A male macaw at Auckland Zoo escaped zoo grounds for about an hour during a free-fly session with his keepers late this morning.

The 15-year-old parrot, named Chico, spent time up two nearby trees, said Auckland Zoo birdkeeper Suzie Keith.

Ms Keith said the free-flying session was Chico's first in several weeks because construction at the zoo had put the activity on hold.

She said Chico was out of the cage for about a minute when he made off .


"It's certainly not the first time he's done it so it's not unexpected, especially after a long period of time not being out.

"He flew across the road to Western Springs College and he was there for a wee while sitting up a tree. He was fairly relaxed, we were relaxed."

Ms Keith said Chico spent about 20 minutes up one tree, then about half an hour up another, trying to figure out how best to fly through the leafy branches.

"It was just a matter of him working out a good flight path to get back to us.

"For a macaw to fly off a tall tree, he needs to have a clear flight path and there were lots of leaves and things, so he's gotten himself in an area he couldn't just fly out of."

Ms Keith said, in theory, Chico could fly away and never return, as macaws can fly for kilometres at a time, but said that was unlikely as he would want to stay in a familiar area.

Chico had flown off during free-flying a couple of times before, it was normal for this to happen from time to time and no cause for panic, Ms Keith said.

"It's a normal part of training.

"If he never leaves the cage, he will never learn how to navigate his way back to a familiar environment, so in all free-flying you expect it."

On the very last leg of his journey home, Chico was spooked by bullying gulls and waited another five minutes up a tree on zoo grounds before returning to his keeper's arm and being returned safely to his cage.