Birds of a feather flock at Shirkey

A beautiful assortment of birds, in different colors, sizes and abilities, visited Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday afternoon, May 13.
The ‘Wings of Love’ van pulled into the parking lot and two young orderlies from Shirkey helped rainforest photojournalist and trainer Yvonne Patterson unload approximately a dozen birds, bird stands, toys, and other items needed for the show.
It took a good deal of time just to get all of the residents that wanted to attend the show into the main dining room at Shirkey. There wasn’t much space left to move. Residents, visitors and employees were even lining the walls and hallway in order to see the birds.
Patterson kicked the show off with the help of a young visitor. Together, they performed a ‘magic trick’ that made a miniature toucan seem to appear in a box. Pinocchio emerged. Aracari toucans are the smallest of 80 species of toucans.
Living and working with birds is never boring. An eternal personality, disposition and emotions of a two-year old child makes for interesting experiences, lots of laughter and requires always knowing where these child-like creatures are. They just seem to have a knack for finding things they shouldn’t, not staying where you want them to, and not doing what they’re told when they’re told to do it.
Yvonne found herself in all of these positions, and several others. Tiki Toco Toucan, a toco toucan and the largest member of the toucan family, just loved being mischievous. He didn’t want to catch items he was supposed to as his part of the show, and then would gently grab Yvonne’s shirt whenever she went among the birds on their stands to get the next performer. He was very persistent about wanting to walk on some straw set up as part of the luau decorations rather than stay on his stand.
Uala the Salmon-crested Cockatoo, also known as a ‘Moloccan,’ took a long time making up his mind whether he even wanted to come out and play. The Salmon-crested cockatoo is one of the top 50 most endangered birds in the world due to logging.
Once Uala was on his stand, he enjoyed climbing off of it and walking around the floor looking for someone to play with. He performed many tricks, from roller skating, bowling, and playing basketball to raising the American flag on the flagpole. He also knew how to ‘prime’ a water pump so he could use the handle to water a vase of flowers, and then gave the bucket to Yvonne. As if that wasn’t enough, Uala also knew how to spell words.
Mr. Bo Jangles, a Blue and Gold Macaw, danced to the residents’ singing alongside Uala. An educated bird himself, Mr. Bo Jangles spelled several words for the audience. He and Uala competed in a hat-taking contest, with two residents ‘volunteering’ to have a hat placed on their heads. Yvonne held the birds and when ‘Go!’ sounded, it was really hard to tell which bird was the quickest as both hats were instantly grabbed and tossed.
Gizmo, the yellow-naped Amazon whistled “Dixie,” and sang “Fa La La,” and then asked, “I can talk. Can you fly?”
A sweet, rose-breasted cockatoo, native to Australia and affectionately called ‘Cockatoo Dundee,’ happily went to several audience members and made ‘kissing’ noises once she stepped onto their arm.
Perhaps the title of ‘scene stealer’ went to the majestic European Eagle Owl named Swoop. The world’s largest owl, Swoop didn’t want to stay on his perch either, so he ‘swooped’ to the other side of the room, still tethered to Yvonne. When she got the big bird to stop and stand on the table, she looked him squarely in his lovely red eyes (Eagle Owls are the only owls with red eyes) and gently scolded him for being naughty. Yvonne has owned Swoop since he was just three weeks old.
The residents were so taken with the antics of the birds and their beauty that Activities Director Pat Clevenger was pleased to say, “It was a good show and I know that because not one resident left early.” The birds held everyone’s attention. People were still lingering to look at and talk to the birds or Yvonne as she was putting things away.
If you would like to see Yvonne Patterson’s birds or other programs she offers, check out her web site at
Wings of Love will be back in our area June 20. Yvonne will present the “Awesome Birds Show” at the Excelsior Springs Mid-Continent Library, 1460 Kearney Road, Excelsior Springs. Show time is 2 p.m. Call 816-630-6721 to register.
Photo: Salmon-crested, or Moloccan, cockatoo Uala was too busy clowning around to cooperate with what Yvonne wanted him to do. As Yvonne kept having Uala stand on her hand, Uala would simply drop to hang upside down. It really seemed that both of them were just having fun, and the residents were tickled with the antics the birds pulled. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)

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