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  1. #1
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    Default Imprint Screaming and OC

    So, not wanting to revive an older thread, or take away from a new one, I figured I would start yet another discussion on screaming.

    Some of my backstory:

    I had a passage red tail that came down with avian pox shortly after catching his first squirrel with me. He had always been pretty noisy for a red tail, and sitting out for two months to recover turned him into a screamer (food begging). I hunted him hard for the remainder of the season, took quite a bit of game with him, doubling and tripling a few times, and put him up to molt. His screaming stopped, but he was still noisy, making a variety of sounds including the famous territorial scream that he would do towards local birds (and dogs) several times a day. I spent a lot of time with him, and fed him through a chute.

    Post molt his screaming was unbearable. I flew him for a week or so, caught 3 squirrels, and transferred him for the rest of the season. I live in an apartment and didn't want to risk angry neighbors over the noise. He was hunted by the other falconer until I got him back in march, hunted him for a week or so, and then molted a second time. Post 2nd molt his screaming was greatly reduced. He was also flying ~60g higher than his first season. His second molt I spent less time with him and used automatic feeders. By the end of that molt, he was almost completely silent. I chose to release him instead of continuing on flying him.

    His first season this bird was noisy in the field, or any time he could see me, and was only quiet when fat or after a hunt. It was very clearly related to food begging imo.

    Currently I'm flying an imprint aplomado. My understanding is aplos are all fairly noisy to begin with. My bird is very noisy. He was plate fed and lure fed, and given baggies at an early age. He was always taken to the food, and encouraged to fly away from me for food. Weight was dropped slowly, though first free flight was delayed due to the hurricane. I've noticed some key differences between this bird and my last however, which leads me to think it's more of a juvenile behavior vs food related. For starters, weight has almost no affect on the screaming. It is somewhat reduced at a very high weight, but not much. This bird still screams after hunting. While my last bird screamed anytime I was in sight, this bird is almost entirely silent outside of the house. He is mostly quiet in the field, and in the car. Once he sees us pulling up to the house, he will start screaming. So far, the screaming appears to be very much place oriented. He only screams around me in the house. If I'm not there he's more quiet, and if he isn't in the house, even if I'm around, he is almost entirely silent. Food, weight, hunting, etc. seem to have little to no effect. I'm pretty attached to this bird, so transferring or selling are out of the question to me. We aren't quite ready for the molt yet, so I'm looking for things I could do in the meantime to help him be quieter indoors (as I still live in an apartment). Honestly I think moving would do a great deal to stop it, but we cannot move at this point in time.

    He will sometimes quiet down after he's been in the room with us for a while indoors. At the least his screaming gets intermittent. But it doesn't stop completely, and not enough that I can do that for long periods of time without upsetting the neighbors.

    For this reason I'm interested in exploring the use of OC to reinforce moments of silence. I'm fairly familiar with using OC for training, as I worked with animal training in a former career. I would like to hear from others as to what they tried, how it worked, or didn't work, and anything else they discovered in the process.

    I'd also like to discuss potential other reasons for screaming (other than just food begging). It certainly appears to be a juvenile related behavior, and in my aplo's case it almost appears to be more related to a "nest site" mentality than food (he's quiet in other buildings). What are your ideas as to what causes this? Feeding imprints in the home? Direct food association? What are things you would do to prevent this in potential future birds? Has anyone tried only feeding an imprint in the field and not in the house or mews? What are potential pros and cons?

    I'm looking forward to learning and discussing!
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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    Hi Lindsay.

    there is a lot in your post to respond to, and I keep trying to tackle all of it at once. Maybe I should go for pieces.

    In advanced animal training theory there are two basic approaches to extinguish a behavior - train an incompatible behavior or put the behavior on cue and never give the cue. That second approach does not actually completely extinguish it by itself though, especially with something an animal has a strong natural urge to do (self reinforcing) and screaming is definately in that category. Although, I do find it very handy to have a hawk that screams on queue in the field - no telemetry is required at short ranges. A second downside to that second approach is that under the very best conditions it will increase the occurance as the animal is being directly rewarded for the behavior for a period of time, and in the worst conditions you will increase the occurance permanently.

    I am going to go out on a limb, and assume you are going to decide with the first approach and train for an incompatible behavior. The simplest of those to latch onto in this case, is silence. A hawk cannot scream while it is not screaming, so that is a bit of a no brainer.

    Like all other Operant Conditioning projects, the sketch-up for how to shape away screaming is pretty simple, and would fit on a post it note.

    First, you should have a firmly established CR, and have done some other shaping games. I would not start off with this one to establish a CR, but if your very good at CR timing you could pull it off. Also, you will likely need at least one of your established CRs to be remotely detectable (audible and delivered from another room, or a button that flashes a light remotely or something like that).

    You mentioned that you have already noticed times when your aplamado is less likely to scream than others. That is your starting point. Do whatever it takes to catch him when he has been quite for as long as you think you can get away with. Perhaps perched in the apartment with a full crop while you are out of view. Figure out what the time span you have where he will be quite, and set up the criteria so that if he gives you at least 80% of that estimated max time, he gets a CR and a tasty tidbit. Initially if you ever notice he has gone more than 120% of the expected max time, give him a jack pot. Any time you deliver a tidbit reset the clock (either use a stop watch or keep track in your head if you can do so).

    Most importantly - be certain of your timing. Just a few missed CRs, and you will be reinforcing the screaming instead of the silence that you want, and that will be very tough to overcome.

    Keep your goals small to start with, and work up as you can. As you start making progress, the criteria for a jack pot should go up to. Jack pots are to encourage dramatic progress. Also, the likely scenario in the beginning is that you will get a scream as soon as you give the CR, because he will be excited about the coming treat. Accept that for a while, but as he really seems to understand what is being rewarded and make progress, add one additional rule: he only gets the tidbit if his vocalizations are acceptable to you from the time he got the CR until the tidbit got delivered. You may need to back off on this additional rule for a here or there if a long time goes by without being able to deliver anything, and if that is the case and you are able to catch him staying quite after a CR is given that would be worth a jackpot.

    Now to give a real world example, this roughly what I did with the goshawk I am currently flying. I had initially put screaming on queue so I can find her on a kill in the field, but this has broken down and I need to go back and reestablish that. As I mentioned, putting screaming on queue made her an awful screamer around the home when she was at flight weight, and she is intermittent about screaming during the molt. If I have her inside my house she screamed incessantly. This year I decided that I missed having a hawk perched in the house and I was going to do something about it, and I followed the exact scenario I laid out above when I began reclaiming her from the molt because that is when she was still relatively fat, and least likely to scream. My initial criteria was 15 minutes of silence, and after about 5 days I was able to go for 40 minutes of silence even though her weight was coming down. In the beginning, I got my best results when I was in a nearby room out of sight (I would perch her just outside the door of my home office). I never got things so good that I had total silence, but she would only scream for the first 10 minutes of being put on the indoor perch. That is, until I moved to a house where I am not supposed to have her inside, and had to cut her weight down a lot to get her to go for ducks and jacks. IF I had been diligent I still would be there. The breakdown was not in the effectiveness of the technique, but in my resolve to stick to it.

    And getting to your more general question: Screaming is usually about food, but in imprints they may scream for other reasons. Because they miss you, because they love the sound of their voice, etc. If your aplamado is screaming because he wants company, maybe you need to be hanging with him to catch him being quiet.
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    Question? Does he scream when hooded and can hear you?
    Fred
    "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Thank you Geoff! That's a fantastically in depth response! I haven't previously done any shaping with this bird, but I am currently working on establishing a clicker as a bridge, which I'm hoping will allow me to mark his silence even if I'm not in his line of sight.
    Is the silence something that should only be worked on indoors, or could I take advantage of his silence in the field? I'm concerned, since he already recognizes the two separate locations and screams at one but not the other, that rewarding for field silence would have little effect on his indoor noise.

    Fred: I attempted and mostly failed to hood train my aplo. But yes, when hooded or in the giant hood, he will still scream if he hears me. It's not as bad in the giant hood as if he were perched out in the same room, but still enough that I usually have him in a separate room from myself either way.
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nimure View Post
    Thank you Geoff! That's a fantastically in depth response! I haven't previously done any shaping with this bird, but I am currently working on establishing a clicker as a bridge, which I'm hoping will allow me to mark his silence even if I'm not in his line of sight.
    My gut feeling is you will need a bridge with more punch than a clicker to make sure the signal clearly got across. But try it and see. I used a pea whistle, but then I am not in an apartment. The solution I like the best is to have a buzzer sitting close to the hawk that is triggered by a remote you can have in your hand, but I dont know of any examples of where to buy a gadget like that off hand.

    Is the silence something that should only be worked on indoors, or could I take advantage of his silence in the field? I'm concerned, since he already recognizes the two separate locations and screams at one but not the other, that rewarding for field silence would have little effect on his indoor noise.
    Well, in theory, yes. The real question is how? How are you going to get your little buddy to understand that it is the silence that you are rewarding when it is always silent. Then how are you going to translate that over to at home. I dont see a way to pull that off. Maybe if you put "be silent in the field" on cue, then tried giving that cue at home. But I would expect your falcon will not make the connection that your cue is actually linked to being silent very easily.

    There is a lot going on with why he screams at home but not in the field. A lot of complicated psychology involved in that, much of which I have thought about but cant really articulate. Its very common though. The tricky thing is to get them to scream in the field. Let me tell you, that can be really cool. No need to EVER break out the telemetry! Its even cooler when they only scream on cue.

    Quote Originally Posted by FredFogg View Post
    I was just thinking you might be able to pardon the expression but kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Use high level tid bitting with a CR and hooding and also incorporate the CR with silence while doing that. It might be too much as I am no expert on OC. Geoff knows way more about OC, what do you think Geoff, would that be too much?
    Dont sell yourself short Fred. Anyone who can train an animal knows quite a bit about about the underlying mechanics of OC. There is some technical details and technical terminology that OC adds which is tricky to wrap your head around at first, but the underlying mechanics are very well understood by everyone who has been able to train, well, anything. If you have trained a hawk, caught game and came back home with it, you definitely understand the base mechanics that OC operates on.

    However, yes, that would be too much. One of the technical details that OC spells out is that it is very important to have one lesson per training session. You can train more than one behavior in parallel efforts, but they should be separated out into individual sessions, and ideally you should give a break before you switch from one to session to the next. The reason for this is that what is really going on with any training session is communication between you and the critter you are training. The critter is communicating with you that it wants you to reward it, and from its point of view it is training you to cough up the treats. You of course, think you are getting the critter to do what you want and thanking it for doing so with a reward. That overall communication gets very confusing if there are two behaviors that are being trained at exactly the same time. And if you want a really messy scenario, try training even more than two.

    What I just said would not be the case if they were related to an overall behavior that you are working on, but to my mind, these two examples you used are not that closely related to each other. An example of some related behaviors would be if you are teaching a falcon to fly out and mount up. Both combine to the behavior of waiting on, and you can go at them with the go out, or the mount up because they both will end up at the same place. Your goal is wait on, and that is the one thing you are training in that case.

    Its also OK if you are setting about in a training session to train one thing, and notice something else that is going on that you like and shift your focus to that other behavior. This is mildly confusing sometimes, but its something I do all the time if I see something going on that I want to see more of.

    But bouncing back and forth in one session creates a lot of confusion. The animal does not know what it should be doing to get you to reward it.

    High level tidbitting/hood training would, however be a great project to use to establish the CR (bridge). Training to accept the hood is pretty easy OC project for a hawk, and I cant really think of any "gotchas" where missed timing would make things worse, at least not in a way that wouldn't be easy to overcome.

    One thing that makes OC tricky is the timing. One of the things that makes it powerful is the timing. Get your timing right, and you can catch very small slivers of time and teach the animal that is what you want to see more of. Miss your timing, and the animal may think you intend to reward something else. And that behavior may become firmly reinforced.

    High level tidbiting is a variation of OC that works very well with hawks, particularly when hood training. The key to high level tidbiting is that it triggers some of the latent instincts that are at play when a parent is feeding a young hawk. Those instincts never completely go away, and if you deliver food in that manner hawks are very unlikely to react with aggression. In fact, my current goshawk has had some ....ahem.... issues with being bully towards me, and if she is on the verge of a relapse I can get her to shift into a soft eyed baby with just a few high level delivery of tidbits. Its also super handy to have the hawk focused up when you are trying to hood them.
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    Quote Originally Posted by goshawkr View Post
    However, yes, that would be too much. One of the technical details that OC spells out is that it is very important to have one lesson per training session. You can train more than one behavior in parallel efforts, but they should be separated out into individual sessions, and ideally you should give a break before you switch from one to session to the next.
    After I slept on this, a way to illustrate this confusion occurred to me.

    Picture a scenario where you are in school studying two subjects which are not coming naturally for you. Say, Trigonometry and history. Now, I know a lot of students who successfully work both of these subjects into a single school day. And this is similar to what I was saying about parallel sessions. But now picture combining these into one single class session that is covering both at the same time. Its even more clear how confusing this would be if it were combined into one lecture. After just a few minutes most of us wouldnt know what the instructor was talking about! That is similar to trying to teach two different behaviors in one session.

    I also realized I was not sure if Fred was referring to "killing 2 birds" in one single training session, or in parallel ones. If they are parallel sessions it would work just fine.
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    I was just thinking you might be able to pardon the expression but kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Use high level tid bitting with a CR and hooding and also incorporate the CR with silence while doing that. It might be too much as I am no expert on OC. Geoff knows way more about OC, what do you think Geoff, would that be too much?
    Fred
    "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    The solution I like the best is to have a buzzer sitting close to the hawk that is triggered by a remote you can have in your hand, but I dont know of any examples of where to buy a gadget like that off hand.

    Try a wireless battery powered doorbell.


    Ron N1WT Vermont

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    Quote Originally Posted by rkumetz View Post
    The solution I like the best is to have a buzzer sitting close to the hawk that is triggered by a remote you can have in your hand, but I dont know of any examples of where to buy a gadget like that off hand.

    Try a wireless battery powered doorbell.
    Well, arent I a dumb ass....
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    Thank you guys for the responses! If other people want to weigh in as well I'm all for it. I'll see what I can work out with all the information here, and I'd be happy to post updates as well if anyone is curious.
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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    So as an update, I took some of the various things mentioned here, and decided to start with using the clicker to hood train. I figured it was a simple enough thing that it would be a good refresher (though I do also use a clicker with my dog). Since I messed up hood training before with just high level tidbitting, I also figured this would be good for me to work on. After building the clicker as a bridge, I started with having the hood on the floor, and clicked any time he looked at it. That was shaped into going towards the hood, then touching it/picking it up. Now I have him coming up to the hood when I hold it out, and putting his head into the hood.

    Interestingly enough he does get fairly quiet when we're working on the clicker training indoors. He is still noisy, and more so than outside, but it's a significant improvement. Since most of his noise is both around me, and in the house, I'm thinking the clicker will work, as I want him to be quiet indoors but also in proximity to me (if I'm out of the room he's usually quiet). He'd definitely taken to our short little sessions (only 10-15 min so far, once a day) so I'm excited to see how he does once I start marking his periods of silence. So far he's advanced a step each session, no more than two sessions to learn a new behavior, so I'm really curious to see how long it takes him to pick up on being quiet.

    One question? What would you all recommend for extending the periods of silence? Should I wait until he is trying to solicit a click and reward by being quiet, and then start making him wait a bit longer before the click? Or should I just click for when he is silent, and jackpot him if he is silent for more than a second or two?
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nimure View Post
    One question? What would you all recommend for extending the periods of silence? Should I wait until he is trying to solicit a click and reward by being quiet, and then start making him wait a bit longer before the click? Or should I just click for when he is silent, and jackpot him if he is silent for more than a second or two?
    That depends, do you want him silent on cue, or always? If you just want him silent on cue, then wait for him to solicit a click.

    Your real goal seems to be for him to always be quiet, and for that you want to CR when he is not actively soliciting for a CR. And this should be really as random as you can make it to prevent drawing links to some undesired accidentally being linked as a cue. For example, if he is always getting a CR while he is preening and silent, he may think that is the behavior you are after.

    Another point here is to be careful about not rewarding the screaming to the extent that you can. As social as aplomados are, he may scream just to get your attention. My current goshawk, for example, will scream when she wants to get put away from the weathering yard. And she starts screaming when she wants to go hunting.
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    Quote Originally Posted by goshawkr View Post
    That depends, do you want him silent on cue, or always? If you just want him silent on cue, then wait for him to solicit a click.

    Your real goal seems to be for him to always be quiet, and for that you want to CR when he is not actively soliciting for a CR. And this should be really as random as you can make it to prevent drawing links to some undesired accidentally being linked as a cue. For example, if he is always getting a CR while he is preening and silent, he may think that is the behavior you are after.

    Another point here is to be careful about not rewarding the screaming to the extent that you can. As social as aplomados are, he may scream just to get your attention. My current goshawk, for example, will scream when she wants to get put away from the weathering yard. And she starts screaming when she wants to go hunting.
    Thanks! Once again you make some really good points!!

    I actually ran into an issue this past weekend where my bird started landing on the ground and running around by my feet in the field. Obviously I don't want to encourage this, as he's missing slips on the ground. But he kept leaving the glove. Normal weight wasn't low at all. After discussing with a friend it looks like since my training sessions at home were done on the floor, my bird picked up on that, and was trying to elicit food from me by doing the same thing in the field. So last night's hood training session I did on the glove. It took a while for the aplo to figure it out, he kept trying to fly to the ground, but he did finally sit on the glove and start putting his head in the hood. I'm curious to see when I fly him tomorrow if he will spend more time on the glove than the ground now that I've switched methods. I never would have thought about the bird picking up one something like that. Really interesting.
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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    It is indeed funny what can be associated in the mind of your subject critter.

    Several weeks ago I was out hunting and had a new apprentice I am working with along. We had already discussed Operant Conditioning, but she had not really applied the concept yet. She also had mentioned in some prior conversations that she was nervous about dealing with aggression. The goshawk that I am currently flying had been rather hot on the aggression scale especially in her earlier seasons, but does on occasion have a slight relapse. After we were done with an unsuccessful day of hunting in one of my regular spots, we were strolling back towards the car chatting, and walking through the spot where in retrospect I realize I normally call my hawk down to the lure at the end of the day. I also had been thinking I would call the hawk down, so I likely was giving off some cues that my hawk was keying on. At any rate, she was 150 yards away in a tree, and came at me calling impatiently. I knew this was going to lead to her bullying me by latching onto my leg and displaying.

    I normally would have done what I could to avoid rewarding this behavior, and presenting the lure after she had settled down, but decided this was a good chance to demonstrate OC and show some ways to smooth over aggression in small stages so I let things play out a little more than I usually do. To use OC with aggression, the basic strategy is to watch for calm body language, and tag that with a CR and reward it. It essentially is shaping the underlying emotions. My apprentice and I were actively discussing what I was doing and why, and the first calm behavior that I saw came from walking away from me after she had given up on her efforts to get me to cough up the goods by footing my boot. I tagged that and rewarded it, then worked on shaping for calmer behaviors. Now the real funny thing is that she got the link between acting calm and getting a reward (this wasnt the first time I had been shaping for that specifically, but it had been years since I had to be this active on working on that). However, she thought that footing my boot was a pre-requisite to being rewarded for acting calm. It was actually pretty funny watching her with a calm demeanor, including a fluffed up baby face, walk over and gently foot my boot and then happily walk away so she could get the CR. Even though I began actively looking for opportunities to CR her before she had a chance to put her talons on my boot, it was very firmly ingrained.

    A couple of months later, it is still very common for her to gently foot my boot and walk away to solicit a click and a tidbit even though I have never rewarded that since that day.

    Its a really complex thing to evaluate intelligence, because it is so easy to fall into biases along the lines of "oh, you thought exactly the way I want you to! Arent you a smarty pants!!" A lot of this has to do with why Harris' hawks are perceived to be very intelligent. However, all falcons and all hawks are very good at putting together a chain of events that led to something. As a rule, they will do this much faster than people will. On the plus side, that means they can learn complex chains very quickly. On the minus side though, they are very susceptible to prejudices and superstition. My goshawks regularly get superstitious that they will see game if they sit on a particular branch in a tree, often from one exposure.
    Geoff Hirschi - "It is better to have lightning in the fist than thunder in the mouth"
    Custom made Tail Saver Perches - http://www.myrthwood.com/TieEmHigh/

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    Put screaming on cue.
    John

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    Thatís a really funny story but definitely makes a good point about how different birds think from the way we do.

    My aplo also seems to have some superstitions regarding hunting from a specific perch. Even if I canít get any flushes in that area, and get a lot in another. He will leave for that spot. One of our early hunting days we got a lot of sparrow chases from that perch, and heís been fond of it ever since.

    As for an update, switching to clicker training on the glove stopped my aplo from his ground running. So at least thatís been dealt with. Haha. Iím really enjoying seeing how my bird perceives and processes the world around him. He connects dots I never would have considered which challenges me to come up with better ways to present things to him.
    ~Lindsay Wheeler
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