The release of captive-raised parrots to create or supplement wild populations has been critiqued due to variable survival rates and unreliable flocking behavior. Private bird owners free-fly their parrots in outdoor environments and utilize techniques that could address the needs of conservation breed and release projects. We present methods and results of a free-flight training technique used for 3 parrot flocks: A large-bodied (8 macaws of 3 species and 2 hybrids), small-bodied (25 individuals of 4 species), and a Sun Parakeet flock (4 individuals of 1 species). Obtained as chicks, the birds were hand-reared in an enriched environment. As juveniles, the birds were systematically exposed to increasingly complex wildland environments, mirroring the learning process of wild birds developing skills. The criteria we evaluated for each flock were predation rates, antipredator behavior, landscape navigation, and foraging. No parrots were lost to predation or disorientation during over 500 months of free-flight time, and all birds demonstrated effective flocking, desirable landscape navigation, and wild food usage. The authors conclude that this free-flight method may be directly applicable for conservation releases, similar to the use of falconry methods for raptor conservation.
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