(MENAFN- The Peninsula) By Alexandra Evangelista | The Peninsula Online
Doha: Early morning on a weekend, in bright and striking colours, fully-fledged parrots soar in the vast blue sky of Doha on free flights as their handlers watch with delight. After a short flight recognising their recall, the pretty birds descend and land on their respective owners hands.
Free Flying Parrot Qatar is a diverse community of more than 500 individuals who share a common goal, to spread awareness about free flying and help enthusiasts build a good relationship between parrot and man. Aside from these, Free Flying Parrot Qatar also aims to expound on the risks, time, and discipline demanded in free flying.
The man behind this endeavour is Jonathan Buezon, a Filipino expat residing in Qatar, who founded the community out of passion for free flying birds when he was young.
In April last year, he officially launched the Free Flying Parrot Qatar group as more people took an interest on what he does. From a small number of members in the beginning, Jonathan was able to bring together hundreds of people who share the same interest in free flying parrots.
'By joining like-minded people, it helped me improve my knowledge and understanding of parrots in general. It also opened up new friendships and now we are more like a family. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together,' Jonathan told The Peninsula.
Free Flying Parrot Qatar engages in various activities including training, knowledge sharing sessions and most importantly, a dedicated bonding time with their companion birds.
Speaking about his experience in being a parrot handler, Jonathan said: 'Having a companion parrot is both a pleasure and a responsibility.'
'We chose to be their handler thus, we must be responsible for their life from the moment we chose having them under our wings,' he added.
Jonathan compared the experience to parental responsibility, coining the word 'Parronts' for 'Parrot Parents'. Behind every exhilarating milestone reached with the companion parrots are back-to-back challenges. Passion, patience, dedication, and consistency are some points that Jonathan underlined as the bare minimum to successfully train a parrot for free flying.
It involves rigorous and consistent training, at indoor and outdoor setting, that could span into months before a parrot, or a companion bird, is fully capable of a free flight.
'As the parronts, we must ensure that the birds are able to tick the checklist of skills that they require to navigate the free skies,' Jonathan explained.
He further added: 'Starting from recognizing our recalls, may it be name, hand signals or through our whistles, up until mastering the different type of flights such as ascending and descending flights, and even immediate recall in cases of emergency or dangers are lurking around the free flight site such as ravens and falcons.'
There are twelve steps that he enumerated in training a parrot for a free flight. These include walking recall, voice recall, whistle recall, hand gesture recall, colour recall, perch to handler recall, handler to perch recall, blind recall, ascend and descend recall, boomerang recall, indoor recall, and outdoor recall.
Besides developing some of these skills in an indoor setting, parrots are also trained outdoors to get them accustomed to several environmental factors such as wind, distractions, noises and weather. Inevitable risks involving birds of prey and changing weather conditions are also thoroughly assessed ahead of a free flight and are vital factors to consider when training.
One of the greatest risks that could result from free flying is a lost bird. Despite all training, the chances for this accident to happen is highly likely.
When asked about the steps that Free Flying Parrot Qatar takes when such an event occurs, Jonathan said: 'It can be very traumatic for the bird owner. As a group we give our full support to the owners. We share the information on different social media platforms. We identify the location and arrange a search and rescue team.'
He further added: 'Our birds are also equipped with microchip and registered in pet's database. It will be easier to claim the bird once it is stolen/lost or even when the rings are cut off.'
Other preparations include having proper equipment for handlers, selecting a suitable location for free flying, and maintaining the companion bird's good physical health condition through a balanced diet. Understanding the companion bird's body language is also a must to reach a 'fully-bonded' stage, a term that the group uses when the level of alertness and attentiveness to handlers is reached for a free flight.
However, birds that still exhibit panic or lack of focus are kept on leash training until they are suitable for the activity.
Indeed, every free flying session is different. It is a continuous process and a learning experience for both the handler and the parrot. But on the other side of all the hard work is a sense of fulfilment in finally witnessing a companion bird soar to the skies on a leash-less flight, or what the Free Flying Parrot Qatar call a 'Graduation Flight'.
'The key thing here is not to rush, each step in the training is very important. Sometimes you must go back to the previous step or start it all over again. It all depends on the relationship you have with your bird and the time spent on training,' Jonathan said.
When asked about the finest thing about free flying, he pointed out the delight in owning a properly trained free flight bird.
He said: 'It is amazing to have a free flying companion bird.'
'A bird chooses to fly back to their owner each time as they are never forced to come back but the feeling of it makes all your patience and time wear off,' he added.
He also expressed his gratitude to all the members of the Free Flying Parrot Qatar for maintaining the free flights sessions productive as well as for safekeeping their goals to spread awareness and share their dedication to free flying.
He also invited enthusiasts to visit the official pages of the Free Flying Parrot Qatar to get involved with the community's activities.
'Me and my free flight family is ready and willing to share our experiences and knowledge to equip you and your bird to free flight,' Jonathan said.
In a short message to individuals who are keen to develop their interest for free flying, Jonathan stated: 'Always remember that this is a lifetime commitment, a loving bird owner or keeper must understand everything that is involved, and they should be prepared for the journey.'
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