A white headed buffalo weaver.

The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha has a new program designed to give visitors a more interactive, up-close experience with flocks of rare birds.

Mandy Krebs, the interactive animals program manager at the zoo, is overseeing the Birds of Flight Program. Krebs says the hope is to entertain and educate, but also to inspire conservation.

“We really want to engage our guests about the little things they can do to help wildlife,” Krebs says. “Having free-flighted birds near you really makes you feel connected to those animals and it gives us an opportunity to open the door to talk about conservation that the zoo does but also what you can do at home to help wildlife.” The program is now being offered in the zoo’s 400-seat Meadowlark Theater. Krebs says guests see the birds fly overhead while others interact with them on the ground.

“One of our goals for this program was to really eliminate that fourth wall, get rid of that barrier between animals and our guests so people can feel a closer connection,” Krebs says. “We can create a bit of a stronger bond and a sense of caring that we do want to help those animals because we do feel more connected with them.” She says the program features a wide variety of feathered creatures.

“Owls and hawks, a turkey vulture. We have a variety of macaws and small parrots called quaker parrots,” Krebs says. “We also have some guinea fowl which are pretty familiar to a lot of people but the interaction we’re able to have with them is a bit different from what you might have on the farm.”

There are also larger birds like the southern ground hornbill, cranes and sacred ibis. During the program, the birds will fly from a host of perches around the theater and the audience can learn about their behaviors without barriers.