Parrots fly free during event at Pueblo Grande Museum - East Valley Tribune: Events

Parrots fly free during event at Pueblo Grande Museum

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Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:47 am, Mon Oct 29, 2012.

Ten sun conures, two blue-throated macaws and a shamrock macaw named Buckle will soar overhead, interact with spectators and serve as inspiration for questions and answers during an event Oct. 27 at Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park in Phoenix.

The birds belong to Chris Biro, owner of Liberty Wings avian training and flight instruction near Moab, Utah, and they don’t simply fly from perch to perch across a stage. Biro’s birds criss-cross the sky at will.

“Usually, they’ll circle around and come back to us or near us,” says Biro. “Occasionally, they’ll go sit in a tree. The sun conures do this thing called the dollar-bill trick; they’ll fly out to anyone holding up a dollar and bring it back and drop it in a vase.”

Biro says the birds are generally reliable in their first flight over a new area because they frequently practice something he calls “sport flying.”

“We take them to destination locations and hike with them into some spectacular places with beautiful views, and let them take flight off the side of a cliff. It’s a key thing we’ll do, so we don’t lose them when we do an event like this, and so they build some of the same skills they would have in the wild. Parrots have extremely capable navigation and orientation skills, if they’re allowed to develop properly. We try to build those skills, to give them the time and opportunity to learn and practice them.”

The parrots also get the run of Biro’s 160-acre property.

“We turn them loose in the morning, and they spend the day on the property, doing their own thing. Occasionally they’ll go down to the nearest neighbors two and a half miles away. And then we bring them in again in the evening.”

Biro hopes to soon apply his 20 years of free-flight training to a new project right here in Arizona. He wants to establish a breeding program for thick-billed parrots near the Chiricahua Mountains, with the eventual goal of helping wildlife officials reintroduce the birds to the wild.

Thick-billed parrots were native to Arizona until the early 20th century, according to the National Audubon Society.

“The same process we’re using to teach birds to fly around ... without getting eaten by a hawk can be applied to birds that will be released into the wild,” he says. “Birds raised in captivity have poor flocking skills and predator evasion skills, but that’s something we can fix.”

The parrot demonstration is free with paid admission to the museum.

Pueblo Grande is home to a 1,500-year-old Hohokam village ruin. A National Historic Landmark and Arizona Point of Pride, it features an outdoor platform mound and ballcourt ruin and replicated houses. Indoors are three galleries, including a hands-on one for children.

DETAILS >> 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. Pueblo Grande Museum, 4619 E. Washington St., Phoenix. Free with paid museum admission of $6 for adults, $5 for seniors 55 and older, and $3 for children ages 6-17. (602) 495-0900 or PuebloGrande.com.

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