Connecting our Zoo visitors with wildlife is one of the key roles of our animal experience team – as once you care for a species, you’re more likely to want to take positive actions to conserve it. Our Flight School inspires awe and delight as tamariki and adults alike connect with a variety of fascinating birds like galah, sun conures, African grey parakeets and macaws, and learn about their special adaptations.

You might learn how a galah lines its nest with leaves or how and why a macaw would collect clay in the wild. Encouraging these birds to display their natural behaviours teaches our visitors about these parrots and the important roles they play in their wild environments. Our animal experiences team use positive reinforcement training to build up these intelligent birds’ skills and confidence and they can choose whether they want to participate on the day.


Flight school - connecting people with wildlife

Have you experienced the wonder of Flight School? Today we follow our passionate animal experiences team as they introduce us to some of the charismatic and clever stars of our free flight displays.

In our video above, you’ll see some of the charismatic stars of Flight School which includes Australian galah.

It’s important that our communities are aware of the impacts of invasive pest bird species on the native manu in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. These impacts can include competing with native birds for kai, taking valuable nesting places and being vectors for wildlife diseases and human pathogens.  

Galah and rainbow lorikeets are both amazing species and perform important roles in their native habitats, yet they don’t belong in the wild spaces of New Zealand.

Our Zoo team are experienced in bird training and animal husbandry techniques which enables them to give the very best care to birds like galah. These charming birds can appear to make a great family pets, but prove challenging to provide the right care for. This is why advocating for responsible pet ownership is so important and is one of the key messages in our Flight School experience.

Some of the beautiful birds you might see at Flight School


One of the world’s largest parrots, macaws are native to South and Central America and are known for their intelligence. Many parrots are long-lived and, coupled with their clever and inquisitive nature, this often means they’re not very suitable as pets. Macaws can live up to 70 years old and their intelligence can be compared to a 3-year-old toddler! They can problem-solve, display creative and logical thinking skills, and need constant mental stimulation.

Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus)

Galah are colourful Australian parrots with white crowns, grey wings and pink chests. Galah are grass, seed and flower-eaters so spend some of their time on the forest floor foraging for food, but will also eat buds, flowers, berries and insect larvae. In New Zealand they compete for kai with our native birds, as well as for nesting cavities. Unfortunately, they can also be vectors of wildlife diseases and human pathogens which makes them a threat to Auckland’s offshore islands.

Sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis)

Sun conure also known as the sun parakeet, is a medium-sized, vibrantly colored parrot native to northeastern South America. Sun conures are very social birds, typically living in flocks. They form monogamous pairs for reproduction, and nest in palm cavities in the tropics and may live up to 30 years. Sun conures mainly feed on fruits, flowers, berries, blossoms, seeds, nuts, and insects. Sun conures are currently threatened by loss of habitat and trapping for plumage or the pet trade.

In addition to Flight School our animal experiences team host the Hidden New Zealand experience at our Wild Work centre in Te Wao Nui. Here, Zoo visitors can connect with endemic birds such as ruru and insects like wētāpunga. We know that building these connections are powerful and could inspire the next generation of conservationists to care for wildlife and wild places. 

Visit our free Flight School experience today! You can find our full keeper talk schedule here.