We went to the Nevada County Fair yesterday!
The fairgrounds are beautiful here. Unfortunately, this year, like the rest of the West, it is AMANA HOT. I swear, you’d think you were in an oven.
So, the Fair wasn’t that much fun because we were all like panting dogs, dragging ourselves from one shady spot to the next.
In fact, Hubby and I were so miserable, we sent the girls off with ride tickets while we found a beer tent that had shade, tables, huge fans and the Olympics on the TV. Easy decision. Stay in tent.
So, we sat in the beer tent, cooled off, refreshed ourselves and watched Men’s Vollyball.
Anyway, back to the Fair.
Usually, the Fair has lots of equine activity to watch… drill teams, draft horse exhibitions, breed exhibitions, shows… but on this day, the last day, most of the horses (and their owners) had escaped – in the cool of the night – back to the normal weather of wherever they lived.
So, we were left with not much to see; hot horses in stalls with box fans blowing hot air.
My friend, Bonnie, is part of a local drill team. She sent to me a pic of their routine on one of the cooler night. I didn’t actually see it.
We did meet some miniature Sicilian donkeys. Of course, I fell in love but Hubby gave me the NO YOU DON’T look. He even followed it up with the DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT after glance. So, we took photos instead.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE FAIR
For me, other than my new steamer mop…, the highlight for me was the bird show.
I caught the tail end of it TWICE. I never saw the whole show, just the same part, twice.
Anyway, it took my breath away. My photos don’t do it justice.
Here’s how it started… I saw the back of a horse trailer that had been converted. I figured it was the agility dogs so I went over there.
As I rounded the corner, I saw the biggest flight bird I had ever seen.
A condor with her wings fully spread.
I was watching a show called the BIRDSHOW demonstrated by Joe Krathwohl, who is director of the World Center for Exotic Birds in Las Vegas and National Geographic Visitors Center.
I could tell he knew what he was doing… with such ease, he handled the condor and every other avian there.
The Birdman put her (the condor) away and brought out a smaller exotic parrot looking bird.
Her name was Rose and she was going to take donations to help the California Condor. His speech went like this:
“In 1970 our government recognized that California Condors were disappearing so they were the ones that started importing Andean Condors to the United States… in the 1980s there were a couple of really bad winters for the remaining California Condors and their numbers plummeted all the way down into 22 birds,” Krathwhol said. “That is when our government had to act fast and gave the go-ahead to bring in all of the remaining California Condors trapped from the wilderness in for breeding… by 1992 there were enough California Condors to begin releasing them into California but everyone agreed that there should be a second release group. So that’s when the Grand Canyon was chosen for that second group and in 1996 the birds were released.”
He then went into the audience and asked someone to hold out a dollar.
The bird swooped into the audience, sat on her arm, walked over to her hand, plucked the dollar, flew over to the donation box and stuffed the dollar in!
It was awesome!! Everybody wanted the bird to steal a dollar from them! So, we all lined up and she took our bills, one by one. Smart bird.
He said that he raises condors for reintroduction and has released pairs into the Grand Canyon where they thrive. All donations go towards this effort.
(*A side note… that isn’t an amazon jungle behind him, it is the side of his trailer. Isn’t that smart? He knows people take photos of him and this backdrop is perfect! The trailer was tricked out perfectly, too. Big cages with lots of space and then he has an office and living quarters in the front. Very cool.)
THE NEXT TIME
The next time I saw the act, I caught it while he was teaching us how he taught Rose to grab the dollars and put them in the donation box.
Fascinating. First you teach her to push away a ring to get to the treat. Then put the ring in a cup to make a sound and get a treat, then turn the cup into any object that you can put the ring in and then the ring becomes a dollar bill and the cup is the donation box.
He said that birds are highly motivated to get paid… (get treats for work well done).
I know nothing about birds so this was really exciting for me.
I DID A LITTLE RESEARCH…
The Birdman, Joe Krathwohl, grew up in San Francisco (like me!) and got his first bird at age 9. He trained it and eventually took it to school to show his little sister’s class.
The class went wild! And, a career was born.
He doesn’t say any of that in his show, I looked it up afterwards.
Below is my research. I found these clippings in news articles from Las Vegas and Arizona, Deletopedia and various write-ups. Here you go – if you want more information on what he does, check out the below.
My favorite part is that he grow condors in his home!!!! He also loves his birds, clearly.
(I did not write any of the below information – it was all gathered from news articles.)
Joe Krathwohl, more publicly known as The BIRDMAN (R), is one man who has dedicated his life to the care and preservation of birds. Though he is hailed as a top bird trainer, life wasn’t always this “high-flying” for Joe. The Birdman (R) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. When he was 10 years old he bought a small bird and decided to train it to perform the tricks that big birds on television could do. A few years later one of his teachers suggested that he put on a show for his classmates, and voila! He was in the bird show business! Over the next few summers, Krathwohl worked as a bird trainer at a quarantine station and even a car wash. By the time he was 17 he was doing shows at the local Theme Park. Krathwohl saved his money and gradually began buying more birds, especially abandoned birds and some from abused homes. He lived with his grandparents, who encouraged him to create his own business and even helped him care for his birds and build props in the garage. Soon, Joe was presenting bird shows at the famous Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The New Birdman of Alcatraz was appropriately the nickname of his act. Krathwohl then turned his sights on the ancient art of Falconry. He also worked with local wildlife centers to rescue and re-release injured birds. He then completed his formal education in Behavioral Psychology from San Jose State University. From learning and studying the natural instincts of a variety of species, Joe learned how to allow different breeds to live in proximity to one another. The result was a curiously harmonious environment. As Joe performed his shows at Zoos and parks around the country, he continued to learn from every trainer he met, taking in information and experiences with many different species of animals. Today, Joe has his own private Condor Breeding Program, and his Las Vegas home was literally built for all his birds and animals. Everything from Bateleur Eagles to Sarus Cranes find sanctuary there. The estate is also a refuge for abandoned and injured birds, as well as a facility for breeding endangered species. He works closely with entertainers who feature birds in their productions to ensure that their feathered stars are well cared for and happy. Joe also supplies birds and animals for an ongoing list of big time Hollywood feature films and major Las Vegas show productions. The Birdman (R) also makes time to lecture about his training process, and help groups learn more about how to train their animal friends and create better lives for everyone. Krathwohl’s free-flight bird presentations include colorful parrots, noble eagles, musical cockatoos, flying cranes, marvelous macaws, smart Ravens, and of course the huge 10 ft wingspan Condor, all of whom have been patiently trained with positive reinforcement. Joe Krathwohl’s birds demonstrate their intelligence in daily show, including their free-flying ability and their obvious fondness for their trainer and parent.
Joe Krathwohl leads the show. Best known as the “Birdman” of Las Vegas, he has nearly 30 years in training birds that began as a teenager when he bought a small bird at a pet store. About a dozen of his 1,000 birds traveled with him for the show that runs through mid-September.
Krathwohl first heard about the California condors in the early 1990s. A wildlife educator in upstate New York had two Andean condors and offered one to Krathwohl, who eventually bought it and now has a handful of the birds under an endangered species permit.
He explains how to spot birds that fly in the Grand Canyon based on his exotic stunt doubles that include a Barbary falcon, a red-tailed hawk and a steppe eagle.
“Except for the color, they’re seeing the same birds,” Krathwohl said. “What I do is point out characteristics that are family specific.”
Falcons, for example, are best known for their speed — up to 200 mph as they dive toward prey — and have a hint of oil in their tears to keep their eyes moist in high wind. They tend to fly in wide circles, while hawks repeat a pattern of five flaps and then a glide, and eagles flap their wings a few times and immediately soar.
Hawks also have keen eyesight and stay airborne for hours but are the laziest of raptors when it comes to hunting, Krathwohl tells the audience.
Ravens that have called the Grand Canyon home before humans discovered the massive gorge, are smart, he said. And like the other birds in the show, they enjoy showing off.
Joe hails from the San Francisco area and says he got started by buying “a little bird, a parakeet, when I was 9. I started training it to do the things I’d seen birds on TV do. I thought all birds did tricks so it was a few years before I even told anybody that my bird could do any.”
He ended up doing a show, when he was 14, for “my little sister’s elementary school class, and everybody went crazy. I thought, this is pretty good, getting all this attention. After that, when I got into high school, I started looking specifically for jobs working with birds. I worked in a quarantine station, and even worked in a car wash where I had parrots perform for customers while they were waiting for their cars to go through.”
Ever the entrepreneur, Joe formed his own company when he was 16 and started putting together shows for county and state fairs, which brought him to Las Vegas for the fairs’ convention in 1984. He came back each year and it was during one of those visits that he went to the Tropicana to do a show. That was in 1989 and he’s been there ever since.
“What attracts me about birds,” Joe says, “is that they’re so smart and they understand what they need to do in order to do to get what they want. The communication is very pure and they’re easy to work with.” Contrary to what you may think, he doesn’t select certain types of birds, but individual birds. “I use the birds where the relationship between me and the bird really excels. Those are the ones that make the show. I’m always training new birds.”
The bird at our table was a parrot that had been born in February and that Joe says may or may not be in the show. “I start bringing him out in front of people to see how well he handles being carted to the stage, carted back, hanging out with so many people and movement around. If it turns out he’s all right with that environment and he has good concentration in that environment, he’ll probably make a good show bird.”
Unlike people, birds apparently don’t have days when they don’t want to work. They’re always ready “to do their thing,” says Joe. “They’re always interested in getting paid, so they’re always interested in working.” When Joe refers to “getting paid” he means the treats he gives them after each trick they perform.
His specialty is exotic birds of prey. “Andean condors, African eagles and hawks, South American falcons, those kinds of birds. They are my absolute specialty. They come in from all different kinds of sources. Several eagles I got from Siegfried and Roy, another eagle from a parrot importer in Miami. You need a permit to own them, and not many people have permits to own eagles.”
A number of his birds stay at the hotel, but Joe lives just south of town where he keeps a large number of his birds. He says an important part of having birds is the daily cleaning. “When they’re in captivity, they don’t have natural conditions where they stay clean very easily. But as far as training, if the relationship is such that they know all these things are always going to be a part of our relationship, you don’t have to work them every day.”
Did he ever think the show would be as successful as it has been when he first came to the Tropicana in 1989? He doesn’t hesitate. “Yes. I realized when I started working fairs that I had accidentally chosen a very attractive thing to work with. The show has always been popular wherever it goes.
“Also, when I was 16 I became a licensed falconer, so I learned early how to have birds fly long distances, how to have eagles fly right over people’s heads, so my audiences get a chance to see something that they would only get to see on Discovery Channel or something like that. It brings to them an up-close experience, at their convenience, that they can’t get anywhere else and that has always been popular.”
He loves birds so much that he sells self-training tapes, and, in fact, teaches people how to do his whole show. “If you’re going to have a bird, why not train them to do things. It’s great fun for you, and it’s good for the bird.” As usual, I’m not going to tell you about the show except to say, “Go see it.”
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