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Parrot presentation wows crowd at Tualatin Public Library

'Oregon Birdman' shows off flock of cockatoos, macaws and more.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Zeus, a green-winged macaw, perches on Karl Anderson's hand and displays his wingspan in what Anderson called his 'impression of an eagle.'The community room at the Tualatin Public Library was packed full Monday afternoon for a bright, noisy display.

Karl Anderson, a zoologist and educator who does shows and presentations as The Oregon Birdman, brought 15 of his exotic birds to the library for an informative lesson about members of the parrot family.

Each bird has its own personality, Anderson told his audience — mostly children, who had the day off from school in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, with some parents, seniors and other adults present as well — and some of them are calm and gentle around people, while others may bite or scratch if they are stressed or provoked.

“Every kind of bird, there's good ones, there's ones not so good,” Anderson said.

Anderson is passionate about his “flock,” as he calls them, but he also warned patrons about the complexities and drawbacks of owning and caring for exotic birds.

Larger parrots can live for about as long as the average human. That can mean a lifelong responsibility that may be passed down to children or other heirs if the bird outlives its owner. But for their whole lives, Anderson said, parrots tend to act like small children, with all the curiosity, rambunctiousness and mercurial mood shifts that go along with it.

According to Anderson, while some species have a reputation for being more aggressive or more affectionate than others, individual parrots have their own unique dispositions and quirks. While most of Anderson's birds are content to stay on a perch for the duration of each bird show, his bright orange sun conure, whom he calls Nacho, prefers to ride around on his hat. Another bird, an umbrella cockatoo, is gentle and likes to “snuggle” up to him, but a fierce-looking hawk-headed parrot he billed as a “Jurassic Park” kind of bird has a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality and will sometimes bite him without warning, he said.

Of course, parrots are also renowned for their mimicry. Parrots can learn an extensive vocabulary, and some have even been documented using words and phrases they have memorized correctly, such as by counting or identifying objects. With a little prompting, a few members of Anderson's flock repeated words they have learned, like “please” and “bye-bye.”

Many species of parrots are listed as threatened or endangered species.

“As long as man has been on Earth, it ends up being … the needs of people, of all the people together, against the needs of all the other animals. We know who usually wins that,” Anderson said. “The problem that parrots are facing today is the areas they need to live in the rainforest are disappearing. Trees are being cut down because people need wood. Cities and towns are going up where there used to be rainforest.”

It's a lot of work, Anderson said, but he takes care of the flock of more than 30 parrots that live in his home. While all parrots' beaks are adapted to crack the tough outer shells of nuts and seeds, he said, he will also reward his birds with one of their favorite treats: cheese.

Anderson travels throughout Oregon and parts of Washington to put on bird shows at libraries, schools, nursing homes and other settings. He can also be booked for birthday parties, he said.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Nacho, Karl Anderson's sun conure, returns to perch on his hand after taking a brief flight around the community room at the Tualatin Public Library.