That Guy with the Birds Provides Avian Education, Entertainment
Sep 24, 2019 10:58PM
By Hilary Daninhirsch
A. Certain species of parrots can live to be close to 100 years old.
B. Parrots have zygodactyl feet, which means that they have four toes on each foot.
C. Parrots are low maintenance birds.
If your answers were true, true, and false, perhaps you learned about parrots at a demonstration by Kenny Sprouse, also known as That Guy with the Birds.
Sprouse, a Tarentum resident, has had a lifelong fascination with aviation and flight, with a particular interest in birds. As a kid he owned a cockatiel, and about 15 years ago, he decided to buy a parrot.
“I purchased an umbrella cockatoo named Captain Morgan. I had done some research, but didn’t do enough,” said Sprouse, meaning that he was a bit taken aback by the work involved in owning a bird.
As luck would have it, he met John Lege at C & B Birds, a bird supply store in Verona. Lege was a bird expert, having rescued more than 100 birds in his lifetime. Lege decided to take his love and knowledge of birds out on the road, and created a traveling show called That Guy with the Birds, designed to be both educational and entertaining.
Sprouse, who was working as an EMT, would occasionally join Lege on the road for shows, both in Pittsburgh and at pet expos in places like Michigan and Chicago, taking along 20 or so birds with them.
Unfortunately, Lege lost a battle with cancer in March of 2016, but before he passed away, he and Sprouse discussed the fate of the birds. Lege’s initial plan was to donate the animals to a bird sanctuary, but they were filled to capacity and did not have available spots for the birds still in his care. As a paramedic, Sprouse had always loved to interact with and educate students, and he enjoyed his time helping Lege with the shows, so he agreed to take the birds into his home…all 100 of them.
Fortunately, Sprouse had the space in his home to accommodate the new flock. He essentially turned several rooms into an aviary, though, he joked, “We have birds in every room of the house except the bathroom.”
If living with one bird is challenging—imagine living with more than 100 parrots. They’re messy. They’re destructive. They’re needy. Some of them scream and squawk so loudly that you might think it’s a car alarm. But Sprouse wouldn’t have it any other way.
He talks affectionately about his flock, including the oldest of the group, Anna, a 76-year-old Goffins cockatoo. “She looks it; her feathers are ruffled and she has cataracts. She’s an old bird but is still healthy and happy,” he said.
He even recognizes each of the birds’ call noises. “I can be in another room, hear a bird, and know which one it is,” Sprouse said, adding that fortunately, as flock animals, they sleep when the sun goes down and the lights go out.
After inheriting the birds from Lege, Sprouse quit his job and now devotes his time to caring for the flock as well as carrying out Lege’s original vision for That Guy with the Birds.
He maintains his friend and mentor’s original concept of the show: to both entertain and inform. “That is my goal, to teach about birds in a fun and entertaining way, not just about parrots but about birds from all over the world,” explained Sprouse. “I talk about eagles and ostriches being the largest bird in the world. I have feathers from an Andean condor that were donated from The National Aviary.”
Sprouse brings a core group of about 20 to 25 parrots to each show.
The format of the program will vary with the audience—which could be a day care, an elementary school, a nursing home, a private birthday party, or even a bar mitzvah—but generally, he gives the attendees an opportunity to hold some of the birds and demonstrates some bird behaviors. This could include D’jango, an umbrella cockatoo, rocking out to the Chicken Dance; Louie, a green-winged macaw, demonstrating his ability to play basketball or to put coins into a piggy bank; or Buttercup, a peach-faced lovebird, alighting on someone’s shoulder.
“Sometimes that is all people want to see, but I am more about the educational aspect of it, trying to get people to understand where these birds come from; sharing the foot pattern of a parrot, coloring, shape of their beaks, and other things that make a parrot unique,” Sprouse said.
He added that while Lege’s intent was not necessarily to discourage people from getting a bird, he did want people to understand how much work is involved and how much time is invested in their care.
“People buy a bird and have no idea how long they live,” he said. “They can be sort of a novelty item sometimes, unfortunately. The goal is to get people to understand that it’s a lifelong commitment.”
For more information or to book a show, visit www.thatguywiththebirds.com or call 412-759-5075.