Since the hack ended I have been doing some training while lowering the bird's weight. I first established a bridge with the word "good." Same process as "clicker training" but I've never understood why people buy a contraption that makes a noise when they already have one of those, their voice (an exception being a whistle bridge for long distance behavior marking). I would just lose, break or forget the dang thing anyway.
I haven't fully subscribed to any particular "method" or "recipe" for raising this bird. In the beginning I just left her with food all the time and kept her around me and the family. When she started moving around I let her out on a tame hack during the day. Now that she is getting cut her back some and she has some motivation I've begun to train her in the way that I feel I will get good results.
First thing that I decided is that it is not realistic for me to only call the bird to a lure and pick her up every time. She needs to fly to the glove to fit in it my style of hawking. I'm trying to accomplish this without her getting sticky footed or overly aggressive with the glove, so my method is to call the bird to an open hand with one or more tidbits hidden between my fingers in the glove. The bird can see the food and how much she gets only when she lands on my fist. I am clearly communicating that what you see is what you get and hopefully this will alleviate the desire to tear my glove apart looking for food. As has been know to happen when calling the bird to a fist when they realize that food is potentially tucked in there or catch the falconer robbing them. So far this is working.
I also have been giving baggies from a bird launcher in front of the dog to establish pseudo hunting scenarios for the bird. After the dog goes on point, I walk up with the bird on my fist and trip the launcher. When the hawk has her prey, I quickly walk up and attach her tail saver. At the moment I am using a 4" piece of double sided Velcro that I put around the base of the tail to hold the train together so the all 12 feathers are supporting each other, I plan on using this unless the mantling becomes bad. Currently she will spread her tail and drop her wings but she also leans over the prey mostly keeping her tail off or barely touching the ground. Imprint accipiters I've seen the past often lean back on their tail; smashing it into the ground. I bridge her for plucking at the prey animal and when her body language softens I toss her lure from behind, ungarnished, a foot or so in front of her which she quickly jumps to. I then drop her cut up portion of food for the day from over her back around the front of the lure. I've noticed that a lot of imprint accips break their feathers when pulling at food, so by only giving her cut up pieces I hope to get rid of some of that rocking back/tearing action. As she is picking up her tidbits, I can slip the lure into my bag without a bad reaction. When she is done eating, I've been jumping her up to the fist for her final tidbit. Assuming this process continues to be effective, I figure I can toss a tidbit or two in front of the lure in the, jump her to the glove and continue hunting. I'm prepared to make adjustments as I move along though.
Today everything when like clockwork and I'm planning on getting her out in the field soon to continue her progress. I'm also planning on conditioning her to the hood in the future, maybe on some rainy day or something. I also plan to stretch out her daily ration of food over the entire day, so that we can hunt, as well as, bridge and reinforce non aggressive behaviors throughout the day instead of at just one feeding time. As I have said before, this is my first hands on experience training an imprint accipiter and I'm approaching it with aspects of training; changing and/or modifying the birds observable behaviors.
Monday, July 12, 2010
This bird's hack is over. She did fine with it but just wasn't doing anything new. Other people that I have been in contact with who are also tame hacking Coops tell stories of how their birds are going two-three hundred yards away. Not mine, she was out on hack for two weeks and never moved more than forty yards or so. The final decision was made after she spent a day flying down behind my coworkers and running on the ground behind them. It's time I guess. She is penned now and has made a couple of kills on her own, so now its on to the fun part. At 526g this morning I suspect it is gonna be a few days before she is motivated.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Out on hack today, the Coop got her first wild catch. A fledgling decided to fledge at exactly the wrong time and Rainbow swooped outta the tree she was in and snatched it up. Then promptly flew up into another tree. Just as I was thinking "here starts the carrying" she drops down to the ground and eats her treat. (Maybe I'm doing something right.) Still a week or so from being penned and I will continue with the hack until then unless she keeps snagging stuff.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The hawk has been feeling her wings the past couple of days. Yesterday she had her first real flight. She went about 30 yards across the driveway to sit above my truck and beg for a few minutes. Today she is riding high on confidence and is beginning to venture all round the property. Including the discovery of the bubbler. I suspect that we won't be seeing the dozens of goldfinches and other songbirds that frequently visit this water feature nearly as much in the next several weeks.
Sitting on the bubbler edge after a bath (picture taken through a window).
Today she is 36 days old if I remember right. The third black band on her tail is complete so she is nearing the point where she will be hard penned. Currently I pick her up and weight her each morning from her block in the house. Then I get the lure garnished with a whole sparrow, put on her telemetry and head off to work. When I get there I toss out the lure and let her eat on the ground with me around until she is finished. Then I just go about my business and let her do what she wants. Most of her mornings have been initially spent soaking up the sun followed by a bath in the late morning. Then she has been bouncing around from tree to tree until about 4:00 pm or so. At which time she starts looking for me to be fed again.
Closeup of "Rainbow" on the water feature.
When it's time to head home, I have been just tossing out the lure or offering a baggie and she comes right down. I put on a tail saver and her equipment while she calmed down and is eating. When she's done I just pick her up and home we go, where she has been doing well tethered to a floor block. Then we do it all over again the next day.
The hack has been pretty fun and educational so far for me. I do worry about other predators and window collisions a lot but it seems that the rewards outweigh the risks so far. *Knock on wood*