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Targeting Like a Pro

By Lara Joseph

© Lara Joseph

I have worked with several birds that have been labeled aggressive. One of the first things I teach them is to target. If I ever find myself in an accidental or uncomfortable situation, I can quickly rely on the former target training to guide that bird’s beak, or animal’s mouth or feet away from me so I can get myself out of a compromising position. This works very well and prevents the need to use force in trying to avoid anything worse occurring. Before targeting a raptor or other program bird to my glove, I will train a beak target to another object. Many times I will teach a finger target whereby the tip of the raptor’s beak will touch my finger or a stick. This was the first thing I taught Willy, a turkey vulture with a beak evolved for ripping rotting flesh. I taught her to touch her beak, mouth closed, to the end of a gloved finger. Once she understood that target, I then began shaping her to target her feet to my glove, also known as a recall. Willy has a history of reinforcement for lunging at body parts in close proximity. Many vultures do. Read more.


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