One of my benefits for joining the Milwaukee Zoo society was a free pass to their special exhibit, Wings From Down Under. I had initially blown this benefit off because I don’t really like birds. They kind of freak me out. I feel like they’re too close to dinosaurs, and they don’t have features I can anthropomorphize. I don’t like the beaks, either. I mean, really, what’s up with that? Have teeth or don’t, but a beak is just *odd*. If you know me well, you probably know this, as you’ve probably heard me comment on it or seen me run away from birds before. So, I imagine this photo will shock you:
This is from the Wings exhibit at the Milwaukee Zoo. I decided to go, and it was a blast. The entire exhibit boils down to that you walk into a giant birdcage with a popsicle stick that has millet adhered to it, and then you’re there with hundreds of parakeets and quite a few parrots and cockatoos, all native to Australia. The birds are smart, too. They would immediately set upon anyone walking in the entrance, because those people definitely have fresh millet. ? You could buy additional millet sticks inside, too, but the people walking in were a guarantee of millet, and the birds had that figured out. So, like, the minute you walk in, you just feel these whooshes of air and then you have birds all over your arms and hands. I’m not going to lie…I was completely freaked out at first…but it was like immersion therapy. After a bit, I felt at home…and I even began to notice some characteristics I liked about the birds. For one thing, I liked that they were smart enough to focus on the new people. I liked how they totally blew off and avoided the kids that seemed overly interested in touching them or poking them but did give plenty of attention to the nice, calm kids and parents. At one point, I found one bird who just seemed kind of shellshocked and clearly wanted some millet but wanted no part of the people associated with it. I held my millet stick up to him, and he went after it hungrily and eventually inched toward me a bit, but he wouldn’t leave his branch. I’m guessing he’d been terrorized by someone. Poor guy. (Oh, and I learned from the keepers that the little stripe above their beak usually tells you if they’re a guy or girl bird, so I know he was a he.)
It was so much fun that Ms. Moo and I called my DH in. He’d stayed outside, since I just had the one ticket and he was listening to the game anyways. We had all thought the exhibit would just be one of those walk-through aviaries or a bird show or something like that. We had no idea it would be so hands-on.
The only disappointment was the lack of education. I really wish I could have learned more about why the birds are so varied in color (is it just breeding? Or do certain colors have certain qualities) and why the parrots from Australia are so much smaller than the ones I saw in Mexico. But, overall, it was a blast. Check out the Milwaukee Zoo 2009-09 gallery for more pictures from our visit. (Note that the gallery has two separate visits in it, one with my dad over labor day weekend and one from this past weekend.)
(“Real time” note: I’m typing this on the train, by the way…we just stopped at Wilmington, Delaware. It’ll be backdated when I post it.)