My name is Heather Scott, and I am the bird trainer and presenter at the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre, which is a small zoo in Sheffield, England. Dave clearly stated: “It’s important to mention you’re on the other side of the pond, since you guys talk funny” so there you have it!
In April 2010, I was lucky enough to land this dream job; I present the Parrot Displays which feature all the favourite tricks (bike-riding, skateboarding, basketball, talking and lots more!), along with the Aerial Antics display which includes free-flying Green-winged and Hahn’s Macaws, and birds of prey including Hawks, Falcons, Owls, a Black Kite and a Kookaburra, also not forgetting our stunning White Storks (although they can’t fly just yet, just walk and sort of skip!).
As well as presenting the displays, I am also responsible for training all the birds, preparing their food, cleaning their enclosures, providing enrichment, and generally looking after them.
I’m really pleased to begin writing blog articles for Birdtricks.com as I’ve found them to be an incredible resource in terms of training advice and practical information on keeping parrots happy and healthy. Also, as I’m sure many of you do, I feel like I know them quite well even though we haven’t met in person and love seeing their Facebook posts.
I guess mine is a slightly different perspective, as the parrots I train and look after are not my own (although if I could, I would take them all home!) but I do spend a great deal of time with my feathered friends and hope to share fun stories with you about them alongside the useful stuff. Training the Macaws for free-flying is my biggest achievement and I still feel really proud every time I see them soaring up high, circuiting round and round until I call them back in to land!
I’d like to point out that I had no previous experience at all with parrots before this so it has been a very steep learning curve for me and I’m still learning new things all the time! Before my first day of the job, I spent a couple of weeks researching as much as I could about parrot care and training but nothing could have prepared me for the amazement of my first day working with them. Just “wow!!” was basically the feeling, I could not believe how incredible it felt just to have a parrot willingly step onto my hand and how lucky I was to see such beautiful birds so close.
I wonder if everyone remembers that first moment?
As the weeks went on, I was stunned as I discovered how individual their personalities were and it’s safe to say they secured a place in my heart from day one (and that’s even with Jasper, our African Grey, taking a massive chomp on my finger as a result of my clumsy, inexperienced and nervous attempt at picking him up!)
As this blog is about parrots, I’m just going to sneak in a little something about the meat-eating birds I work with, who are also spectacular! Alfie the Turkey Vulture, for example, is a very impressive bird and clever enough to learn tricks too… trouble is he’s a real character (sometimes a very mischievous boy actually) who has stolen sandwiches and nipped at my ankles many a time! I don’t fly him in the displays anymore but we did have some good days!
So back to parrots; as well as Jasper, ’my flock’ consists of Rosie the Galah, Molly the Citron-crested Cockatoo, Coco the Blue and Gold Macaw, Ruby the Green-winged Macaw, Charlie the Blue-fronted Amazon, Barney the Eclectus and also the free-flyers: Bonnie and Alfie the Green-winged Macaw siblings, and Ché and Esteban the Hahn’s Macaw siblings (who only hatched in May 2011). I look forward to introducing them all to you at some point!