A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Winged Encounters
By Dave Shute
By Jim Korkis
The show Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight” debuted in the Discovery Island area near the Tree of Life at DAK during the summer of 2014.
The show features all six shades of macaws: hyacinth, green-winged, blue and gold, scarlet, blue-throated and military. Each macaw features a wingspan of up to sixty inches as it soars over the area in a kaleidoscope of color as avian experts talk about conservation.
The show is handled by the same team that does “Flights of Wonder” (which also features macaws) in association with Disney Creative Entertainment. The macaws fly together from backstage past the Tree of Life and land on the bridge at DinoLand U.S.A. In addition to the impressive flying, there are also up-close encounters for the guests in four ten-minute shows each day.
Since the park opened in 1998, the Oasis has been the home for macaws and cockatoos. The purpose of the Oasis and its winding paths with different animal exhibits on the left and right side is to establish that DAK is a park that is to be explored.
Due to their intelligence and curious nature, the birds looked for ways to jump from their tree perches to explore their surroundings. Unfortunately, some of the trees were close to where the guests would walk so there was always the possibility that a bird might end up on an unsuspecting guest’s shoulder.
Macaws are just the largest type of parrot and come from the tropical rainforests of Brazil as well as Central America. Both the military and hyacinth macaws are on the endangered species list. Since the military macaw has an olive green body that resembles a sergeant’s uniform, it got its interesting nickname.
While the feathers on the Hyacinth Macaw can appear to be blue, there is no blue pigment in the feathers. It is just the structure of the feather that makes it appear blue.
The challenge faced by the Imagineers was to re-design the area so that the birds would have shelter during inclement weather and still provide interactive components to keep the inquistive nature of the birds satisfied. So the Imagineers came up with a faux tree with those specific elements but still made it look naturalistic to the guests.
The birds dine on seeds, palm fruits, berries and nuts. However, when the park first opened, Imagineer Joe Rohde on a walk-through discovered a guest trying to feed the birds French fries. Rohde tried to explain that all the animals at DAK, including the birds have specific diets and feeding them fries might negatively impact their health. He also pointed out that the bird’s beak was designed for cracking nuts with two hundred pounds of pressure per square inch and that the bird would see no difference between some fingers and some fries.
As an accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, DAK is responsible for providing the best care for the animals and that includes what they eat.
With all the animal habitat designs at DAK, Imagineers had to take into account two important factors. The first was to design a habitat that has interesting elements to encourage natural behavior while also providing appropriate shelter. Second, the habitat needed to give the guests an experience to see easily and clearly animals responding in their environment and demonstrating those natural behaviors.
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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!
In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.