Full Beginners Guide To Clicker Training Your Bird

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

clicker training birds

Clicker training has been well-established in the world of pets.

It has proven to be very efficient in teaching new behaviours to different pets, such as dogs, cats, horses, and especially birds.

In this article, you’ll learn how to clicker train your bird.

This article is specifically designed for beginners who have never clicker trained a bird before.

Whether you have a tiny parrotlet or a huge macaw, the training in this article will help you tremendously.

Before we get into the how-to guide for clicker training, I want to discuss exactly what clicker training is, for those who don’t know.

Quick Navigation:

What Clicker Training Really Is

(Image Credit: Pixabay)

Clicker training is teaching birds to associate a clicking sound with receiving a treat.

It’s honestly one of the easiest things you can teach your bird.

The main goal of clicker training is to get your bird to understand that *click* = reward.

When you *click*, you’re telling your bird that a treat is on the way.

Once they understand the meaning of the *click*, you’ll be able to teach them new behaviours using clicker training.

Let me clear up any misconceptions…

The *click* is not the reward, the *click* is merely an indication to your bird that they will be getting a treat shortly.

Many people get this wrong by thinking clicking is a reward.

If I was a bird, I wouldn’t put too much effort into anything if all I get is a *click* in return.

clicker training cockatiel
Click training explained as a meme

Clicker training has been proven to teach birds new behaviours faster as the *click* can pinpoint exactly when they did the right behaviour.

Clicking gives them a better understanding of what they need to do to earn the treat.

Hopefully, that all makes sense.

Now, how do we actually start clicker training?

How To Start Clicker Training Your Bird Right Now!!

I’m about to teach you the easiest way to start clicker training your parrot.

Before you can start teaching new behaviours with clicker training, you’ll need to first establish to your bird that they get a treat after every *click*.

This is the easiest part of clicker training.

Firstly, you’ll need a clicker.

Here’s a pretty firm-sounding clicker you can pick up on amazon.

bird training clicker australia
(Image Credit: Amazon Reviews)

Here’s a different clicker for my aussie bird trainers.

Anything else that has a strong clicking sound will also work fine.

I know plenty of people who successfully clicker train their cockatiels using the *click* from a pen.

Make sure your bird wouldn’t hear the *click* outside of training sessions.

Hearing the *clicks* outside training sessions will cause your bird to learn that they won’t get a treat after hearing the *click*.

For the most effective clicker training, you need to avoid this.

Also, the *click* sound should always remain the same.

If you start to change clickers halfway through training, you’ll notice some delays in the training as your bird adapts to the new *click* sound.

For the best results, use the same clicker forever.

As well as a good-sounding clicker, you’ll need some treats…

Make sure you choose your bird’s favourite treats as they’ll further motivate your bird to continue training.

My cockatiel personally loves sunflower seeds and millet spray.

Larger birds often prefer walnuts, almonds, and other large nuts.

Clicker training cockatiel
My cockatiel relaxing after flight training

You have a clicker, you have some treats ready…

Now, do this:

*Click* -> Immediately give treat

*Click* -> Immediately give treat

Repeat this simple practice over and over again.

The main goal of this practice is to teach your bird that they get a treat after every *click*.

It’ll be much easier to teach new behaviours with clicker training once they have this mindset.

When your bird starts to make the connection that *click* = treat, you’ll notice them clearly anticipate a treat after they hear the *click*.

They’ll show anticipation by looking at your hands, expecting a treat.

This is a great sign of progression!

You might need to repeat the practice multiple times a day for a few days for the connection to really sink into your bird’s brain.

A strong connection could take around a week to establish, give or take a few days.

But once they understand, they’re ready to learn some new tricks.

Target Training Your Bird With Clicker Training

I want to use target training as an example to clearly show you how to use clicker training to teach a new behaviour fast.

We’re putting clicker training into action right here!

I believe target training is one of the easiest things you can teach using *clicks*.

It’s a great starting point for beginner trainers.

Firstly, here’s target training in a nutshell:

You teach the bird to touch a target on command in return for a treat.

That’s really all it is.

Once they know they get a treat after touching the target, they’ll be more willing to move to the target for a treat.

After lots of practice, you’ll be able to guide them around the house with the target stick.

How To Target Train Your Parrot

Firstly, you’ll need a target for them to touch.

Ideally, the target should be long and made from a bird-safe material.

  • Wooden chopsticks
  • Wooden skewers
  • Bamboo sticks

These are all great targets you can use.

Here’s the target training setup I use with my cockatiel:

clicker training birds

It’s nothing fancy, I got a pen clicker, a wooden skewer, and a few treats on hand.

Super simple equipment that cost me less than 5$.

Here’s what you do with that equipment…

Hold the target stick near your bird, when they reach out and touch it, you need to *click* and then give the treat.

The *click* needs to happen the moment they’re touching the target.

Clicking too early or too late will cause confusion as to what they did to earn the treat.

Clicking exactly when they’ve touched the target will indicate to them what they did to earn a treat in the clearest way possible.

Remember, the *click* is you promising a reward to them.

Making that promise as soon as they touch the target will tell them exactly what they did to earn the treat.

After a few perfect reps, your bird will understand the basics of target training.

clicker training parrots
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

That was a super brief target training guide but I hope you see how clicker training is put into action when teaching new behaviours to your bird.

Here’s a more informative guide to target training birds.

Now, let’s discuss some common clicker training mistakes.

3 Common Mistakes Newbies Make With Clicker Training

Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of.

Making mistakes is how we grow and learn to become better.

Learning from other people’s mistakes will help you prevent those same mistakes, which ultimately sets you up for success early on.

Below are 3 common mistakes owners make when clicker training their birds.

1) Using *Clicks* For Teaching Too Early

One common mistake is trying to use *clicks* to teach new behaviours too early.

Without a strong connection between the *click* and getting a treat, your bird will just be confused when you *click*.

Too many new bird trainers underestimate the importance of this connection.

*click* -> Immediately give reward.

Repeat this a few times a day for at least a week.

You’ll know they’re ready to learn new behaviours when they eagerly await a treat after every *click*.

When you notice this anticipation, they’re ready to learn new tricks.

2) Using The Clicker As The Reward

This is a very common misconception newbies have about clicker training.

As you now know, the *click* is you promising your bird a treat, clicking is not the reward itself.

People with this misconception also believe that treats can be phased out and replaced by the clicker once the birds understand the behaviour.

This is also untrue and is actually the opposite.

The *click* is the thing that can be phased out once the bird learns the behaviour as they don’t need to be told what they did to earn the reward anymore.

They’ll already know from all the previous repetitions.

However, during the learning of new behaviours, clickers should be used to help teach the behavior faster.

clicker training macaw
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

3) Not Clicking As The Behavior Happens

Clicking needs to happen while your bird is doing the desired behaviour.

The *click* tells the bird exactly when they did the right thing to earn a reward.

Doing it too soon or too late will not clearly indicate when they earned the treat, which will cause confusion and delay the training progress.

As an example, if you’re teaching step-ups, you need to *click* the moment they step up onto your finger.

Related: How To Easily Teach The Step Up Command To Your Bird

It might seem like a small thing, but timing the *clicks* correctly is one of the most crucial parts of clicker training.

It’s the difference between a confused bird and a bird who knows exactly how to get a treat.

Benefits Of Clicker Training

Clicker training is a great way to keep birds mentally and physically stimulated.

Adequate stimulation is key to keeping a bird happier, healthier, and intelligent.

Below are the physical and mental benefits bird get from clicker training.

Physical Benefits

Any type of physical training with your bird will improve their overall physical health.

Using clicker training, you can positively reinforce flying behaviours.

Training your bird to fly better and more often will greatly support their physical and mental health in the long term.

Mental Benefits

Clicker training supports your bird’s brain most of all.

The more they train, the more they learn and the more intelligent they become.

This active mental stimulation will help keep them well-behaved, happy, and social.

Any type of training is also a great bonding activity.

As you clicker train your bird more and teach them new behaviours, they will become more trusting and loving toward you.

It’s also a good idea to let more than one person train the bird.

This will prevent any excessive attachments to just one person and will make them more social around other people.

(Image Credit: Pixabay)

When Should You Start Clicker Training Your Bird?

You can start clicker training your bird as soon as they’re able to eat food for themselves.

Obviously, you won’t be able to do any sort of training with baby birds.

They can barely move lol.

However, clicker training can begin as soon as they become independent eaters and their feathers are fully grown in.

You can start clicker training birds at any age after they’ve been weaned.

Even 20-year-old birds with no training experience can be clicker trained.

7 Quick Tips For Clicker Training Birds

  • Ensure that your bird knows that *click* = treat before attempting to teach new behaviors.
  • *Click* and then immediately give a treat. Repeat this a few times every day to teach your bird that *click* = treat. It may take a week or longer for them to understand the connection.
  • Treats should be something they love and quick to consume. Sunflower seeds and millet spray are ideal for training most birds.
  • You need to *click* as the desired behavior happens, not before or after. This will clearly tell them what they did to earn the reward and when they did it.
  • The *click* is not the reward. It is the promise of a reward you make when the bird correctly does the desired behaviour.
  • Clicker training is used to learn new behaviours, it can be phased out once they start to understand the command.
  • Treats should definitely not be phased out. Treats are the reward. Always reward your bird for doing something good.



Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *