frozen food day

hearthawk  asked:

Hey! I was wondering if I could poke you and see if you had any good ideas for bird of prey enrichment. In my new position, I wanted to make an enrichment calender with enrichment ideas for a collection of program owls, vultures, and hawks (and the poultry who share the holding areas). Do you give enrichment to your ambassador birds? What have you found they seem to interact with the most? Novel foods, novel items, textures, bathing options, and of course, training ideas?

Nice! Congrats on the new position, and good luck with the enrichment calendar. Raptors can be tricky to plan for, at least if you want a diverse set of enrichment. 

The following list is a variety of enrichment ideas I’ve either used or seen used on the raptors you are working with. It is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. This post won’t go into great detail on how to do each of them, but if one catches your eye but the description is confusing, let me know and I’ll try to clarify. 

Basic Training: These are the basics. When it comes to raptors, consistency and routine are the biggest factors. If you can work the following into your basic training regiment every day or every other day, then your raptors will be enriched and learn valuable commands and behavior for vet care, handling, and presentation.

Keel Score and Touch Training: These two practices are crucial in training raptors because it gets them used to people, hands, and situations where they need to be held. It also trains the handler to do a thorough inspection of the bird every time its on their glove. Start with the keel and the feet, move to the beak and head, then try gently pulling their wings out or maneuvering their tail by hand. They wont like it at first, but if they get used to it, this can be invaluable for vet visits. 

Putting on and Taking off Equipment: Get the birds used to the anklets, jesses, leashes, hoods, and other equipment. Try to put it all on at least once a day. (Hood Training a raptor typically takes a more involved approach and should only started if you can really commit to the practice multiple times a day.)

“Step Up” and “Step Back”: Use treat rewards and repetition to teach each bird to step up onto a glove or perch when asked and step back onto a glove, perch, or scales when asked. Once learned, keep a habit of using the commands when weighing each bird every day. 

Jump Ups: These exercises both teach the birds to come to a gloved fist when called and if done in the right distances and elevations can be excellent exercise for them. 

Creance Training: If your birds are fully flighted, this is excellent training and exercise. It also helps prepare for flighted programs. 

Take a Walk: My team and I take our birds on walks at least twice a week. This gets them out of the enclosure, seeing new sights, and getting comfortable with their handlers. 

Owl Enrichment: Owls are largely solitary creatures with little to no food motivation. Much of their enrichment will revolve around stimulating their senses and appealing to their more destructive nature. Each bird will be different of course, so you’ll just need to try until you find which enrichment is the best received. 

Shredded Phonebooks: Setting up a partially shredded phone book or similar paper product can be one of the most enriching objects for large owls like the Great Horned Owl.

Cardboard Egg Cartons: Very similar to the above. (Really anything cardboard and shaped odd will do)

Towel Wrapped Perch: Some owls love to pick the threads off of towels. Wrapping part of a perch in a small towel can be entertaining. 

Live Prey: If the bird is fit and able, live prey is good enrichment. Insects like captive bred roaches or meal worms can be good as well. Try spreading the meal worms through long leaf astroturf. 

Feather Bundle: If you have old body feathers from a prior moult, tie them together and hang them in various places throughout the enclosure. Bonus if you can get breezes to move them occasionally. 

Audio Samples: This depends on the bird, but more social owls like the screech owl will get largely intrigued if you start playing their calls from various places on occasion. Try to get them to call back (Keep note of the call used and the response. Some are territorial calls or alarm calls, try to avoid those.)

Vulture Enrichment: These birds are usually social creatures with a large propensity for destructive behavior. Their food drive is okay, but the more intriguing the situation, the better. 

Food Puzzles: Try creating various puzzles and challenges for the birds to reach a tidbit reward. If its something they can destroy, even better. Look up “Striated Caracara Enrichment”, you’ll find videos by Elite Falconry. While Caracara aren’t really vultures, the puzzles are excellent for vultures and intelligent, food motivated birds. 

Hide and Seek: If it’s turkey vultures you’re working with, hiding smelly food can be a great enrichment option. Try hiding it in cardboard egg cartons or safely destructible items. 

Eggs: the occasional egg can be a great treat. 

Un-stuffed Stuffed Animals: Like the owls this, can be a great thing for the birds to pick and pull apart. just be sure the materials are plastic free and there is no stuffing in it. 

Mist Sprayers: We’re located in Central Texas. If you are in a place with plenty of heat, mist sprayers can be great afternoon enrichment. Typically the birds will step in the mist then go sun themselves until they dry off. 

Hawk Enrichment: The most food motivated of the group, these birds are most enriched by the challenge and reward of obtaining food. 

Food Puzzles: Simple puzzles can be great, but a word of warning. Most hawks have a poor sense of object permanence, so be sure any treat reward is visible at all times.

Treat Foods: Eggs, Day old chick, chicken leg, insects, etc… These should be given sparingly, but can offer a great change up from the typical feeding schedule. If you can, try offering a rotating diet of core meats the bird would eat in the wild and then sprinkle the above options into the mix for rewards and lazy days. 

Frozen Food: This is another hot summer option. It takes the birds time to pick apart the food enough to eat and can actually help shape their beaks and talons in the process. (Word of Warning, make sure the food in question is large enough that the bird cannot swallow it whole. If it does, this can lead to sour crop. 

“Tirings”: This is a falconry term for food objects that really aren’t all that edible, but take the bird time to pick apart. These can be bird wings, rabbit ears or feet, an even handmade lures with tidbits attached. 

Audio Samples: This depends on the bird, but more social hawks like the Harris’ Hawk or even birds like the Caracara will get largely intrigued if you start playing their calls from various places on occasion. Try to get them to call back (Keep note of the call used and the response. Some are territorial calls or alarm calls, try to avoid those.)

Live Prey: If the bird is fit and able, live prey is good enrichment. Insects like captive bred roaches or meal worms can be good as well. Try spreading the meal worms through long leaf astroturf.

Feather Bundle: If you have old body feathers from a prior moult, tie them together and hang them in various places throughout the enclosure. Bonus if you can get breezes to move them occasionally.

Minnows in the Bath: Putting minnows into their bath pan will keep many hawks fascinated and watching for hours. Some will even try to catch them. 

Swinging Perches: Install a tree branch that hangs from the ceiling by a rope. Every hawk I’ve offered this to has made it their favorite perch. 

Poultry: These birds are largely foragers, giving them stuff to pick at or eat that is more interesting than seeds is usually a great bet. 

Treat Foods: Meal Worms, strawberries, plain yogurt, Tomatoes, etc…

Foraging space: Real grass, bushes and open area.

Dust Bath: Try giving them an area to lay and role in some finer dust.

Percussion Instruments: A small, brightly colored xylophone mounted safely to a surface is certain to attract and keep interest. 


Hope this helps!

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