In February 2020, staff at Northern Parrots were invited to Flamingo Land Zoo to meet the wonderful birds, Parrots and the hard-working team who care for them.
On arrival we were warmly greeted by Peter Bloom, Director of APAB Ltd, who has several years’ experience training different birds including Parrots. Peter also trains Sealions for TV, films and zoos. He introduced us to Holly Garson, their Head Trainer and host of the bird show at Flamingo Land Zoo.
Over a warm cup of tea we chatted about all things Parrots, and it was clear that Peter and Holly's tremendous passion for what they do spans many years. It was great to learn more about the birds at Flamingo Land Zoo, many of which are rescue Parrots. Peter told us stories about his Galahs and Amazon, and Holly about her African Grey and Amazon Parrots.
Soon it was time for Peter and Holly to prepare their team, and the birds for the show. Whilst we had a little spare time, we took in the sights including the magnificent Macaws, Amazons and Cockatoos in the Domed Aviary. Needless to say on a cold February morning, we were a little bit jealous of their heated home!
We then joined the crowds who gathered outside the large wooden gateway leading in to the outdoor bird show arena. It was lovely to see the variety of people waiting eagerly to enjoy this experience, and to learn more about our feathered friends. Once the doors opened, the undercover seating area, which holds up to 400 people, soon began to fill up.
The first Parrot we were introduced to was a hybrid Macaw named Olive. Holly walked up through the crowd, to show us her amazingly coloured feathers. The underlying message being how Parrots see in the ultra violet light, and that seeing in full colour is important to them for locating food and identifying predators. Using a shape and colour board, Olive demonstrated how clever she is and how she can identify colours and shapes and place them in the correct places on the board.
Next, we met Sydney, a laughing Kookaburra, who showed the crowd how he would deal with a snake in the wild (a rubber one! No snakes were harmed in the performance 😊).
Chico, a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, with lots of character was next to appear. Chico has been learning how to mimic some of the other animals at Flamingo Land Zoo, much to the entertainment of the many children present. In fact, everyone was encouraged to interact and reward all the birds with an applause, reaffirming the positive re-enforcement techniques used during their training session.
Holly and Chico took the opportunity via the bird show to encourage the audience to take care of the environment, starting with the Zoo itself. Chico demonstrated putting rubbish in to a toy wheelie bin, before releasing a sign asking people to ‘bin their rubbish’.
We were introduced to a duo next, Alfie an African Grey and Ruben a hybrid Macaw. Holly talked about how and why African Greys are popular and the effects of the illegal trade in Parrots. The pair then showed off their retrieval skills and clever thinking as they used different methods to obtain a tasty reward.
Before the show ended the audience were treated to visits by Charlie and Mac, Blue and Gold Macaws and Winston - a Green-wing Macaw. Throughout the show there were many educational key messages for the audience to take home.
After the show finished, Holly and her team welcomed visitors to meet some of the Parrots. Winston was collecting coins and Mac was available for a photo. Any donations go towards two chosen charities - Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre founded by Jean Thorpe MBE, and an ongoing project in Gambia, where work is being done to save and manage the last area of rainforest. Search www.farasuto.org for more details.
Flamingo Land Zoo, Peter, Holly and their team are very conscious about their Parrots and the involvement they have in the shows. The birds are never used just for entertainment, and the performance is surrounded by education through care and conservation. All in all, it was a very well thought out experience and we had a wonderful time meeting everyone and their birds.
Flamingo Land Zoo is a member of…
BIAZA – the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums
EAZA (European counterpart)
WAZA – the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria. (WAZA represents only truly world-class zoos with only 250 members worldwide)
TV Vet Matt Brash is a long serving zoo vet at Flamingo Land Zoo.
The Parrot Society UK have held regular members days at Flamingo Land Zoo.
To learn more about the bird show, and for a great day out visit the Flamingo Land Zoo website. https://www.flamingoland.co.uk/
To learn more about Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre - https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/groups/york/news/456800/
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