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The City Journals

Library goers learn about birds of the world

Feb 21, 2017 02:27PM ● By Kelly Cannon

Shane Richins shows off Chicken, a green- winged macaw, during a presentation at the Whitmore Library. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]
The small meeting room at the Whitmore Library was filled with the chirps and calls of different exotic birds during a special Birds of the World presentation on Saturday, Feb. 10. Presented by Scales and Tails Utah, the audience enjoyed not only learning about the different birds, but also had a chance to see them up close and personal.
“We use the animal shows to get kids excited about science and reading,” said Shane Richins, the presenter from Scales and Tails Utah. “Conservation is also part of the show so we use a lot of facts. We want to get the kids excited about learning.”
Scales and Tales Utah does shows for the public that include either birds or reptiles. The show at the Whitmore Library started with a pigeon. While they aren’t exceedingly rare, Richins told a story to the young audience about a homing pigeon that saved the lives of over 100 U.S. soldiers during World War I. Richins told this story while holding a white pigeon, who is new to Scales and Tails Utah and does not have a name yet.
Richins then brought out a black European starling named Mozart. Richins said the European starling can be found all over Utah, usually in giant flocks. Starlings can also learn how to talk and mimic sound. Mozart was named after the famous composer because Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a starling and taught it to sing his compositions. Richins brought out a small bowl of water where Mozart then took a bath.
The next bird was an Austrailian laughing kookaburra named Zorro. These birds are known for their distinctive call. Richins trilled his voice, causing Zorro to “laugh.” The laugh of the kookaburra is often used as sound effects in movies with jungle scenes, though the noise is often misidentified as a monkey.
The next three birds were rainbow lorikeets named Blue, Charlie and Simone. Brightly colored and very friendly, lorikeets love to drink nectar, Richins said. Their beaks are specially designed to reach into flowers to drink the nectar.
The last bird was a green-winged macaw named Chicken. Richins said Chicken used to be a pet bird but the living situation of his owner changed, resulting in him being rescued by Scales and Tails Utah. Macaws have the reasoning intelligence of a 4-year-old. Chicken demonstrated his reasoning by solving different puzzles in order to gain access to food. However, Richins said macaws have the emotional intelligence of a 2-year-old, meaning Chicken can be very sensitive to the emotional state of his owner.
Scales and Tails Utah does public and private reptile and bird shows all over the state.
“We do anything that is safe and ethical for both the public and the animals,” Richins said.
The winter months are the slow season for Scales and Tails Utah, usually only doing 60 shows a month. During the summer months, they can do between 80 to 100 shows a month.
Richins explained the process for selecting the animals capable of doing shows. The first thing they look for is a species of bird or reptile that can psychologically handle doing a show. Being presented in front of all ages of people can be stressful for animals.
“A chameleon would do great in a show,” Richins said. “But they can’t handle the stress.”
The next trait they look for is stage presence. The animal needs to provide both entertainment and be educational.
“That’s why we have starlings. There’s so much to talk about with starlings,” Richins said.
After a species is selected, they look at rescue organizations to see if they can adopt an animal. The next option is breeders.
For more information about Scales and Tails Utah, visit