Teaching Henry to (finally!) use that tree

Getting your parrot to use a gym, tree, or other play area may take time. I recently trained my African gray to use a manzanita tree that I’ve had for years that no bird ever perched on.

Here’s how I did it.

1. I started with the tree a number of feet away from a T-stand that she uses regularly. I gave her time to accept the tree in this position.
2. I loaded the tree with her favorite toys, like cardboard cut into squares and hung on a chain.
3. Every few days, I moved the tree a few inches closer to her T-stand. It took about a month for me to move the tree so that it was right up against her T-perch. Each time I moved the tree, I watched to see if she was comfortable with the new position. Did she stand further away from the tree on her T-stand? Did she stop flying to and landing on the T-stand altogether? If she did, I moved the tree back an inch or two and waited a few days before trying again.
4. Over the course of a month, I moved the tree until it was right up against her T-stand. However, she still didn’t go on the tree.
5. I put some of her favorite toys on the tree so that she could reach them while still standing on the T-stand.
6. When I saw her play with the toy, I praised, praised, praised, and gave her a favorite treat (a bit of unsalted cashew).
7. I added more cardboard square toys on other tree branches, and other interesting toys too.

Success! One day, I came downstairs and there she was, standing on the tree like it was no big deal.

Why did this method work?


  • I watched her for signs of comfort/discomfort around this new object.
  • I moved the tree slowly and let her accept it at her own pace.
  • I made the tree valuable to her by covering it with her favorite toys.
  • I didn’t make a big deal out of it when she didn’t get on the tree. Birds can sense our frustration and if we fret about their actions (“Why aren’t you using this expensive tree I bought you? Why aren’t you using it RIGHT NOW?!?) Birds respond best to positive reinforcement and a calm approach.
  • I did make a big deal out of it when she got on the tree – she got a treat and praise.

Try it out, I hope it works for you.
See Henry enjoying the manzanita tree below, you can see the perch on her T-stand in the lower left.

One thought on “Teaching Henry to (finally!) use that tree

  1. Pingback: Teaching your bird to use its Tree!

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