A Cleveleys man who allows his talking parrot to fly freely in the area has urged locals not to panic if the exotic bird lands on them.
Matthew Arnold, 35, and his Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw - named Rio - have become a regular fixture of the Cleveleys landscape, with the bird enthusiast often flying his pet on King George’s Playing Field on Victoria Road East.
Despite the bird’s friendly nature, local celebrity status and ability to say “hello”, Mr Arnold has warned inquisitive locals against petting Rio and to remain calm if they are chosen as the parrot’s perch – or they could risk being on the receiving end of a nasty nip.
“If he lands on you try not to speak too loudly or too aggressively. Definitely don’t pet him because he can be nippy. That’s how Macaw’s communicate. He’s like a puppy, he will nip but his beak can be sharp if people try and touch him or move too much around him,” he explained.
After a ten-month training regimen, Mr Arnold – who works as an IT technician - is confident in Rio’s ability to fly and return safely, and even says the bird can hold his own against up to ten seagulls at a time.
“I’ve had him since around June 2019. I got him from a baby. He was a rescue and I decided I didn’t want him sitting in a cage, so I decided to train him to fly,” he said.
“I used to take him for a walk every day, twice a day, to desensitise him as a baby to get him used to the outside world so he was familiar with it. I used to fly him on Cleveleys beach and people thought I was a bit of a weirdo, or I was trying to do it to satisfy my ego.
“But the training never stops. It’s constant, constant reinforcement. Long distance, short distance recall, agility, flying him in the wind. He’s been chased by flocks of seagulls a few times.”
Increasingly, Mr Arnold is flying Rio away from members of the public as the bird becomes more and more confident.
“I trained him to be social and friendly but it can be intimidating to people if this giant colourful thing is flying towards you. It’s only because he’s social and curious about people.
“I’m having to retrain that out of him so he only goes to people when I reinforce the fact that’s ok.”
One Cleveleys resident has called for a ‘Meet Rio’ event in the future to allay people’s fears about contact with the bird.
In a Facebook post, Joan NeVance wrote: “Rio has landed on the heads of about four of my neighbours now, most of whom haven't been comfortable with the experience.
“After the coronavirus issue, it might be a good idea to organise a 'meet Rio' event where you can introduce him properly to people who use the field and tell them the best way to handle an approach from him.”