I don’t know about you, but I fill my Social Media pages with animals. Cute bird pictures and videos, the occasional cute puppy video, and several amazing wild animal videos. And many, many, many training and behaviour videos. In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to watch videos on my Social Media – but I always watch them twice. Here’s why:

When you see a video online, it often comes with the click-bait tag. “You won’t believe what this bird does!” or “Cutest parrot of all time!” or “Parrot viciously attacks banana!” or “Day 35, they still don’t know I’m here”. What do you do? You click it, and watch it, knowing essentially what’s coming in the video. You’re looking for the surprise, or the cuteness, or the hidden bird. And usually these videos are narrated or subtitled. They are cute and amazing and very shareable. So why do I watch them twice? It’s not because they are so darn adorable. It’s so that I can see the animal communicate.

Let me repeat that: it’s so I can see the animal COMMUNICATE. The animal is giving body language the entire time. The animal is expressing itself in one of the simplest forms of communication: body language. And it might surprise you to know that many videos online are opposite from what you might think you’re watching. If you take a REALLY close look at the birds’ body language, you might see that they aren’t actually having the best time or aren’t actually trying to attack a bowl of fruit. What am I looking for?

The first time I watch the video I skip the title. I skip the subtitles. I mute the video. I ONLY watch the animal. Where are they looking? Are they moving towards or away from the object? What does their posture look like? Are the feathers or fur extended in alarm? Is there food involved? Is there fear or anxiety behaviours? If this is a training video, what would you guess is being trained right now?

This is both practice for reading subtle body language cues, identifying inadvertent labeling, and learning what to look for when reinforcing. I also like this for guessing what’s being trained. Imagine how the animal feels, when being trained. How clear is the humans’ communication? Does that the animal have a chance to figure it out? How often is reinforcement happening? IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT, how do you expect the animal to figure it out?

THEN I watch the video a second time, with the sound on, reading the title and subtitles. There is usually a difference between what they are SAYING is in the video, and what the animal is communicating in that video. Often removing the sound and human language allows for the body language of the animal to become very clear. And if they are the same, that’s an EXCELLENT video, and I share the heck out of it!

I encourage you to practice your observation skills by watching a video twice: once with the sound off, just watching the animal communicate; once with the sound on to see if the narrative matches the animals’ communication. And check to see if you can guess what’s being trained before the video tells you what is TRYING to be trained! It’s a great way to hone your observation skills. Your birds will thank you for it!

– Robin KPA CTP

www.calgarybirdschool.com