By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
Caiques love to have fun, so get out the toys and get playing!
After living with Spikey LeBec (aka Spike), my black-headed caique, for more than 20 years, I could probably write about 100 ways to play with a caique. I think that caiques are probably one of the most playful pet birds.
Caiques are acrobatic and love to play on their backs. I taught Spike to do a somersault in my hand in about an hour, and now it is always one of the ways we play. When I take him out of his cage, I put him in the somersault position and over he goes.
When I first got Spike, it only took a week or so for him to trust me enough to put him on his back in my hand. I would position him on his back with his head between my thumb and my index finger. I taught him the trick over a bed just in case he lost his balance. Then I would move my hand in such a way that grabbed on to my thumb and finger with his feet and then I would flip my hand a bit so he would grab on tighter. After he was used to this, I moved my hand so that it flipped him over into a somersault. At first he was a bit clumsy with it, but in a short time he became quite adept and in graceful at doing his somersaults.
Spike hangs out with me in the office either on a hanging playgym or on the front of my blouse. If I let him on my shoulder, he insists on climbing up on my head to hair surf. He loves to rub his cheeks through my hair, which most likely is a displacement for the leaf bathing that caiques in the wild do. If he starts to get insistent about climbing over to my shoulder or starts to act up in any way, I put him in the somersault position and he does his somersault. I tell him what a good bird he is, and this both distracts him from negative behavior and rewards him for good behavior.
Caiques are smart and can be taught many tricks, with or without props. In fact, I think that my caique, Spike, is only limited to the tricks he can do by his size and my limitations as a teacher. Spike learned several tricks with praise as his only reward. He quickly learned to put a small wiffle ball in a hoop and to put rings on a ring stand. Hopping is a natural behavior for most caiques. When I realized this, I decided to teach him a trick that utilized this behavior. I would gently grab him around his back with my thumb and fingers on each side of his body. Then I gently bounced him up and down on his feet. Now, once I bounce him a couple of times, I let him go and he bounces across the table as if I wound him up.
Caiques love to be handled and wrestle. Spike has a couple of little rubber wrestler figures. I don’t let him play with them by himself because he chews the fingers off of them. Sometimes when I bring him out to play, I put him on the dining room table and hold one of the figures and he hops over to play. I use the figure to wrestle with him. He is used to me gently knocking him on his back, and he bounces up and knocks the wrestler on his back. We have a great time with this game.
Caiques love to dance. Spike loves it when I whistle to him, and he is pretty good at whistling along with me. One of his favorite tunes is the Mexican hat dance. When he is on my hand, I whistle that tune, and he sways back and forth dancing to the rhythm of the song. Sometimes he initiates this game when he is on my hand by starting to dance and whistle. He definitely wants me to join in with him.
Caiques are natural hams and love to show off. Spike’s absolute favorite activity is to show off for people. He loves to do his tricks for me but prefers a larger audience. Whether his audience consists of one person or a hundred, he is totally aware of their response to him. The more attention and applause he gets, the more he shows off. If anyone visits my home who is at all interested in parrots, I get Spike out to show off his repertoire. He does somersaults in my hand and bounces when I wind him up. I can also point my finger at him and say, “Pow” and he rolls over on his back. Most of all, he loves it when someone applauds for him, and he usually responds by spreading his wings and swaying back and forth.