Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nero the Turkey Vulture's Training Journal Entry #1

Handsome Nero!

This is Dan Hnilicka, Interpretive Naturalist at TRC.  I wanted to share a few entries from a training journal I started as I began working with Nero, TRC’s education turkey vulture.

Training accomplishes a lot of things; it helps our birds be comfortable with the different situations and environments in which they teach, and to become comfortable with the staff and volunteers they work with.  It also provides a framework for how to introduce new objects (like enrichment toys) and behaviors that we encourage for a safe and less stressful experience.  Once the birds know what to expect from a trainer and a situation, they have choices of how they want to react.  

I have several goals for Nero; one is to introduce myself to him as an ongoing trainer and human he will interact with; another is to create a series of behaviors in which he knows how to do, and then be able to introduce other new trainers to him. My plan is to target train him to touch his beak to a ball on the end of a pole. We'll begin by desensitizing him to the target pole with food reinforcement and then luring him to touch it with a piece of food on the ball. Then, we'll slowly fade out the lure once he knows that touching the ball results in food afterwards. That's the plan, but we'll find out what Nero thinks of it as we move forward!
You can see in the far left that Dan has placed a bit of food
on Nero's perch and he is flying to it.

Dan is introducing the target to Nero, using food as
a lure.

Dan is getting Nero used to associating food with
the target.

Dan has a bit of food in his hand.

Nero touched the target with this beak!

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