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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Polly wants a cracker... » » Need help training doves to fly distance! (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

freefallillusion1
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Elite user
Cincinnati, OH
447 Posts

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Hey, fellow magis, I thought I'd ask this question of some folks who might have more experience in the field of dove training than I do.

My church holds an annual Easter passion play, and one of my jobs is to train 7-10 doves to fly from a raised opening near the stage, over the audience, and land safely in the balcony. I've done this for several years now, with good results, and my method is: I have two "targets", side by side, which are 2' by 4' white boards, each containing 200 holes with blue Christmas lights. The blue lighted boards stand up, and give the birds something to look for. At the base of these targets is a feed trough. The birds work every day, and they eat when they do it right- there is no food in their regular cage (only water). They aren't starved, however, because at the end of each daily practice session, they sit at the target and eat as much as they want. I start working with the birds at the first of the year, and it usually takes until right up to the week of the show (Easter) that I feel they are ready. They can learn fairly quickly to make the actual flight, but then you throw in variables like, can they do it after a 2 hour break, or can they do it without looking first (all required)? Their memory seems to be somewhat short term.

I'm thinking of making a bigger target, such as an 8 foot square white drape lit with blue light. But then again, this whole blue light thing is just a guess that seems to work- do doves even see color? Any suggestions on what I can do to better train the birds? Thanks for any help!
Dave Scribner
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Assistant Manager
Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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Doves do have a memory. If you work with them as often and as much as you have said, then there is no reason for them to forget what to do when the time comes. I'm not sure about them seeing in color but they do see light and will fly towards it. If the area is dark except for the light boards you have set up, they should fly to it if that's the way they have been trained.

You said you have been doing this for several years. Are you starting to run into a problem. One thing though. If you use the treat or food method to train them, be sure you have the food in the trough during the actual performance. Performance must always be the same as rehearsal.
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Father Photius
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Grammar Host
El Paso, TX (Formerly Amarillo)
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Sounds like good standard operant conditioning technique. I wouldn't change it.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
Bob Sanders
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Grammar Supervisor
Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
20514 Posts

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Phil,

The best part of you plan to me is lighting. Doves go to the brightest light. (This why on stage the guy with the spot light needs to be your best friend. It is also why working with doves in a movie studio is so difficult.)

The greatest problem I see is time of day. Check it out at that light level. A local weatherman can help you get exactly the right time equivalent for the show day.

You seem very accepting of the doves' short memories. That will do you more good than it does them! After decades of working with them, I really wish some of them had memories at all. That brings me to one of my real concerns: hawks. They do have a good memory and they stake out good sources of food. White doves are easy prey for them. Food is in short supply by Easter.

Let us know how you come out.

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
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freefallillusion1
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Cincinnati, OH
447 Posts

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Bob,
Thanks for the advice, but it sounds like you perceived my post as though this is held outdoors. If that were the case, you couldn't pay me enough for the frustration I'd have to go through. I think I'd have better luck teaching sharks to fly- they're probably smarter!

No, this is an indoor thing. So far, the birds are doing pretty good. We are at the point where the birds can make the required flight without much problem. The next hurdle will be getting them to do it after a considerable break. This is because I can let them warm up before the show, but once the show begins, they aren't used until the very end. There are some that appear a little smarter than others, as is the case every year. So far, so good!
BalukMagic
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Toronto, Canada
317 Posts

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I suggest getting some White Homing Pigeons, They are larger than doves, a poo more, BUT, they have a VERY strong homing instinct, and they would definitely do the job for you!

(I have a few here, and I let them go outside and they fly around the city for hours at a time, and still come back.
Bob Sanders
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Grammar Supervisor
Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
20514 Posts

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Quote:
On 2006-01-30 00:05, freefallillusion1 wrote:
Bob,
Thanks for the advice, but it sounds like you perceived my post as though this is held outdoors. If that were the case, you couldn't pay me enough for the frustration I'd have to go through.
No, this is an indoor thing.


I was afraid that it was an outdoor thing. Here in Alabama Easter sunrise services are an outdoor thing.

Java doves are not good navigators. I have been quoted for saying that they could not find the back yard from the back porch. I keep about a hundred of them and have been doing dove magic for decades. I still believe that!

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander

Magic By Sander
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Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz

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