Birdman of Las Vegas

This is an old blog from 2011 you might not have seen but I think it’s one of the funniest, so here it is.

The real Birdman of Las Vegas

A while back, I listened to a radio show (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me) and heard Wayne Newton being interviewed about his “Casa de Shenadoah”, a 42 acre ranch on which he maintains hundreds of animals, especially birds. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he has 100 peacocks, five penguins and at least 75 other species of birds. He also just adopted 200 lovebirds from some animal hoarders who voluntarily turned them over. Newton also has four wallabies, a pair of sloths, and 54 horses on the property. Locals also throw Easter rabbits and chickens over the fence for him to care for. Staff caretakers and veterinarians care for the animals on the estate which is apparently now open to the public.

Now, it’s hard to tell whether this is a refuge, a zoo, or whether Newton himself is an animal hoarder. I appreciate the fact that he has professional caretakers overseeing the care of these animals, but it seems to me that 42 acres is far too small to hold this entire collection of animals in any way other than being confined to cages and stalls.

What really got me interested in this is some comments he made during the radio interview. Here is an excerpt with Peter Sagal interviewing Wayne Newton about his property.

“ Mr. NEWTON: It’s about 50 acres. We have Arabian horses. We have penguins. We have wallabies. We have all kinds of birds, swans…
SAGAL: I’m sorry, I stopped listening when you said penguins. You have penguins?
Mr. NEWTON: Oh, yes.
SAGAL: How do they like the climate?
Mr. NEWTON: They love it.
SAGAL: They do. Really?
Mr. NEWTON: Yeah, they’re from South Africa. And most people don’t realize – and I know this is probably not the forum – but of the 52 species of penguins in the world, there are only three species that are Arctic penguins.
Mr. NEWTON: All the others come from South America. They come from the Galapagos Islands. They come from Chile. They cannot take cold weather.”

Three things struck me here. First, there are 17 species of penguins, not 52. Penguins are distributed along the Antarctic, the southern coasts of Africa and Australia, and the southern and western coasts of South America; the Galapagos Penguin is the farthest north at the equator. Second, they all inhabit cold waters- the Humboldt Current that flows along the western coast of South America out to the Galapagos allows penguins to inhabit these waters. Third, there are no Arctic penguins. The Arctic begins about 66 degrees latitude above the equator – way far north. Newton apparently thinks that anything not in the Antarctic is in the Arctic.

Well, I certainly can’t fault Wayne Newton for not knowing much about penguins. He certainly has top-notch showman skills. And I give him credit for taking care of all these animals. I would like to see Casa de Shenadoah someday, and maybe meet the owner. I can tell him about penguins and he can teach me to sing. Fat chance on the latter.

P.S. When I originally wrote this story I got an email from an entertainer who calls himself the Birdman of Las Vegas. He didn’t like me using his moniker. Sorry. No disrespect intended.

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