The Buffalo Zoo's new aviary attraction for the summer takes flight Saturday.
"Boomerang Island: Birds From Down Under" features more than 300 colorful and free-flying birds native to the Australian Outback, with cockatiels, budgies, Princess of Wales parrots, superb parrots and kookaburras.
Visitors entering the 1,200-foot domed structure, located near the Arctic Edge and behind Rainforest Falls, can get a feed stick, for $2, with a bird-friendly sticky substance and seeds. With a little luck, one of the birds will land on it and use its short, curved beak to crush the seeds in its mouth.
"It's great to have something where guests can come in and interact with the animals," zoo spokesman Christian Dobosiewicz said. "It's also a way to teach them about conservation messages about birds and parrots across the world."
At a preview for zoo employees and friends, three birds came to Sabrina Furmanek, 6, who had a preference for the light-blue budgies.
Krista Strovers and her two sons, dressed in bird shirts, were also enjoying the birds as they flew around or perched themselves on branches or near the dome's canopy.
"It's awesome," Strovers said. "The smaller birds are coming up to us more, but they like the parrots."
The kookaburras, a member of the kingfisher family, make loud, laughing-like sounds at dusk and dawn, when they're most active. They like to eat snakes, and one had a toy novelty sticking from its mouth as it was held by a zoo employee on Thursday.
Because of their large population and large range, the species in the zoo exhibit aren't considered threatened or endangered. But about one-third of the 350 recognized parrot species are considered "near threatened" or worse by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their decline is due to habitat loss from development and being hunted for food and feathers.
The birds at the zoo were all hatched in captivity, and the exhibit includes signage that explains the conservation status of each type of bird.