Thrillusionist®, Parrot Trainer and World Champion Magician By Jillian Chandler David (DaVinci) Womach was born in Spokane in 1983. From the age of 5, he had a fascination—you could say obsession—with magic. By the time he reached fifth grade, he was performing regularly for anyone who would watch. Today, the self-ascribed “husband, father, Thrillusionist®, parrot trainer, world champion magician, 1stPhorm athlete, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver and wingsuit pilot (and soon-to-be fixed-wing pilot) continues to captivate audiences across the globe when not enjoying life right here in Sandpoint. Earlier this year, he successfully skydived (in a wingsuit) with the fastest animal on earth—a falcon!
Q. What inspired you on this journey of illusions and thrilling adventures? And at what age?
A. Our lives are shaped by inspiration derived from the masters that come before us … There was an annual TV Show called “World’s Greatest Magic” that first aired in 1994, which featured a magician named Greg Frewin. He performed a dove act unlike anything the world had ever seen (and was the reigning World Champion in the art of magic). I’d grown up with birds in the house and couldn’t imagine what it would take to train them to do all of those amazing things! I was so intrigued and inspired that I recorded and re-watched that show so many times (I had set a requirement for myself to watch it twice every morning before school). I eventually wore the VHS tape out. That act inspired me to create my own dove act, which I took to LA to compete in 1998 at the age of 15 in the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ world championship. I lost miserably, but I set to work creating a new act based on what I’d learned at the competition. By 17 years old, I was performing 17 shows a week at Silverwood and honed my act so much that I ended up taking home the gold that year, becoming the youngest World Champion, in the Pacific Rim Professional Stage Championship. I was booked the following year to come back as the headliner, so I decided to up my game by adding my parents’ macaw to the end of the act, but just one problem—their parrot was mean as hell, so I set out to train him and found out that with just a little training, parrots can become nice. That was the birth of BirdTricks. We now are the leading company for companion parrot training world-wide. Our YouTube currently is home to 357,000 subscribers. And to top it all off, I regularly fill in for Greg Frewin at his theater in Niagara Falls, Canada, whenever he needs time off. I love how it all went full circle! Q. You call yourself a “Thrillusionist®” How would you describe a Thrillusionist®? And what differentiates you from just an illusionist?
A. Not a magician, not just an illusionist, but a thrill-seeking, mind-bending master of prestidigitation who creates an alternate world of fascination with gravity-defying hair and leather pants (required).
Q. You have performed all over the world. Is there any one place/show that has been a highlight for you? And why?
A. It’s nearly impossible to pick just one favorite place to perform. I’ve been so blessed to get to travel all over the world, just to make some birds appear and disappear (or train them for other people). Sometimes the thrill is in the audience reaction, while other times the thrill comes from the chaos in actually getting to the locations we perform at. One of the most memorable moments was dodging bomb threats while performing in Dhaka Bangladesh or doing two shows (instead of one) in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan because the president came to one, and the first lady came to the second. The threat assessment was so high that they didn’t dare put both in the same room at once. I was just glad that my luggage arrived hours before the show, after being lost for three days. Doing a live televised appearance on OTV in Shanghai when I was 18 was a little crazy too. Live TV is one of the hardest things to do, with the most pressure of any performance in existence for a magician. We get one chance … and the camera guys can actually do some damage by exposing our secrets if we’re not hyper-aware of our angles, how close they’re zoomed in, etc. And to add to the pressure, I was performing to 200 million viewers LIVE! Imagine two-thirds of the US watching you all at once.
Q. Earlier this year, you skydived (in a wingsuit) with the fastest animal on earth—a falcon. Can you share more about this experience and how the idea came to you? A. Well, as I hinted earlier, in addition to being a Thrillusionist, my wife and I are full-time parrot trainers. Parrots are the third most popular pet in the world but the number one most re-homed. Through BirdTricks, we are able to achieve our mission of “Saving Parrots One Person at a Time.” People know I love wingsuiting, and they know about the parrot training side of me, so they often ask if I have flown with my parrots. It’s an honest question, but the reality is that I’ve hit speeds of 192 miles per hour in my wingsuit while doing a demo jump for my neighbors in Sagle; our macaws have hit a max speed of 72 miles per hour—so I needed something faster. A couple years ago, we worked with a falconer named Daryl Peterson and hit it off instantly. So, when the idea came of flying with a falcon, he was a natural fit.
Since this hadn’t ever been done before, I knew we were up for some monumental challenges. I’ve been a sponsored athlete by 1stPhorm for a couple years now, and so I reached out to Andy Frisella (the owner, and also the creator of one of the top business podcasts in the world) to see if he’d share the costs with me. He agreed instantly, and we set to work laying out the plan.
He had just launched his new energy drink and introduced their new company logo, so his only requirement was that he got me a new wingsuit with his updated logo. Since wingsuits are all custom made to fit the individual pilot flying them, there’s quite a lead time to make them. It took a few months to show up. I opened the box to try it on and immediately shipped it back out the same day to Daryl, so he could train his falcon to associate flying to the wingsuit, with a high value reward.
I knew that I’d need a camera guy to fly a wingsuit next to me and hopefully catch the whole thing on video. I lined up a trusted friend, who unfortunately had to cancel three days before we were set to film. Fortunately, I was able to line up another friend, Braden Roseborough, who came down just in time. The balloon pilot is a whole different story. Can you believe I actually convinced someone to let me do this!? Haha! And not just once … we did nine jumps in nine days! Balloons are the most magical and terrifying aircraft to jump from. It’s silent, calm, serene … and then you just climb up to the edge and jump. To add to the difficulty, the balloon travels about 30 miles from where you take off, so we have to figure out where to land “on the fly.” The first two jumps were just myself and my camera man. Then, on the third day, we added the falcon, Scarlett—a Gyr-Peregrine hybrid. She had been trained to fly after a lure, but the main difference was that the lure was always above her on a drone or RC Plane. Having her look down at the lure from 12,000 feet was a challenge.
The first jump, she circled around and almost landed back in the balloon; she stayed with the balloon until it landed, and immediately recalled back to Daryl. With each jump, we modified what we did until eventually deciding on having me circle on my back, below the balloon. On day seven, she started to chase us. Day eight, she flew next to me at 140 miles per hour without even flapping her wings! And on our final jump, day nine, she folded up and shot down to me, reaching almost 200 miles per hour. She flew with me until about 4,500 feet. I released the lure (which she snatched immediately), and then I deployed my parachute and landed. We were elated!
At the end of the day, thanks to my amazing team, and funding from the most incredible Fitness Company in the world –1stPhorm—I was able to become the first human to wingsuit with a falcon out of a hot air balloon. Q. Do you currently have any new illusions or adventures in the works? A. I do actually! My mom recently asked me the same thing. When I said “yes,” she asked what it was called … “Jaws of Death.” My poor mom.
We do an annual show in Indiana to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospital. It’s usually a dozen or so sold-out shows, for around 10,000 people per show. We help them raise a ton of money, but each year we have to go back with some new material. So, this year, I’ll be hoisted to the top of the Ford Arena, suspended upside down in a straight jacket, from a burning rope, with these massive deadly jaws that will close and smash me if I don’t escape in time. Q. When not thrilling and exciting audiences, how do you enjoy spending your time?
When I’m not performing or jumping out of aircraft, I’m usually spending time with my family training birds. It’s great that the whole family is involved with BirdTricks. We travel a lot to help train other people how to do anything from getting their parrot to stop biting to safely flying it outside and have it come back. There’s always unexpected challenges which, honestly, fuels me.
Q. You came to Sandpoint in 2004. What drew you here? And what are you most grateful for when it comes to the place you’ve called “home” for nearly two decades?
A. I moved to Sandpoint in 2004 when I got married to a beautiful local, Jamie Leigh Morris. Her dad (Gil Morris) is a realtor, and her mom (Kathy Morris) is an incredible interior designer. So, what that meant is that during all of Jamie’s childhood, they’d see a house they could buy and fix up and sell, so she had been in 17 houses by the time she was 17. The constant travel and moving around wasn’t something she had to adjust to. In all the places we’ve traveled over the six continents we’ve been to, my favorite view is driving across the Long Bridge, in any weather. It’s truly the most beautiful place in the world. The people are friendly, we’re rich in freedoms, and I’m only five minutes away from my in-laws (who we play cards with every Sunday … even if they know I cheat from time to time).
Q. Are you involved in any local organizations or volunteerism? Do you offer your performances for fundraisers, etc.?
A. I tour every fall with our fundraiser tour. We use our show to help nonprofits raise money. We are a natural fit for nonprofits in the animal space, but we consistently do shows to benefit everything from Cemetery Preservation Alliances to Foster Care and Biker Clubs. In fact, we’ll be performing at the Panida on October 7 this fall, and although the final logistics are still being worked out, we plan to be donating the proceeds.
In addition to the magic shows, I’m currently trying to find a Peregrine Falcon related 501c3 to work with to further study their flight, top speeds and hunting techniques. The skillsets I’ve developed are uniquely qualified to excel in that space. My wife also started a nonprofit called “Project Parrots'' that helps rehabilitate pet parrots and place them into their forever homes. The work she does is absolutely breathtaking. She’s such an artistic trainer, it’s almost like the birds don’t know they’re being trained. They just wake up one day and their lives are awesome again. That’s the kind of trainer she is.
Q. When people hear the name David DaVinci, what would you like to be remembered for?
A. I’d never really thought about this until I was asked during the falcon flights, and I’m not sure what people will remember me for. I do a lot of things in a lot of different fields, which I guess sums up that I just want to squeeze everything I can out of this one life we live on earth. There’s no shortage of dreams to chase, or falcons to fly with. I guess the sky really isn’t the limit after all. To read the full, extended Q&A with David, go to GoSandpointMagazine.com. Visit FlyingWithFalcons.com to see the video. To find out more about BirdTricks, go to BirdTricks.com. And David invites you to follow him @Thrillusionist on IG and @BirdTricksOfficial on IG.