By Jacqueline Monahan
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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Feathers flew at the June 16 preview of precocious parrot pranks that is Squawk!  The sometimes noisy show featured several different types of the talking birds, each with a unique personality and varied talents.

Hosts Mark and Debbie Obarka are mom and dad to Roxie, Joey, Jimmy, Poof, Sunshine, Rusty and Danny, each with his own perch and shtick.  The Buffalo-based couple’s birds have been either donated to them or raised by them, and they’ve had a few for decades.  Since parrots have a lifespan of roughly 80 years, they literally require a lifetime commitment from their owners.

Debbie Obarka is the first to take the stage, always with one of the birds on her arm or shoulder.  Treats are either walnuts or pine nuts, and Debbie artfully fills a hooked beak while she fills the audience in on the history of her performing birds.  She also answers questions about living with such boisterous animals.  

The couple has a birdie car seat for seven, used for road travel.  A single bird can fit under an airline seat like a carry-on piece of luggage.  Yes, they must pay airfare for the birds.  No, they do not perform flying tricks; audience members have been known to pull a bird out of mid-flight in the past.

Debbie Obarka and her Fine Feathered Friends

With over 20 years of performing experience, the Obarkas have entertained in a wide variety of venues such as state fairs, theme parks, corporate events, zoos/animal parks, Las Vegas theaters, Branson shows and private functions.  They’ve been seen by over 2 million people in almost 10,000 performances across the country.

Star performer Roxanne, 27, a blue and gold Macaw, can paint pictures, read minds, play ring toss, raise a flag and complete a puzzle in the shape of her native country, South America.  She can also work a slot machine and do addition and subtraction, impressing Piers Morgan when she was on America’s Got Talent.
Roxanne (left) and Rusty Rock Ring Toss

Jimmy, a green Military Macaw, shoots a canon, plays parrot poker and basketball and knows how to feed a piggy bank (and Debbie’s pocket)

Sunshine is a Catalina Parrot that can raise both of his wings in victory salute.  He balances on a rolling barrel while he walks across a tabletop.
Sunshine Deserves His Name

Mitred Conure Danny is Mark and Debbie’s smallest bird, but he possesses a large skill – that of impersonation.  Danny can imitate a pigeon’s coo, a dog’s bark, a cat’s meow and a duck’s quack.  The little green dynamo received a standing ovation Piers Morgan and the entire audience of America’s Got Talent.

Rusty, a large, red-headed Macaw appeared on The David Letterman Show.  He can pretend to sleep, dances to Have You Heard About the Bird, can roll his neck like a player, roller skate, and successfully find a tiny toy alligator in a swift-moving shell game.

Mark and Rusty - He Sleeps AND Skates

16-year-old Joey, an Amazon Parrot, politely asks the audience, “How do you do?” for his walnut treat.  Poof, a white Cockatoo can fetch an audience member’s exact playing card (one he hasn’t seen) from inside a large chest.  It comes out tied to the rope he’s climbing.  He can also load up a mini shopping cart and push it across a tabletop.

Debbie and Joey

Poof Has Something to Say

Whether by word or maneuver, this set of seven birds is a splendid, vivid rainbow of feathery talent and skill.  

And they have the ability to tell you so themselves.

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