Learn bird training from the experts

Learn bird training from the experts

Hands-on training

A couple years ago, I was fortunate to have the time and the means to visit Avian Behavior International (ABI), one of the premier bird training facilities in the world.

Hillary Hankey, the founder of ABI, working with a macaw.

It’s run by Hillary Hankey, her staff, and guest experts from other training facilities and sometimes zoos. Hillary is “a falconer, professional animal trainer, and behavior consultant.”

Her facility is in a beautiful, remote location near Escondito, CA. Pre-COVID, they offered a week long training class as well as an advanced class. Both involved classroom time learning modern bird training techniques and hands-on time trying out techniques on her extremely diverse flock of birds.

It’s also an opportunity to train non-parrot species as well as some heavily supervised interaction with birds of prey. They also have other animals such as donkeys and goats that are useful to learn training techniques. In the late afternoon, they often free fly their flock of macaws.

Sometimes videos tell a better story when it comes to training birds so here are some from my two workshops.

Chiquita has learned to hop from hand to hand, but is picky about which hands she likes!
Working with birds of prey can be intimidating, which is why our interaction with them was closely monitored by staff.
Free-flying birds is not without risk, but also not without reward for both us and the birds.
This bird of prey has been taught to target a tennis ball.
This macaw was very rewarding to work with. On another day, I worked with him on retrieving an object.
People think chickens are dumb, but this one was trained to go through a tunnel and others to jump through hoops. I worked with one on staying in one place while I walked away from it.

On-line training

Free training

ABI also offers tremendously rich and useful information on-line so you don’t have to free up the time and expense required for an in-person visit. They provide two amazing resources. Their free offering is simple: Instagram. Simply visit @avianbehavior for not only stunning photos and movies but detailed tips and tricks.

Paid training

Last year, ABI embarked on a new project called Avian Behavior Lab. This is a separate website offering video classes, forums monitored by experts in the training field, discounted private sessions with a trainer, and Q&A sessions so you can ask questions in real-time.

It’s both cheap and not cheap, depending on your perspective on things. Their entry-level membership, which is more than enough for the typical home bird owner works out to about $17 per month for a year.

I look at it this way. If you can afford $17 a month, you will definitely get your money’s worth out of it. If that’s a bit steep, you can learn a subset of content on the wonderful instagram page.


The internet is full of forums on bird training, loaded with people that don’t really know bird training. The experts probably steer clear of all internet forums! There are also lots of books, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience, videos, and curated content from experts in the field. I highly recommend and endorse ABI.

I should note that this is the only organization I’ve taken professional bird training advice from so this is not to say there are not others out there that are superior.