior on the glove.  Also, this kind of training encourages the bird to be more confident.  Moving and interacting with the target allows Freedom to make choices to earn reinforcers. 

Freedom and Dan working on target training.

Freedom takes a bite of food from Dan.

If Freedom knows to voluntarily move his face towards a target stick, we can easily ask him to move from perch to perch to see various parts of his body up close and moving for a visual exam. Also, when on the glove for a program, we can ask Freedom to move his head upright, which is a behavior visitors often view as “comfortable.” What they don’t realize is that our birds are specifically reinforced when they exhibit behaviors that can be labeled as “calm.” We want our education birds to best reflect how their counterparts in the wild would be behaving and training such as target training helps us to do that.
See past entries here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Raptor Center Announces Raptor Academy Online Courses

Learn about Raptor Handling 101.
Learn about Raptor Medical Care and Management.
The Raptor Center announces the launch of our initial online course offerings for Raptor Academy. 

Registration is now open for three instructor-led courses that were designed and led by instructors who have set the standards for raptor medicine and rehabilitation.  These are valuable learning opportunities for wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, and government agencies across the nation and around the globe. 

The topics are:
Introduction to Raptor Rehabilitation and Basic Emergency Care (October 31 to December 17, 2017); Raptor Medical Care and Management (January 9 to February 18, 2018); and Pre-release Conditioning and Release (March 6 to April 15, 2018).

We also have self-study online courses that you can complete anytime, anywhere, and at your own pace. It’s the easiest way for you to increase your knowledge of how to successfully care for raptors. 

The first is Raptor Handling 101.  Learn techniques to handle raptors safely and with respect. You’ll also study personal protection equipment and techniques for capture, restraint, recovery, weighing, and hooding.

All of the learning opportunities at Raptor Academy are on our website.  If you want to stay informed as we develop new courses, you can sign up for our e-news hereWatch an introduction video by Dr. Julia Ponder, TRC’s executive director.