WRAL's Tracy Wilson got up close and personal with some exotic birds and talked with their trainer about how he gets them to perform in a show called "On the Wing."
Show supervisor Mike Zeloski says most of the birds have been raised by trainers at the zoo so they are used to being around people.
Some birds have strong talons. Trainers wear black leather gloves. The gloves protect trainers skin, are a target for the birds to fly to and hold a food reward. Trainers say the key is using food rewards as an incentive and building in small steps to ultimately have the birds perform flawlessly.
Will the birds fly off? Not to worry say trainers. But should they stray, they won't go far. Since most birds have been raised at the zoo, they know this is where they'll be fed.
Zeloski says training depends on the type of bird. Gabby, a Scarlett Macaw, flys right to her trainers hand. She also says "hello" and is rewarded with sunflower seed hearts.
Zeloski says macaws are very intelligent. Each bird has its own personality and most can learn very quickly.
Macaws are also very curious and eager to please. Their intelligence level is about that of a 3-year-old child.
Crows learn a bit quicker. Not only can Ripley the crow wow audiences by flying overhead and landing on command. He's got another trick up his wing. Ripley can do a good deed by carrying a soda can from the audience to a nearby recycling bin.
You can catch "On the Wing" three times daily through May 14 at the North Carolina Zoo near Asheboro.