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Whilst song birds – particularly the Red-whiskered Bulbul, commonly seen around the island in ornate wooden cages – are popular pets in Southern Thailand, there are also several bird-fancier groups that love parrots of every species. Phuket’s central Bang Wad Dam is a favourite location for a group of local bird-lovers who enjoy letting their parrots out to stretch their wings, so to speak. What makes these groups a bit different to people who keep birds for their melodious song, is that instead of keeping their pets cooped up, they allow them at times to fly freely. They trust that their doted-on pets will return to the hand that feeds them and not make a dash for freedom. I recently visited one of these groups at Bang Wad Dam, where more than 30 birds and their owners gathered for a day of fun in the sun. This group is called Free Flying Phuket and it aims to unite parrot lovers from all around the island to share their fascination for these majestic birds and swap tips and techniques for their health, care and training. Teerawat “Man” Leenoot, the founder of Free Flying Phuket, says, “With Free Flying Phuket, our purpose is to bring parrot people together for education, fun, networking and friendship. “Every Wednesday and Saturday, everyone will come to the viewpoint of the dam at 5:30pm.” Man says Bang Wad Dam is the best location for bird flying on the island, because there is wide open spaces and it is surrounded by nature and verdant vegetation. As I watched the group, about seven or eight birds were set on perches outside of their cages and able to fly around together until the setting sun made it too dark to see. Man says there are a few crucial things to understand before attempting to allow a pet bird to free-fly, “Birds must understand basic command words such as a ‘call back’ to command it to come back to its perch. “Birds have to be trained from a very early age to be able to do free-flying,” he adds.Anusorn Sarima, the leader of Free Flying Phuket describes some of the species of parrot they have in the group.“In our group there are several types of birds, including Sun Conure Parakeets, majestic South-American Macaws, the highly intelligent African Grey Parrot, as well as several Cockatoo and the smaller Cockatiels. “We are happy to help bird beginners learn about bird behaviour, health and breeding and also just talk about the pleasures of owning a parrot. Many of us also breed birds, some of our members breed lovebirds, someone breeds cockatiels and someone breeds Sun Conures too. “A parrot’s price depends on how rare that particular species is. For example, a Blue and Gold Macaw could cost between B46,000 to B50,000 on the open market. “If these birds are well taken care of from when they are babies, they will be tame and love their owner, much like a cat.” Teerawat went on to say, “The Sun Conure is the most popular pet for bird-lovers because their feathers are as colourful as a rainbow. Sun Conures are also a very smart and can be very well-trained. They are not too big, but they are very loud... really loud! "So they are not able to be kept in a condominium or rental rooms. Your neighbours could get quite annoyed with a Conure’s talking. “Taking care of a bird is not hard, they just need a clean place, good food and love,” he adds.
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