Birds, especially parrots, are intelligent creatures that can be trained to follow certain cues. One such vital cue is the “step-up” request. Mastering this will not only make interactions with your bird smoother, but also enhance your bond with them. Here’s how to effectively train your bird to “step up”.

What is the “Step Up” Request?

The “step-up” cue encourages a bird to climb onto an offered perch, whether it’s your hand, a wooden stick, or another object. Though it can also be used to instruct the bird to “step down”, it’s preferable to maintain an upward orientation, ensuring the next perch is slightly elevated from the bird’s current position.


1. Bird Comfort:  Ensure your bird is comfortable with your proximity and accepts treats from your hand. If there’s fear or apprehension, more foundational training, like target-training, might be necessary.
2. Training Spot:  Position your bird atop their cage, a T-stand, or another accessible spot like a chair’s back. Avoid training within their cage or hard-to-reach places.

Training Steps:

1. Position Your Hands: Hold a treat (and clicker if you’re using one) in one hand, and present your other hand as a perch just above your bird’s feet.
2. Approach:  Gently and quietly approach with your fist extended. Without making contact, bring your perch hand near the bird’s belly. If the bird steps up or even shows intent, click or verbally praise and offer a treat.
3. Encourage:  If the bird is hesitant, use the treat to coax them, moving it closer to their beak and then across your hand, encouraging them to step up.
4. Progress:  Once they’re comfortable, keep the treat hidden, presenting only the perch hand and using the verbal cue “up”. Reward their success with a treat and positive reinforcement.
5. Return:  Allow the bird to return to their starting position whenever they wish. This autonomy reinforces positive training.
6. Increase Duration:  Once they’re comfortable on your hand, extend their stay by offering treats intermittently. Gradually introduce movements while they’re perched on your hand, rewarding their calm demeanor.
7. Diversify:  Encourage your bird to “step up” onto various perches, starting with familiar ones. Utilise tools like a long wooden perch for elevated places, always positioning it above their feet level.

Bonus:  Invest in a T-stand with feeding cups or a play-stand. This provides a diverse training environment, allowing the bird to transition between different perches.

Handling Fearful or Aggressive Birds:

For birds that display fear or aggression, the conventional “step-up” method may need adaptation. The key lies in positive reinforcement, rewarding the bird for choosing to approach your hand, associating it with positive outcomes like treats or affection.

1. Target Training:  Start with target training, allowing the bird to follow a target. Gradually, position this target nearer to your stationary hand, encouraging the bird to move closer voluntarily.
2. Reward & Recognise:  Heavily reward any attempt by a fearful bird to come closer. If the bird displays aggression, withdraw your hand and try again another day from further away. This strategy, coupled with positive reinforcement for the desired behavior, helps the bird associate calm behavior with rewards.  It is essential to never tell off or punish a bird for their behaviour, as this will only deteriorate their trust in people in the long term


Training your bird to “step up” is a gradual process that requires patience, understanding, and consistency. Celebrate small milestones and always prioritise your bird’s comfort. With time and practice, your feathered friend will confidently step up onto any perch you offer!