Behind the Scenes of the ParrotFX Photoshoot

Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Athol, ID Behind the scenes: Galahs "Bondi" & "Bandit" being shot by photographer Terrence Blanton

Dave and I have done numerous photoshoots with our birds - every time we get a new contract, it's a new photoshoot for new promo materials and so forth. Comet, our camelot macaw, was the main attraction in Ringling Bros ads and billboards with Dave across the country... while Bondi and Bandit our galahs made it on the cover of the show program with us and Jinx our blue throat was constantly in flight around the ads and inserted here and there. A common ending photograph was taken of Dave at the end of the show with both camelot macaws Comet and Tusa that was used largely to promote the use of parrots in our show.

And of course, all of our birds get photographed a lot for the use of, around the website and training materials. Moreso lately than ever.

Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Athol, ID Shown: Galah "Bandit" and in the background Camelot macaw "Tusa"

This shoot for ParrotFX was so laid back and fun - it took minimal people to get it done. Nathan came to take behind the scenes shots which we LOVE sharing with everyone - a little glimpse into our world. Dave and I of course were there to be photographed with the birds, and then the photographer Terrance.

That was it. Comet and Tusa perched on a chair, so did Jinx, while photos were being taken of Dave solo. It was so laid back for the birds and they were so comfortable that every single shot was just easy and natural with them. We knew each bird's part and Terrance works so efficiently and effortlessly that it made the whole thing not feel like work at all.

Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Athol, ID Shown: Camelot macaw "Comet" flying over an audience member's head

We then did a show run-through so Terrance could photograph the show live and see what it's about. A big thing for Dave and I when putting together the show was making sure people got to experience the birds as much as possible without having the ability to do anything directly to them. Depending on how the audience is with the birds can alter their behavior depending on whether or not it's enjoyable to the birds or not. We try to control that aspect as much as possible so that they do enjoy it.

During the show we have Comet fly right at someone's head while they're video taping it on their mobile device. It seems to be getting the best reaction so far so that people can see what it's like to be us for a few seconds - and how stunning birds are in flight. We really love for people to experience and see birds flying because it's beautiful.

Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Athol, ID Shown: Toco toucan "Rocko" waiting backstage for his routine

 We try to make every show different from the last - in Ringling our birds flew from A to B a lot. So in this show we have many more boomerang (A to A) flights as well as we incorporated our other birds into the show that didn't appear in the Ringling show. We often did PR's where we talked about animal training to kids with the other animal trainers on Ringling and we would take advantage of that time and show actual training. During those events we trained Cressi our african grey to fly through hula hoops.


We also showed off Rocko's vertical flights and have incorporated those into ParrotFX as their very own routines and adding more elements to them, of course. This has been a fun way of giving every single bird their own part in the show.

Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Athol, ID Shown: Blue throated macaw "Jinx" on the back of a chair while camelot macaws "Tusa" and "Comet" get photographed with Dave

Because we are asking different behaviors than we have asked in our previous shows with our birds, we have found that using different motivation levels for our birds has been very necessary. For example, for the flights in Ringling we gave big rewards for each flight with higher motivation (said to be right on by the vets that came out often to check on the animals there) but here for ParrotFX, Comet gets TWICE the amount of food the other birds get and we actually work him full. Tusa is almost completely full as well and their rewards are smaller and more random on what they are (we took a big jar and filled it with their favorite treats and then shook it up so we never know what kind we will grab).

We also have in mind routines for our budgie, Visa and our sun conures, Phoebe, Lily and Detka. However we plan to use those routines either for next year if we're brought back OR work them into the show this year as they become trained.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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