HomeWelcome Back and Parrot Updates – A Message from the Director
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Welcome Back and Parrot Updates – A Message from the Director

Categories: Animals, Visitor Services

Dear Zoo Friends,

First of all, we are thrilled to be able to welcome our community back to the Sacramento Zoo beginning Monday, June 15! Please remember that all tickets (even for members) must be reserved in advance for a specific day and time through the Plan Your Visit page on our website. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Thank you for your patience and support! We look forward to seeing you at the zoo beginning next Monday.

Heinie the plain-colored Amazon parrotThe Sacramento Zoo houses nearly 500 animals, each with its own individual story and specific husbandry needs. Caring for such a variety of species comes with a flow of births, transfers and sometimes, death. In late April, a longtime zoo resident, Heinie, an Amazon parrot passed away.

Heinie was hatched nearly 35 years ago and arrived at the Sac Zoo in 1991. Despite several attempts over the years to introduce her to other parrots, Heinie preferred the company of humans. She was a favorite of zoo staff, docents and our guests. While playing music from a phone, her keeper, Kristene, noticed Heinie showed greater interaction and moved up and down her perch, moving with the beat. Amazon parrots are social birds, so with the approval of the zoo’s veterinary team, a playlist was tailored to Heinie’s specific musical tastes. She enjoyed songs by the Beatles and Beach Boys, as well as upbeat holiday music. Staff posted a sign adjacent to Heinie’s aviary encouraging our guests to dance and sing along with her. She would often welcome visitors to her corner of the zoo with whistles and other vocalizations. For the last several years, Heinie had been receiving treatment for several long-term chronic health issues including heart disease and degenerative joint problems which were carefully monitored by zoo keepers and veterinary staff. Heinie’s long life at the zoo represents the best of what we can provide to our animals, a forever home with daily care and incredible veterinary science for aged and geriatric animals.

Over the past several weeks Heinie’s former aviary was refreshed with new perching to house a pair of hawk-headed parrots. These beautifully-colored birds are native to South America. The Sacramento Zoo’s pair were hatched at separate AZA-accredited zoos in 1998 and brought to our zoo within the past year and a half for introductions to each other. The species receives its name from the elongated red feathers, edged in blue that rest on its head. When alarmed or playfully excited, the parrot can raise the feathers on the nape of its neck to form a fan to make it appear like a larger bird. Hawk-headed parrots nest inside hollowed holes within trees; these holes are usually formed by other birds such as woodpeckers.

Bert the hawk-headed parrot

All parrots are classified as Psittacines. This group of birds includes species such as cockatoo, macaw, parakeet, lorikeet and cockatiels. Psittacines are known for their hooked bills, colorful plumage and feathers as well as their vocalizations. Many species are popular in zoological parks due to their ability to mimic other sounds, including the voices of humans. Despite their popularity, nearly a quarter of the 400 species of Psittacines are threatened with habitat destruction or other challenges such as capture for the pet trade.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the hawk-headed parrots as a species of least concern, which means that for now the wild population of these parrots is stable. In the tradition of Heinie the Amazon parrot, the zoo’s pair of hawk-headed parrots are extremely gregarious and enjoy interacting with our guests and staff. On your next visit to the zoo, make sure to pay them a visit in their aviary near the jaguar habitat. If you say a few kind words to them you might receive a chirp, whistle or several other fun assorted sounds.

We look forward to seeing you at the zoo soon!


Jason Jacobs

Executive Director