Here is a round-up of parrot-related news for January, 2009. The Kea picture is one I took at Milford Sound, and the Cockatoo pictures are ones I took at the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
1) First, a story concerning keas, one of my favourite parrots:
By HELEN MURDOCH – The Press | Thursday, 29 January 2009
Bird repellant may be included in 1080 pest bait this year to prevent more deaths of the endangered kea.
Seven monitored kea died after an aerial 1080 drop in the Franz Josef area on the West Coast last year during a preliminary Department of Conservation (DOC) study on the impact of 1080 on kea.
The deaths jolted DOC, the Animal Health Board and the Kea Conservation Trust into committing to the annual $250,000 study.
DOC Nelson science officer Josh Kemp said the study used radio-tagging and kea counts to monitor populations at various pest-control sites.
Bird numbers illustrated the impact of combinations of pest-control methods used at the sites, including aerial 1080 drops and trapping, he said.
Applications have been lodged with the Environmental Risk Management Authority to run the trials and have repellants included in the bait.
The two repellants registered in New Zealand would be trialled next spring.
“The hard part will be putting kea off taking the baits without putting off rats and possums,” Kemp said.
If the registered repellants were ineffective, research for alternatives could take five to 10 years, he said.
Kemp said he had been worried about the impact of aerial 1080 operations on kea since the 1990s.
The Franz Josef kea deaths had “shocked and stunned” DOC, he said. Kea were susceptible to trapping and poisoning because they were inquisitive, intelligent, not scared of new food and a similar size and weight to possums, he said.
One thousand to 5000 of the ground-nesting alpine parrots range across three million hectares of the South Island. One million hectares is rotationally treated with 1080.
“If kea populations are on the slippery downhill slope, we need to assess the role of 1080, the need for a bird repellant and if a repellant works,” Kemp said.
2) Destructive Cockatoos. I have a Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and he loves to explore and chew. I have to keep him well-stocked with wood, leather, cardboard and paper for him to destroy. Wild cockatoos are like this as well, and sometimes will chew up things like houses.
They’re noisy too. I watched Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in Sydney for several hours and they were extremely screechy. It made them easy to find.
Illawarra residents concerned over cockatoo strikes
BY EMMA SHAW
17/01/2009 4:00:00 AM
Concerned residents fear the Illawarra may soon resemble a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as sulphur-crested cockatoos create havoc in the region.
The native birds have been causing damage to property by chewing through timber structures – and announcing their presence with that distinctive loud screech.
A Mt Kembla woman said the birds around her home were “horribly destructive. I feed them to stop them from wrecking things”.
She believed the birds could have been driven closer to the coast by the inland drought.
Berkeley handyman Hal Krahn is familiar with the problems caused by the creatures.
“Cockatoos do create damage,” Mr Krahn said.
“With some woods, like cedar, cockatoos particularly like the taste of it. I’m not sure what you can actually do (to deter them).”
National Parks Association of NSW Illawarra branch secretary Vaughan Williamson said the cockatoos had quite a reputation.
“The sulphur-crested cockatoo is renowned for getting stuck into timber
work. They tend to like to gnaw into the timber.”
Col Meharg, of Mt Kembla, said he had not noticed an increase in cockatoo activity.
“They seem to come and go on a rolling basis. They’re here for a few days and then they go again.
“I think some people encourage them with seeds they leave on their verandahs.”
Bob Kalnin, parrot co-ordinator for NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service, said the birds were known to occasionally cause damage.
“The cockies are a native species and there’s certainly plenty around,” Mr Kalnin said.
“Currently there are many young cockatoos locally at a stage where they are no longer reliant on their parents to feed them.
“Cockatoos roost overnight in flocks and move off to feed … not long after sunrise.
“They generally rest up during the day after stripping trees of leaves and bark, as well as man-made materials at times.”
3) Pets at University.
I’m going to admit that I found that the suggestion that cockatoos can make great pets for college students quite ridiculous. It might work for a few people, but most cockatoos are too loud to keep in apartments or dormitories. Additionally, a lot of undergraduates are away for hours at school and may be away evenings working or socializing. The poor cockatoo – an intelligent, social creature – would have to spend far too much time alone.
And, they’re not like snakes that need to eat once a week! Wild cockatoos eat every day and if one needs to leave their cockatoo for a couple days, someone will at least have to give it food and water.
Students and professors discuss the pros and cons of bringing pets to college
Irene Kan, Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
Published: Tuesday, January 20 2009
As if balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a social life is not enough, some University students have extra weight on their shoulders: pets. Taking walks on the Lawn with your best friend might seem like the perfect idea at first, but the responsibilities of caring for another living being quickly come into play.
Matt Kessler, an associate professor in the Office of the Vice President for Research who has a degree in veterinary medicine, decided to leave his dog at home when he went to Cornell University for his undergraduate education after considering his heavy course load and the fact that he was living off campus.
“I would [have been] potentially abandoning my dog [in] its room all day while I wasn’t paying attention, and I don’t think that’s any fair,” he said.
At the same time, however, the dog was much more Kessler’s than his parents. “I felt really kind of sad leaving my pet at home with my parents because I was really kind of the primary caretaker,” he said. “I think for the dog’s sake, it might have been better to leave him with me.”
Jeffrey Wimsatt, associate professor in the Center for Comparative Medicine and doctor of veterinary medicine, also emphasized the importance of the bond between humans and animals. “Roughly 38 percent of households [and] married couples don’t have kids,” he said. “And in many cases animals are becoming kids.”
Furthermore, pets have been used as intermediaries with people who are having trouble talking to others, he said, citing the example of the Oklahoma City bombing. The victims were surprisingly able to relate to a woman’s pet monkeys. “Animals pick up on people’s pain and approach them,” he said. On that note, he said it is possible that a student feeling estranged from the University community might feel better with a pet by his or her side.
Though students living in dormitories are not permitted to have pets other than small fish, some students living off Grounds have chosen to bring their pets to Charlottesville. Second-year Engineering student Devin Brown said his pet cockatoo, known as Coq or Coxanne – because it is impossible to know the sex of a cockatoo without a DNA test – is often a source of companionship. During the drive home for Winter Break, the cockatoo sat on Brown’s shoulder the entire trip. Bird, which is yet another name for the pet, is also extremely personable, Brown said, and squawks loudly if it is left alone. It was invited to the Browns’ Christmas dinner, during which it walked around the table and squawked at the guests.
In addition to the birds’ friendly nature, Brown recommends pet cockatoos to college students for other reasons, as well. For instance, in the rare occasion that a bird’s owner would be unable to care for it – such as an emergency stay at the hospital – the bird is conditioned to live for a long period of time without food or water, Brown said.
Chinchillas, however, are a completely different story. Second-year College student Jennifer Mak said she bought her chinchilla, Twishy, through Craigslist last year from a couple who did not have the time to care for her anymore. This high-maintenance pet must be given dust baths so its fur does not mat up, Mak said.
“Dust is basically volcanic ash – they sell [it] – and you dump it into a little bathhouse, and let them roll around in it,” she said. “It’s really cute, really messy.”
Adding to the mess, Twishy sometimes finds the walls extremely appetizing, Mak said. “My dad doesn’t like her because she chews up the siding on the walls,” she said. Luckily, Mak’s apartment in Charlottesville has remained unscathed.
Another potential problem that Mak could run into is if Twishy were to fall ill. “Not many vets know how to take care of exotic pets,” she said, adding that she would need to call a chinchilla breeder for help.
But even for all of the care and hard work, Mak said she does not regret getting Twishy. “You look up the perfect pet for you: how much care they need, how much you’re willing to commit,” she said.
Because a college student’s level of commitment to a pet may fluctuate, Kessler said he does not think it is the best idea to bring a pet to school. He added, however, that if the owner has bonded with the pet, he thinks it is best for them to stay together if possible. “I don’t think it’s as stressful as leaving them home alone, like abandoning them,” he said.
But if a University student brought his or her pet to school, and then needed to leave it at home all day, the pet would be subject to the same amount of neglect, both Kessler and Wimsatt said.
“Say you have it at home, but there’s no one there to look after it. You’re not really doing that for the good of the pet,” he said. “That’s, I think, a problem that a lot of students get into.”
While the University does not have a specific policy concerning bringing pets on Grounds – and people do so – Wimsatt said it might not be advisable. “Class changing, crowds of people around you, you don’t want a dog who’s territorial,” he said. “What you’re really getting is really how educated students are themselves.”
Even when he attended veterinary school, Wimsatt said he saw cases of animal neglect. Because all veterinary students needed to have pets, they were often forced to bring them to school, Wimsatt said. The pets, however, could not be taken inside the veterinary school – so as to avoid disease – and were usually stuck in a student’s car.
“It was fine perhaps for a while,” he said. “At lunch they’d run back and take them for a walk. Suppose they have an exam in the morning though, and the temperature rises up to even the 70s. If the sun’s on the car, all of a sudden you have a crisis because that animal’s going to get hyperthermic.”
When it comes down to it, there are many considerations regarding bringing a pet to Charlottesville, Kessler and Wimsatt both said.
“Responsible pet ownership is more than just feeding it – it’s a lot more,” Wimsatt stressed. “I think, more importantly for students, it’s understanding what responsibility is. It’s more than just giving them a pat at night and feeding them. Obviously that’s not ideal.”
4) And finally, a story about a bird rescue run by Buddhists in a suburb Washington. I was in Washington this summer and now I wish would have known about this place.
Compassion is for the birds, U.S. Buddhist group preaches
By Karin Zeitvogel
|As people around the world resolved to be more thoughtful and caring in the new year, a group of Buddhists in the United States is preaching that compassion is for the birds.
At a Tibetan Buddhist temple in this rural suburb of Washington, 35-year-old Christopher Zeoli has for 10 years been playing big brother – or alpha bird, as he puts it – to a steadily growing number of birds with behavioural problems ranging from aggressiveness to self-mutilation.
One of the birds, a huge red macaw, once carved a gash in a monk’s shaven head with its talons.
Another wears a protective plastic collar to keep it from pecking itself to death.
The birds, some of which were rescued from abusive owners such as an alcoholic who threw his cockatoo against the wall because it screeched too much, have found a degree of peace at the Garuda Aviary, founded by Zeoli’s mother Alyce, a native of Brooklyn who in 1988 became the first western woman to be recognized as a reincarnate lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Alyce, who now goes by the Buddhist name Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo, started the aviary inadvertently when she adopted a cockatoo in 1998.
“We first got a friend’s problematic bird. It screamed, it plucked its own feathers in such a way that it could have bled to death. These are some of the things that parrot owners have to deal with,” said Christopher Zeoli, whose life for the past 10 years has been entirely devoted to the birds.
According to Zeoli and others who work at the aviary, macaws and cockatoos have the intelligence of a five or six-year-old child.
“These birds are incredibly emotional and really intelligent, and they bond with their owners, but a lot of people shut the birds away – in a garage, a closet, a laundry room – or cover them up because that makes it dark, and when it’s dark, they’re quiet,” Claire Waggoner, director of the aviary, explained.
The birds feel separation and loss, and when they are constantly covered up, they develop neurotic behavior.
Behind double-glazed windows, around two dozen macaws and an equal number of white cockatoos with peach colored crowns screeched in a cacophony as their human alpha bird chatted.
“We would encourage, specifically when people consider buying a parrot, that they don’t. The vast majority suffer in captivity,” said Zeoli.
One of the basic truths of Buddhism is that suffering is part of life, but in western society with all its conveniences and easy remedies, suffering has become almost invisible, Ani Dawa, a Buddhist nun from Switzerland, told AFP.
“In our society, it’s difficult to understand what suffering is because we have fairly comfortable lives and we can alleviate suffering easily,” she said.
“But the suffering of the birds is so obvious, and just seeing it, you start to understand what suffering means.”
Another of the noble truths of Buddhism is that suffering can be alleviated by changing the way we think.
“You might start to look at other parts of the animal world and eventually you might understand that there are humans who are suffering,” Dawa said.
Running the aviary costs 45,000 dollars a year, or around 1,000 dollars per bird.
“We would like to raise awareness so that people stop buying parrots,” said Zeoli, who sees his job as chief keeper of the hyacinth and red macaws, the white cockatoos and African greys as a lifetime occupation.
Parrots have a life expectancy of around 85 years, and are likely to outlive their human caretakers if they are domesticated.
“Parrots just don’t make good pets. They live so long and require so much,” Waggoner said.
“We get emails and calls weekly from people who have parrots and can’t keep them any more,” she said, adding as a final argument to arouse compassion for the birds: “In the wild you don’t see feather plucking. In captivity, it happens a lot.”
Some more news from the BBC about parrots. This group of Patagonian Conures represents one of the largest colonies of parrots in the world, and they are one of the few parrot species than breed somewhere other than a cavity in a tree.
The article notes that they are monogamous. Interestingly, most birds that appear to be monogamous often are not. Genetic analyzes in many song birds, for instance, indicate that most females will mate with multiple males, even though they are socially monogamous. However, Patagonian Conures are different. They are truly monogamous – genetic studies of this species indicate that females only produce young with one male. (source: Masello et al., 2002. Journal of Avian Biology, 33, 99-103)
Protecting Argentina’s parrot colony
| By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Patagonia
They make a lot of noise and, with their green backs and red and yellow bellies, are a spectacular sight as they swoop and circle above the cliffs looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.
British naturalist Charles Darwin found and wrote about them on his travels in the 1830s.
But not many Argentines are aware of the burrowing parrots ( Cyanoliseus patagonus) which form the world’s biggest parrot colony.
Admittedly, the birds are a long way from major centres of population – about 30km from the town of Viedma on the north-eastern tip of the region of Patagonia.
One Argentine who is not only aware of but facinated by the parrots is biologist Juan Masello. He returns every year from his home in Germany to track and chart their progress.
The birds, which can live for more than 20 years, are monogamous. Each year, after migration to warmer climates, they somehow return to the same nest, in the same hole carved among 35,000 other similar holes, some up to 3m deep, in the sandstone cliffs.
It is a species that guards its secrets. The whole colony disappears for several days shortly before their annual autumn migration. And, despite intense observation, no one knows where they go.
Mr Masello is hoping that technological advances will allow the birds to be tracked more precisely.
He and other environmentalists say the burrowing parrots, like many other parrot species, face a number of different threats.
Despite new legislation designed to tackle the trade in exotic species, the parrots are captured for the lucrative pet trade.
A booming tourist industry has seen holiday homes being built closer and closer to the colony. Irresponsible visitors forge tracks through the sandstone rocks where the parrots nest.
There is also an array of loud bikes and buggies being driven along the beach – traffic that disturbs the young birds. And paragliders now fly off the cliffs where only the parrots once flew.
Mr Masello says that many of these problems can be resolved with education, debate and compromise. But he says the biggest threat facing the burrowing parrots is the advance of agriculture.
Argentina’s agriculture has boomed in recent years with beef, grains and soya fetching high prices on world markets.
Argentina’s agricultural heartland is the Pampas – the lush, green pastures in the centre of the country.
But recent high prices have tempted farmers to cultivate land further afield, on what they call marginal land where the soil is poor. In the region around the parrot colony, they have scraped away the only vegetation of hardy thorned shrubs.
A few years of intensive farming drains the nutrition from the already poor soil and creates a desert.
“The vegetation is being removed at a rate of 3.7% a year,” said Mr Masello.
“That is huge four times higher than the Amazon.”
The farmers blame the parrots, which they deem a pest, for the deterioration.
They accuse the feathered fiends of stealing their seeds and ruining their crops. Mr Masello admits that the parrots do take some seeds, but says the damage is minimal and insignificant.
“Some farmers are exasperated,” said local farm leader Pedro Eddy.
“They’ve told me they’d like to fumigate the nests, exterminate them. But I don’t think that’s quite right. The parrots are only a problem because the farming is marginal. Tourism, attracted by this tremendous spectacle, could bring in more money than grain brings to the region,” he said.
Many environmentalists say the farmers shouldn’t even be there in the first place.
Either way, the parrots, which eat seeds, grasses and fruits, are finding their feeding grounds to be shrinking.
Mauricio Failla, the local representative of the Argentine Wildlife Foundation, says the answer lies in education.
He said that a few years ago, most local people viewed the parrots as a noisy nuisance. But with an extensive programme of visits to local schools and field trips to the parrot colony on the beach, opinions are changing.
The local provincial authority is looking at a new law to declare the colony a protected area. But the scheme has so far fallen foul of political infighting and bureaucracy.
Local representative Adriana Gutierrez told BBC News that the law would be in place soon. But Argentines have learned to be wary of politicians’ promises.
Dawn comes early this far south, and the parrots make themselves heard before most people would like to be stirring from their sleep.
But after a few hours on the cliffs with thousands of swooping, screeching burrowing parrots, it was difficult not to be captivated by their beauty and curiosity.
Even if, several hours after leaving the region, their squawking was still ringing in my ears.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/06 14:45:16 GMT
© BBC MMIX
Brazil moves to curb wildlife trafficking
| By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Belem
Brazil has one of the richest varieties of animal species in the world but it is also one of the biggest markets for animal trafficking.
Studies produced for the government suggest that as many as 10m animals are being taken from their natural habitats each year, a figure that can only be an estimate, as no-one knows for sure.
The only certain number is that around 50,000 animals are rescued by the authorities each year – representing just a small percentage of those believed to be taken by traffickers.
Many animals are said to die en route to market, but again the numbers are subject to conflicting claims. No-one disputes the fact that they are often transported in horrific conditions.
Animal rights groups say the law has been weakened in recent years and that the government needs to do more.
An official advertising campaign has now been launched to try to change public attitudes. It shows graphic images of dead animals, with a message to the public: this happens because you buy.
Ministers also say legislation will be improved, as well as continuing to take actions on the ground with a bigger number of inspectors.
The BBC joined an early morning briefing for police and agents of the Brazilian environment agency Ibama, as the first stage of an operation against animal trafficking was being planned.
After a call from an undercover agent the small group of agents and police officers head off to a street market in the northern city of Belem, not far from the mouth of the Amazon.
The market is typical of many across Brazil where animals are sold, sometimes legally sometimes not, and to the anger of local motorists the street is blocked off at both ends as the raid begins.
The agents go from shop to shop and stall, and eventually one man is arrested, and a small number of birds taken away to be released. Ibama officials suspect other traders selling birds illegally managed to get away.
Luiz Nelio Palheta, an analyst with Ibama, says the transportation of animals taken from the wild often involves devastating consequences.
“What we see is inadequate conditions – many animals in small containers end up dying.
“We have a level of mortality that for every animal that is saved or ends up being sold, 40 or 50 y die. The level of mortality is very high.”
Even when animals are rescued the problems are significant, as the resources to care for them and ensure their proper return to the wild, if this is possible, are not always there.
Many animals are recovered thousands of kilometres from their natural habitat, and more often than not it is not a simple matter of opening a cage to let them go, though this sometimes happens.
In the heart of the Brazilian countryside, the non-governmental organisation SOS Fauna receives 2,000 to 3,000 animals per year that have been recovered from traffickers
Marcelo Rocha who runs the centre has been involved in this kind of work for 19 years.
He says animal trafficking has a significant impact on the environment.
“The worst impact is the loss of biological function that these wild animals fulfil in nature,” he told the BBC.
“From the moment you take these animals out of nature, it is like taking a worker away from a big company. You leave the ecosystem unbalanced, and we humans need the ecosystem to be balanced for our own survival.”
Animal trafficking offers big profits – through sales in street markets or when traffickers export rarer species to Europe and the United States.
But critics say arrests, when they happen, usually result in fines which have little impact on a crime which has devastating consequences for Brazilian wildlife.
“From 1998 until now the legislation has become weaker,” Marcelo Rocha says. “No-one goes to prison for the crime of trafficking wild animals, or to put it another way, a crime against humanity is not considered a serious matter.”
Brazil is a country where for centuries there has been a cultural tolerance of buying more exotic animals to keep at home, and there is also a demand abroad.
As well as the market for pets, wild animals are sometimes sought by private collectors, while others want to obtain feathers and skins as ornaments. Sometimes animals are wanted for research purposes.
The Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc accepts that today the law is not all that it should be, but he is promising changes.
“The law is there to deal with crime but unfortunately it needs to be improved,” he told the BBC.
“It treats in the same article a person who takes one bird to sing in his house alongside a person who takes a thousand birds and sends them to Germany, England and Switzerland.
“In the same ways as with drugs policy we are going to separate and treat much more rigorously the big traffickers.”
Not surprisingly for a country that is home to the Amazon and the Pantanal, Brazil has one of the richest varieties of animal species in the world.
However, the government says the number of animals threatened with extinction has nearly trebled in the last two decades to more than 600, and they put part of the blame on trafficking.
With illegal trade in wild animals now only behind the level of the drugs and arms trades in terms of profits, the challenge to bring it under control remains enormous.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/02 18:03:01 GMT
© BBC MMIX
Here is an article about parrot rescues I wrote for the May, 2008 issue of Parrots Magazine.
“Parrot Rescue? I thought that parrots were expensive and that they wouldn’t need rescue?” Such was a common response from friends and family last year when I would mention that I was fostering a bird for a local parrot rescue organization. However, the truth is that few large parrots remain in one home for their entire lives. Many parrots find themselves in need of a new home when they outlive their owners or when their owners can no longer care for them.
Some parrot owners simply try to sell their pet through a classified ad if they can no longer care for it or no longer want it. This tactic could attract a conscientious parrot keeper, but it could also attract a person who doesn’t know how to care for one properly. Those trying to sell a parrot through an ad need to be willing to screen potential owners. Parrot clubs can also be useful resources for someone looking to rehome a parrot, as a club member may be willing to take a parrot. Others looking to rehome a parrot may contact a parrot rescue agency, particularly if the parrot has behavioral or health problems, because such parrots can be difficult to find good homes for. In several countries, such agencies either provide a permanent sanctuary for parrots who cannot cope with living as pets, or they find homes for parrots whose owners can no longer care for them. Many parrot rescues also take birds that have been seized by animal protection agencies, or that have been left at animal shelters geared towards housing dogs and cats.
Types of Rescues
There are two general types of parrot rescue agencies: sanctuaries and adoption agencies. Sanctuaries do not adopt out parrots and instead provide them with a permanent home. The best sanctuaries strive to give the birds a natural setting to live in, where they can fly, forage, chew, and socialize with other parrots or people. An example would be the “World Parrot Refuge” in British Columbia, Canada, which provides a sanctuary to a few hundred parrots
Other rescues act as adoption agencies for parrots, and try to find new homes for parrots that are surrendered to them. They may house parrots at a central location, or place them in temporary foster homes until a permanent home is found. Some rescues act as a mix of these two types: parrots who dislike being handled by humans or who have severe behavioral problems are given sanctuary while parrots that are friendly to humans are adopted out to new homes. An example of such a rescue is the Gabriel Foundation in Colorado. It adopts some parrots to new homes, but gives sanctuary to ones that prefer not to interact with people, or whose owners have asked that the birds be given sanctuary.
Should you Consider Adopting a Parrot?
If you are contemplating adding a new parrot to your family, consider adopting a parrot from a rescue. With patience and understanding on the part of their new owners, many parrots – even older ones – can adjust well to new homes. For instance, two of my parrots (Lucy and Ripley) were seven and fifteen when I bought them, and they are doing very well with me. Responsible rescue groups generally attempt to match each bird carefully with a compatible owner, so a prospective parrot owner has a good chance of finding a new lifelong pal by getting a parrot through an adoption agency. Potential adopters do need to have some patience, as it can take some time for a parrot to adapt to a new home. Some parrots that land in rescue do have behavioral problems that make them difficult to deal with, but some are quite friendly and well-adjusted.
What to Expect when Adopting a Parrot
Adopting a parrot through a rescue agency is generally more time consuming than going to a pet store and buying a parrot, and for good reason. Reputable rescues want their parrots to go to excellent homes where they will be unlikely to need rehoming in the foreseeable future. To achieve this, most parrot rescues carefully screen potential adopters for their suitability to own a parrot. The first step in adopting a parrot is usually a several page application form. Questions on the form will generally be intended to make sure that the applicant’s living situation is suitable for the species or individual parrot he’d like to adopt. For example, most rescues would not adopt an extremely loud parrot to someone in an apartment, or an aggressive bird to someone with small children. Most application forms will also help the rescue coordinators determine the level of parrot care knowledge that the applicant has. For example, the application form to adopt a parrot from the “Feathered Friends Forever” rescue in Georgia, USA, asks several questions about parrot care. These include ones regarding what the parrot will be fed, what foods are toxic to birds and what some of the signs of illness in a bird are.
The second step is generally an interview, either in person or on the telephone. I have adopted animals from a number of rescue organizations and have found that most interviews are relatively informal. They give the potential adopter the opportunity to ask questions about the rescue and the birds available for adoption. Sometimes, the interviews will be held at the adopter’s home, so the adoption coordinator can see where the parrot will be living. Other times, they may simply be by telephone.
Once a parrot has been adopted, a fee will be charged and an adoption agreement will be signed. Most rescue organizations ask adopters to return the parrot to them if the adopter finds himself in a situation where he can no longer care for the bird properly. Most rescue organizations also ask that the parrot not be used for breeding. Many also do follow-ups on adoptions to see how the parrot is doing and to answer any questions the adopter may have. These are generally by telephone, although some rescues will want to visit the adopter’s home.
Many parrot rescue organizations also place a strong emphasis on educating current and potential parrot owners. For example, the Parrot Adoption and Education Center (PEAC), which is based in San Diego, California, hosts several seminars each year on a variety of parrot-related topics. Adopters are required to attend three of them – “Avian Basic Care,” “Behavior Problems,” and “Parrot Personalities” – before adopting a parrot. The seminars are open to anyone interested in learning about parrots and they are held frequently and at a number of different locations.
Requiring that adopters attend the seminars helps ensure that they are knowledgeable about parrot care and that they are interested in learning as much as they can about parrots. Bonnie Kenk, president and founder of PEAC, also told me via Email that people looking to adopt a large, demanding bird such as a cockatoo, macaw or African grey as a first-time parrot must spend a bit of time with the bird they are interested in alongside a volunteer. This ensures that they understand what they are getting into with adopting such a parrot and that they know how to handle it.
Common Species in Rescue
Of the larger parrot species, PEAC receives cockatoos most frequently, and they are also the most difficult species, along with macaws, for them to find suitable homes for. Cockatiels and budgerigars are also commonly surrendered to rescues, with cockatiels being the most common bird surrendered to PEAC. While cockatiels and budgies are not amongst the most difficult of parrot species to own, they are by far the most popular. Their low price and widespread availability at pet stores often leads people to buy them on impulse without thinking about the animal’s future.
Why do Animals Up in Rescue?
When I asked why parrots end up in rescue, Ms. Kenk told me that it’s generally due to, “Lifestyle; either a change in the owner’s lifestyle or a lifestyle that wasn’t suited to living with a parrot to begin with. Most people will say that the bird developed a behavior problem that they didn’t want to or were not able to deal with, but in reality the behavior problem developed as a reaction to a change in the owner’s lifestyle.”
Parrots are indeed very sensitive to changes in their surroundings. Many different lifestyle changes, such as job changes, can leave a person without enough time to care for her bird properly. In such a case, a frustrated, bored parrot may start to scream excessively or pluck his own feathers. The parrot could also lose some of his tameness from not being handled frequently enough. In such a case, the parrot may be sent to a rescue. Sometimes, a parrot may develop an intense dislike for his owner’s new spouse or significant other, and it’s decided that the parrot must go. Moves to new apartments that do not allow pets, a divorce, or the development of an illness also sometimes leave people unable to care for their parrots.
Helping Unwanted Parrots
When asked what the biggest challenges are in running a parrot rescue, Ms. Kenk told me that two of them are finding suitable volunteers and finding suitable homes for the parrots. Ron Johnson from Feathered Friends Forever notes that they are finding enough funds, good help, time, and space. So, if you are looking for a new parrot, consider contacting a rescue organization. If you have enough pets, but would still like to help, consider volunteering your time if there is a rescue close to where you live. Rescues often need reliable volunteers to clean aviaries, do administrative work, edit newsletters, help with fundraising, or to provide a foster home for a parrot. Foster parents do need to be willing to work with a bird that may have behavior problems. And of course, any rescue appreciates any donations it may get, no matter what size they are.
As I have found, volunteering with a parrot rescue can be a rewarding experience. While looking for parrot websites a couple years ago, I found the website for a rescue based out of Edmonton, Alberta, called “Feathered Friends Avian Rescue and Resource Association.” I wasn’t really looking for a parrot, but I had room in my house to foster one, so I applied to foster a bird. Since FFARRA does not have a central location where parrots are housed, each bird that is surrendered to them is placed in a foster home until a permanent adoptive home is found for it.
Later on, I received an Email message asking if I’d like to foster a small bird that had been left at the Edmonton Humane Society. Since this humane society is usually swamped with cats, dogs, rabbits, and rodents, they often send parrots they get to FFARRA. I was told that this parrot had a plucking problem and was not tame, so he’d need a patient person to work with him. From the description, I figured he’d be a Green-cheeked or Maroon-bellied Conure.
I had recently attended a seminar given by Dr. Susan Friedman on parrot behavior in Calgary, Alberta, and I had used what I learned to teach my own parrots a few new behaviors. So, I jumped at the chance to apply what I had learned to an even bigger challenge. I let them know that I’d be happy to foster the parrot. The vice president of FFARRA brought the bird, along with a cage and supplies, over to my place.
The little bird was actually a green Quaker Parrot. His leg band indicated that he was fourteen years old, and that’s all I really knew about him. He had a very obvious plucking problem – his chest was completely bald – and he would bite any hands that entered his cage. I figured that getting him used to being handled by people would be a major challenge, but this resilient bird proved me wrong.
He, of course, needed a name. My husband, Quentin, noticed that this Quaker looked like he wasn’t wearing a shirt because of his bald chest. This gave me the idea of naming him, “Randy,” after a character in a Canadian television show who refuses to wear a shirt. Randy seemed stressed at first, so I left him alone for a few days to allow him to get used to his new surroundings.
I really didn’t want to just leave him in his cage all the time, so then came the task of getting him off the cage. He came out of the cage with no problems, but he would bite hard anytime I reached for him while he was on the cage. His cage was in a bird room on the upper level in my home, but I usually take my parrots out of their cages and put them on their play stands on the main level of the house where I do my reading and writing while I am home.
I decided to train Randy to step up on a stick, using gradual steps and positive reinforcement. At first, I rewarded him with a sunflower seed for merely going near the stick. Once he was comfortable with that, I rewarded him for stepping on it, and finally, I rewarded him for allowing me to move the stick with him on it. Once away from his cage, he became very gentle and would gladly step up on my hand. This behavior pattern isn’t too unusual with parrots, as some feel that their cages are territories that need defending. I brought one of my spare parrot stands up from the basement for Randy, and put in the living room next to Lucy and Ripley’s stands.
Randy stayed on or near his stand with no problems and he generally behaved like a little gentleman. I really wonder how he ended up at the humane society, since he acted like he had been somebody’s pet at some point. He was initially very squawky, but as he became more comfortable in his new environment, he began to show off his impressive vocabulary. He could say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and “Pretty Bird,” in a sweet, child-like voice, and much to the confusion of the other pets, he could bark and meow. He frequently laughed hysterically – and this would then get Ripley laughing – and he also loved to quack like a duck.
My husband and I grew quite fond of Randy, but after a few months, someone applied to adopt him and she was approved. We didn’t want Randy to go, but we wanted to foster more in the future. We were glad to see that the person interested in Randy was a part of the parrot club we belonged to, although the fact that Randy kept squeaking, “Goodbye!” shortly before he left did not make letting him go very easy. However, we receive frequent updates on him, and he has adapted nicely to his new home.
Many parrots like Randy find great homes through the help of parrot rescues, but how can people prevent parrots from needing rescue in the first place? The answer to this question can be controversial among parrot owners. Some people would like to see breeding of parrots stop, while others would rather see less drastic solutions to the problem.
I think that there’s little doubt that education of potential parrot owners can help the problem. Parrots are high maintenance animals, and people who buy them without realizing how much work they require are more likely to want to rehome their parrot later. Breeders and pet shops can do their part by making sure that potential buyers understand how to care for their new pet. Parrot clubs can also help educate parrot owners (current and potential) by hosting educational seminars, publishing informative newsletters and offering to go to schools to talk about pet care. For example, the club I am in (Edmonton Pet Parrot Association) sets up information tables at pet expos and other events so prospective parrot owners can talk to parrot owners about their pets. Monthly meetings always have some educational component, which is usually a guest speaker or an educational video.
Finding a Reputable Parrot Rescue
There are parrot rescue groups throughout Europe, North America, and Australia and most of them can be located using a search engine on the internet. Asking staff at veterinary clinics or animal shelters can also help one locate a rescue organization. Many parrot clubs are also contacted by people looking to rehome a parrot, so a person looking for a second hand parrot may find one by joining a parrot club.
Parrots are very active, intelligent creatures and many people who buy them find them too difficult to deal with and need to rehome them. Other parrots find themselves in need of new homes because of changes in their owner’s lifestyle that leaves them unable to care for their bird. Rescue organizations help find excellent homes for parrots in need, or they give them a place to live out their lives. If there is a parrot rescue near you, consider contacting it if you are looking for a new feathered friend.
-An American adoption organization with chapters in Anchorage, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and San Diego.
-An American parrot rescue based in Georgia.
-An American based adoption organization and sanctuary based in Colorado.
-A Canadian adoption agency based in Alberta.
-A Canadian sanctuary based in British Columbia.
Clicker Training Parrots
-an article I wrote about how I used clicker training to deal with a very aggressive Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo I fostered.