Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Parrot Ranch

A friend of our has bought a two-acre plot of land on the edge of Levin, a rural town nearly two hours north of Wellington. He had been inviting us for some time to visit one weekend, then pitch a tent somewhere on his land and camp overnight. The land is completely undeveloped in its current state, with two sheds and a small, temporary cabin as its only adornments. It has several dozen gum trees, reaching about 30m each, and a tiny pond at one of the property ... and nothing else. He has plans to eventually build a log cabin in the middle, but it's not there yet. We (I) decided we weren't too keen on the camping bit (even though he'd promised to hire a Port-a-loo), but were happy to visit.

The idea was that about 15 of us would head up for the day and to go the Organic River Festival nearby. The festival didn't really appeal to us, and the $20 cover charge appealed even less, so we dropped our friends off and went for a drive before meeting later for a barbeque. (Levin is tiny; driving around it doesn't take long.)

We came across The Parrot Ranch. I have always loved birds and grew up in a family of bird-lovers. Parrots, in particular, have such distinctive personalities and I especially enjoy their playful intelligence. Although bookings are essential for tours around The Parrot Ranch, we took our chances and were lucky enough to find a tour leaving in five minutes. Great!

This place is fantastic. The owner is so clearly dedicated to his work and shared his passion for all the birds and animals in his care. This must be an incredibly demanding job; the hand-rearing process alone means that baby birds are hand-fed every two hours, moving onto every four hours once they are a few weeks old. There are numerous species of parrots and other birds in both inside and outside enclosures. He also has a native bird rescue programme, whereby injured birds are brought in for rehabilitation before being re-released into the wild.

Here are some highlights from our visit:

Jackie is a sulphur-crested cockatoo. He is about 24 years old and came straight over to the edge of his cage, putting his head down towards the bars. I knew what he wanted but wondered whether I'd get in trouble ... until he did it again and said "scratch". How could I resist an invitation like that? I was very tempted to take Jackie home ...

This male harrier hawk had been attacked by a farm dog and had no tail. He had been at the ranch for four months and will remain there until he moults out the remaining damaged tail feathers and grows a new tail, when he will be re-released into the wild. You can see his impressive wingspan. There was also a female harrier hawk who had flown into power lines.

Rio (on the right) is the ranch's pet hybrid macaw. He is a cross between a blue and gold macaw (like the one on the left) and a military macaw. Being incredibly cheeky (not quite their description, but you get the picture), they've decided to keep him as a pet as he responds best to the ranch owner.

And, finally, Mrs Goose. Mrs Goose follows the owner everywhere. As soon as she hears his voice, she goes waddling over to him. She hangs around outside his bedroom window at night and knows if he's awake inside. Her honk sounded like a pig grunting (hilarious!). She has the run of the ranch, but is never far away from the man she thinks is her father.

You can see more photos from our visit to The Parrot Ranch on Flickr. They were taken on my phone (we hadn't planned to go, therefore didn't bring a camera!), so the quality varies.

I'm really glad we chose The Parrot Ranch as the venue for goal #77 - Visit an aviary. Well worth a visit (remember to book for a tour!) and somewhere I'm keen to go back to again.


Anonymous said...

How Neat! Rio is just beautiful! I think he's my favorite!

Sab said...

That is soooo cool! I LOVE it! I wanna go!

Kelly said...

What a delightful hidden treasure you found! My sister and her family live in Foxton so I am def going to give them the heads up about this place. I will be giving it a miss though, not just because I live in the Waikato, but because I am absolutely terrified of all things feathery unless they are the size of a sparrow.