Last Friday was an interesting day for the Taronga Bird Show crew. We expect that our feathered stars may, at times, go for ‘extended’ flights, and Friday certainly delivered just that. After completing our first show for the day, our flock of six Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were spooked by a wild Brown Goshawk flying over-head. This caused them to showcase a very different natural behaviour, that of predator avoidance.
Obviously not keen about the possibility of ending up on the Goshawk’s dinner plate, our flock quickly rode the winds to a greater height and after a few minutes were lost from their trainers’ sight. We are experienced in fly-off situations and have many strategies in place to deal with them. Having presented over 10,000 shows in just over a decade it’s something we’ve become pretty good at. Whether it is early training, strong winds or unwanted attention from wild locals, skills necessary for coming home are very valuable and part of their training.
Approximately 1PM was the last time we saw our flock, at least for the next couple of hours. The team divided to conquer; each searching different parts of Mosman and then the out-skirting suburbs. As the hours rolled on, our hearts did sink a little. It’s a little nerve wrecking when you don’t know exactly where they are, but as always, in these situations we expect our birds to come home in a timely fashion. 3:30PM arrived and still nothing. Most of our birds have trackers on them, which makes searching for them a lot easier, but the Red-tails are exceptionally clever and inquisitive and normally manage to get their trackers off, so we literally have to see them to know where they are.
This was when our media department became involved and enlisted help from an ABC radio station. A media call was put out to nearby residents requesting aid and just like that our hopes were raised and our spirits given renewed vigour. Within a matter of minutes our white knight called and alerted us of their location; a front yard in Balmoral. It is this local support that never fails to amaze the Bird Show crew, and something we are forever indebted to.
Our team was on the scene almost immediately! Upon seeing us, their trainers, our flock became extremely excited. Crests up, loud vocalisations and the occasional head bob. We gave the cue and one by one they descended from their lofty perches ready to go home. This was at 4PM. After ten minutes we had secured five of our wayward flock, Diyara though must have known I had dinner plans! Slightly less confident and with the winds picking up, it took her a little longer to join her friends. But as expected she worked it out.
By 6PM that night we were a very relieved team. All six Red-tails back, safe and secure!
We love being able to share our birds with Taronga’s visitors. They are thrilling, entertaining, inspiring and remind us of the role we have to play in what is a magnificent world. We hope to see you soon and share our mischievous black cockatoos with you, and maybe they will excite you just as much as they excite us.