When the Parrot Lady comes to town, it’s for the birds. In a good way.
Debbie Goodrich brought her feathered friends to the Southwest Washington Fair this week for interactive shows as part of the Children’s Corner on the fairgrounds. It marked the first time Parrot Ambassadors Educational Entertainment, the company Goodrich founded in 2001 as The Parrot Lady of Washington, participated in the Southwest Washington Fair.
Goodrich used a trio of birds, including two full-sized parrots, to demonstrate a number of tricks while working in material about their anatomy and habitat. Audience members quickly realized they were liable to have a bird placed on their heads, arms and laps as Goodrich walked and talked for about 25 minutes. Even Little Miss Friendly Haiden Bartel found herself with a yellow and blue bird flapping its wings while perched on her forearm.
“(Saturday) has been the busiest day for us so far,” Goodrich said in between photo ops with wide-eyed children following the show. “I think that being able to interact with the birds is what really draws people in.”
Besides having the birds fly around a bit and say hello to the crowd, Goodrich also demonstrated the tensile strength of a parrot beak by walking around with a red and white bird latched onto her thumb with only his beak. A couple of audience members gasped as she mentioned that parrot beaks are strong enough to break human bones.
Goodrich also highlighted the unique respiratory system used by birds — they use posterior and anterior air sacs that are located from their throats down into their leg bones — and noted how rapid loss of habitable land is leading to parrot species going extinct more frequently.
“I noticed a need to do more than shows about seven or eight years ago,” Goodrich said. “That’s why we added in the aspects of nature and philanthropy to the displays.”
Audience members are encouraged to donate what they can to the Flight Club Foundation, a nonprofit started by Goodrich, Kathy Morrison and Jackie Cottrell in 2012, at the end of each show. The birds are trained to pick up dollar bills in their beaks and, when prompted, drop them into a donation jar.
Flight Club is a network of parrot owners and supporters who work to educate the public on the environmental needs of their chosen birds. The organization began as a social club of sorts for parrot owners, but has grown to give out grants that support humane breeding and educational programs.
Flight Club also hosts the annual Seattle Parrot Expo, which is set for Sept. 28-29 this year in Auburn. It serves as the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser as well as the largest parrot-centered event in the Pacific Northwest.
“People don’t really think of parrots in the Pacific Northwest, which is why we’re here,” Goodrich said. “We want to make sure people know that you aren’t alone if you have a parrot as a pet, and there’s a community of people to help with those issues.”
Once the birds had been safely placed back in their cages, the tent under which the show took place quickly became home to more a traditional fair activity — a watermelon eating contest.
Charles Miles, age 12, defended his title as the champion in the children’s division. The birds looked on and squawked their approval as about a dozen kids chowed down.