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Phobic Ed


Following is an article by Karen Walker, a woman who attended a workshop in the Chicago area.  She tells how, after a year and a half, she was finally able to connect with her phobic Amazon.  

I never worked with this bird; it was Karen who, after attending my workshop, was able to apply what she learned and do all the taming on her own. 

I'm amazed and gratified that people will go to so much trouble to write report of their experiences and share them with others. 



Ed, My Once Phobic Amazon


By Karen Walker


I purchased Ed, an Orange Wing Amazon, from a co-worker, at a bird fair in September of 2002.  I knew he would be a challenge when I found out I would be Edís fifth home in eight years.  Ed had been living in a shed. I felt  that I was his last, best hope.

When we got Ed home we saw how bad he looked - dark feathers, flaky skin and that frightened, beaten down look of a neglected animal. He bit repeatedly and drew blood from my husband and me. We decided to give Ed a few weeks to get used to us.  That did not go well; whenever we left his cage door open he would scramble to the top and fly at our faces like a blood thirsty demon. Or, heíd fall from his perch to his back as if facing oncoming death.


Blood Thirsty Demon


I needed help. I read several books, searched the Internet.  Finally, I was referred to a noted Midwestern avian behavior expert who, coincidentally, was in need of a volunteer.  Her first recommendation was to take Ed to an avian vet for a complete exam. 

The vet said that Ed was the most aggressive bird he had ever seen. He took samples of Edís blood and stool, groomed him and trimmed his wings.  All tests came back negative.  Ed was disease-free.

The behavior consultant and I came to an arrangement: in exchange for my time cleaning cages etc. she would help me with Edís fear and aggression problems and share with me her knowledge of avian behavior.

I worked as a volunteer weekly for a year and a half during which I learned about proper nutrition, cage placement, and layout etc. I also assisted at her avian behavior classes.  During that time, what I learned about avian behavior helped our relationship with Ed improve slightly, but not nearly enough. He was still living in fear.   

Living in Fear


As per the recommendations of many books and experts, we were "letting Ed be a bird." This included allowing him to exit the cage on his own terms. Since Ed did not want to be touched, I didnít push it, but would let him step onto my hand when he felt like it. When I needed to get Ed out of his cage to clean it I had to wrap a towel around my hand because he would bite viciously.

Ed merely "tolerated" us.  Whenever we came near him he still hunched his shoulders in fear, fluttered away and occasionally fell back off his perch in panic.  Ed was living in constant fear and was not a part of our family.  I wanted a pet, not a prisoner.


With Friends Like These...


In May of 2005 my bird club hosted Ken Globus, "The Bird Whisperer." I had visited his web site and found his techniques interesting.   I saw this as an opportunity to learn more. When I told friends I planned to attend, they became hostile toward me, but I decided to go anyway.  As hoped, I  learned many things that have helped me better understand Ed. There is so much more involved in owning a phobic bird than just providing a good environment and letting him "be a bird". Ken Globus taught me the handling techniques that have helped Ed to become part of the family. 


Karen Walker & Ken at the workshop


The techniques that Ken teaches were designed to solve the problems that I had.  I feel fortunate that I attended his training session; I only went as an observer, so Ken actually just trained me and not my bird.  This proved to me that his techniques work for people who are not professional bird trainers. 

Kenís seminar is hands on. He teaches birds to overcome their fears and explains the process in detail.   He  describes it as progressive desensitization.  The techniques that were so basic to Ken were vital to my progress with Ed. 



Major Achievement


I had been instructed by the behaviorist to allow Ed to come out of the cage on his own and to come to me when he wished.  This simply did not work; Ed was too phobic to trust me.  Ken taught me safe ways to take a frightened bird from its cage and how to encourage the bird to sit calmly on my hand.  This was a major achievement.  Ed and I progressed farther in three days using Kenís teachings than we had in the previous year and a half.  I was shocked and encouraged.  I progressed to the next step, being able to touch Ed without getting a bloody bite.  The ďbubble of fearĒ that Ken describes worked best for me with Ed on my lap or hand;

I also used Kenís approach on my Timneh African Grey,  and he progressed through the steps in less than 1 hour with no aggression.  He had been a persistent shoulder bird and did not want to be touched.  He does still enjoy my shoulder, but only when I put him there, and I can touch him, trim his wings and toenails without being bitten.


Three Fears

Ken explains in his session that there are 3 fears that keep birds from becoming part of your family.  We suffered from all three of the fears and they were difficult to overcome.  The first is the birdís instinctive fear of us.  The second is our fear of being bit.  The third is our fear of hurting the bird.  Kenís work is to help people and birds overcome their fears Ö.an approach I have not heard from any other avian expert.  And when I understood it, I realized that Ed and I had to overcome our fears together. 

Finally Some Results

With Kenís help our relationship is better than I would have believed possible.   This cowering Orange Wing Amazon that used to panic and flutter away from us now steps up without hesitation.  He lets me pet his back, snuggle him and touch his face, wings and feet.  He seems to enjoy the contact. He has the confidence to be ďEdĒ.   I cannot express the happiness I feel to finally be observing this bird that has become comfortable, with himself and with us.  He is truly a happier bird. 

I strongly recommend Ken and his techniques. If you are at wits end and want to improve your relationship with your bird go to one of the Bird Whispererís seminars and let him teach you to understand your pet. Or, for faster results, have him work with your bird and teach both of you at the same time.  With some work and patience your fearful pet can become your companion.  Thanks, Ken - Karen Walker, Joliet, IL


Ed.... enjoying life


















































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