Get Your Pet Bird Dancing By Teaching It The Head Bob

Get your pet bird bobbing to the music by teaching it head bob bird trick.

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Teaching the head bob bird trick is similar to teaching your parrot to nod his head yes. The difference, of course, is you want to teach your pet bird to head bob to music. Many parrots bob their heads spontaneously to various stimuli, but now you are asking your bird to bob to a given cue. There is no verbal cue to this trick, as the music becomes the cue, but the physical cue is simply a smaller version of the teaching cue.

Start out with the pet bird on the training stand. Hold his treat/reward, in your right hand, which should be held like a loose fist, knuckles toward the bird, thumb on top. Hold his treat under your thumb, and let your bird take the treat. Repeat a few times so he will know where his treat is when he sees your hand in this position. Now, lower your fist so he has to reach down for the treat, then let him follow your hand to slightly above his head so he has to reach up to it to get his treat.

When he follows your fist readily, end with the fist in a neutral position in front of him, and let him take his treat. It will not take him very long to grasp the idea. Now add the music. Remember, it should have a good 4/4 beat. 

Start with the fist low, then bring it up high, and end in a neutral position in front of his chest. Praise and reward (P&R). Do the sequence several times, asking him to follow with head down, up and down and up again before getting his P&R. Gradually withdraw your hand so it is further away from his body. Eventually the signal will become a simple up and down flick of the wrist. I raised my thumb slightly at this time, as I was using the fist signal for just nodding “Yes” up and down once, another trick, and did not want my bird to confuse the two. But if you can use just the loosely held fist, that is fine.

Now try to get your pet bird to bob to the beat of the music. I do not really know whether our birds feel a beat or not. Some parrots seem, from watching their videos, that they actually are moving to the beat. But I have never actually seen one do so. Videos can be doctored and music can be selected that plays at the same beat your bird seems to move at. At any rate, encourage your bird to follow the beat by moving your fist up and down in time, bringing your fist down on, say, beats 1 and 3 and up on beats 2 and 4. 

This trick itself is not hard to teach, it is just getting consistency. And that takes patience! Don’t work your bird too long at a time. Make it fun, and act excited yourself when you tell him it’s time for his dance lesson. Put on “his” music; don’t play it or use it for anything else.

Turn the music on and off with each repetition. Your pet bird might incorporate other moves when he hears the music. Grab any other movement or sound your pet bird makes and add that to his repertoire. My African grey parrot added a “Whoo, whoo, whoo” sound as she bobbed her head. Another of my pet birds preferred to sway more side to side rather than up and down. It’s all “dancing” when it’s to the music, so let the parrot innovate if he wishes and come up with a routine all his own.

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