Marianna and I recently took a trip to Pigeon Forge Tennessee. While visiting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the beautiful Smokey Mountains, we had a chance to go to Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is unlike any zoo or bird park you have ever seen!
Parrot Mountain is a one of a kind experience for parrot lovers. It is the only major bird park I'm aware of that focuses primarily on parrots. They do have a nice collection of other birds as well, but their focus on parrots is quite unique.
A visit to the park starts with some exhibits of various bird species. Then it takes you through a walk through flight aviary. But most exciting of all is the parrot feeding area. They have probably a hundred parrots out on stands that you can see up close and feed. Buy a handful of seeds from the vending machine for a quarter and then you can be the parrots' favorite visitor!
We got to see up close and experience too many different species to count but just a few of the more exotic ones included Sun Conure, Blue Crowned Conure, Patagonian Conure, Alexandrine Parakeet, Great Billed Parrot, African Grey, Cape Parrot, Eclectus, Scarlet Macaw, Military Macaw, Hyacinth Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, and Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. Marianna had a field day getting to feed and hold the female Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. She recalled how we got to see them in the wild in Australia, but not anywhere near as close!
Some of the parrots on exhibit were brought a long time ago from the wild, others were bred at Parrot Mountain, and others were relinquished. The park acts as a complete facilitator of parrots in the region. They breed, sell, display, and accept rescued parrots. You can see the babies for sale in their nursery building.
Parrot Mountain is famous for offering to have your picture taken with close to a dozen birds. I was amazed not only how cooperative and patient their photo-parrots were but also how well they all got along with each other. The woman who brings them over for photos can be seen walking with a dozen parrots hanging off her chewed up shirt from every side. It was almost as though their beak was a carabiner hook for clipping onto her shirt. She was truly a parrot taxi!
They have a lorikeet feeding aviary where you can have lorikeets fly up to you and sip nectar. Parrot Mountain also houses the "garden of eden," a secluded Christian exhibit in the forest covered country side. They also have a small cafe (with parrot on the menu) and a gift shop with lots of parrot related merch. All around a must-see sight for any parrot lover visiting the Pigeon Forge area in Tennessee and even a reason in itself to head out there.
Here's a video of my visit to Parrot Mountain including an interview with the parks owner:
Over the last few weeks I have been traveling the depths of South East Asia. My trip began in Manila, Philippines then continued to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam. The trip continued on the island of Borneo to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. This was not the only part of Malaysia as I went to Kuala Lumpur. Upon leaving Malaysia, I flew to Jakarta, Indonesia. By bus and train continued to Yogyakarta and then flew to Denpasar in Bali. From Denpasar to Dili, East Timor, around the island, and then finally back home. I would like to share some of the parrot themed highlights with you.
Zoobic Park - Philippines
I got to experience a fair amount of parroting during my trip but unfortunately none of the wild variety. In Zoobic Park in the Philippines I saw a Blue Naped Parrot native to the region. I did not waste time photographing the Sun Parakeet, Grey Parrot, White Cockatoo, nor Alexandrine Parakeet as they are non-native to the region and common in captivity. Passing through the outdoor mini-theater, I saw the zoo's parrot trainers rehearsing some tricks with their parrots.
Out of nowhere, a man approached asking to take a picture with me. Before I could even process the question his friend already snapped a photo of us. I asked if he knows who I am to which he smiled and said, "yes, of course!" They welcomed me on the stage and I posed for a photo with their White Cockatoo. What a wonderful bird. Not only did he step up, but just melted away in my hands as I stroked his feathers and hugged him. It's always fun to bump into my fans in person and find out what they've learned from my videos.
Trained Parrot Fans in Philippines
Subic Ocean Adventure - Philippines
I watched a Sea Lion show at the Subic Ocean Adventure. It was a pretty generic show where the Sea Lions wave their flippers and perform headstands. What I enjoyed watching more so than the show was the trainers at work. They actually both held clickers in their hands and the sound of the music did a poor job concealing them. I doubt anyone else noticed. I just wanted to post a video of this smart Sea Lion vs Stupid Human for your entertainment. But also as parrot trainers, watch it again while paying attention to the cues, behaviors, bridges, and rewards.
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
In Kuala Lumpur, I was surprised to walk into a Blue and Yellow Macaw perched outside the Kuala Lumpur TV Tower. With a "hello" it welcomed me into the small zoo behind the door. The mini-zoo housed several species of parrots, rodents, and other small local animals. They offered several parrots to hold for photo posing. Some tourists wanted to hold a Green Wing Macaw but were scared. Seeing how friendly it was, I got it up on my arm and stroked his head. It is always such a pleasure to come across such friendly well socialized birds. At fist sight their parrots may have appeared to be flighted as their primaries were intact. However, upon stretching their wings you could see how brutally clipped they were on all feathers behind the first few primaries.
The avian highlight of Kuala Lumpur is the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. It is the worlds largest bird aviary housing over 150 species. It is split into several enormous walk in aviaries with nets hung from tall posts. Once inside you nearly feel like you are witnessing the birds in the wild because of its enormous size and landscapes. Some birds are housed in smaller metal aviaries inside the larger open aviaries.
Upon entering the series of aviaries, the very first exhibit is a mixture of small parrots and parakeets. Ring Necked Parakeets and Monk Parakeets fly around while behind a divider Sun Parakeets, Green Cheeked Parakeets, Rosellas, and Cockatiels reside. It seems that there is no regard for taxonomy or geographic distribution when exhibiting parrots. Small and colorful ones are housed with other small and colorful ones even though their natural habitats may be continents apart.
A separate aviary within the confines of the greater aviary houses the "World of Parrots" exhibit. Several species of Lorikeets roam free in this aviary but maintain their distance from humans. Behind bars in smaller individual aviaries are housed some more "exotic" parrots such as Blue and Yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaw, Green Winged Macaw, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Grey Parrots, and a Vulturine Parrot. I was really looking forward to seeing unfamiliar parrot species unavailable in captivity but was disappointed to find that all but one species I had previously seen back home. A mere 20 species of parrot were represented. Heck, I was able to count 35 other parrot species that I had seen in bird stores or captivity in the US that the exhibit did not have. I had really been hoping to get to see some parrots of the 330+ species that are not available in the pet trade (especially native ones).
A crazy monkey was running around taunting visitors and ransacking garbage cans for food. But that's not all. It would climb across wires and hop down on top of a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo's cage. The monkey would then climb down the side of the cage and sneak its hand in to steel sunflower seeds from the Cockatoo's food bowl. Amazing how the Cockatoo was nearly as big as the monkey and it would fight back on occasion and give that monkey a good bite on the hand. But the Monkey was very persistent and it wasn't like the Cockatoo was running out of food so it got away with it most of the time. The monkey was not the only animal subsisting off the Cockatoo's rations. While the monkey was laying a diversion near the top, a giant rat hopped into the cage bottom tray and got a mouthful of seeds. It was out as quickly as it came in.
Although common as pets, to this day I have never seen a single Poicephalus parrot represented in a zoo, aviary, or museum. It sure makes owning a Cape Parrot feel exotic when not even a Senegal Parrot is ever displayed.
There was a large booth with a dozen birds on individual perches available for photos. I paid their fee to get to take a picture with two birds. Most available ones were parrots but they also had several raptors and native birds. I was not going to waste time or money taking a photo with a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Grey Parrot, Scarlet Macaw, etc as I could get one at one of my local bird stores any day. Instead I chose to hold a Palm Cockatoo and a Barred Eagle Owl. I had never held an owl before so that was quite exotic, especially because it is a local Asian species you won't find in the US. Although I had the chance to even see a Palm Cockatoo in the United States, I never got to hold one. They sell for somewhere in the range of ten to twenty thousand dollars so store owners are reluctant to let anyone handle those expensive birds. Unlike the cuddly Greenwing and Cockatoo I got to play with before, the Palm Cockatoo was pretty standoffish. Still it would step up and not bite. But it did not want any unnecessary contact beyond that.
Bird World in Jakarta
I visited yet another bird park, this time in Jakarta Indonesia. The park, Taman Mini, is like the Disney World of Indonesia. Inside are exhibited the diverse buildings and cultures of Indonesia. In a far corner of the park is a secluded bird park. Although smaller than the aviaries of the KL-Bird Park, this one was still quite extensive and interesting. Across several dome shaped aviaries, birds of the region were on display. Again, exhibits devoted to parrots mixed them without any regard. A Blue and Yellow Macaw was housed in a tiny cage opposite a Palm Cockatoo. Although the aviaries are large enough to give any bird sufficient flighted exercise, somehow the parrots always end up regarded as house birds belonging in small cages.
Palm Cockatoo Coin
I happen to collect coins when I travel and had a hard time finding Indonesian coins. When I finally got some Indonesian coinage I was shocked to find a parrot on the face of one of the coins. It was a Palm Cockatoo engraved in the face of the 100 Rupi coin with the inscription "Kakatua Raja" which translates to King Cockatoo. This did not make sense to me as these parrots are not found in the parts of Indonesia that I was visiting. However, upon further research I learned that they do live in New Guinea and Indonesia happens to own a sizable chunk. So although the bird is not representative as a common Indonesian bird, the coin demonstrates their pride in at least having one island inhabited by the majestic parrot.