Elizabeth • There is a place where macaw heads sway in unison to random songs. An African gray parrot chimes like a bell, and an umbrella parrot named Ladyanna happily wears her cowgirl hat.
Park your car in the Gabriel Foundation dirt parking lot. More than 35 acres in western Elbert County near the small town of Elizabeth have been used for parrot rescue and conservation for many years. A soapy aviary drama that’s not yet ready for primetime. You will hear them before you see them as they scream, scream, call each other and try to sing.
Kimberly Pearson, Avian Welfare Multimedia Coordinator at the Gabriel Foundation, said: “They’re grumpy and silly like toddlers. It’s a roller coaster with parrots.”
Rows of large metal cages house iridescent macaws, pure white parrots with expressive fluffy crests, sunlit little cockatiels and jewel-coloured conures. Some cages contain just one bird. Further into the facility, other larger enclosures allow birds to fly and roam, play with each other, and examine brightly colored hanging toy strings used for mental stimulation. I can do it.
During the day they bask in the sun with regular water sprays when the temperature rises, and by mid-afternoon they are brought back to their well-sized aviaries. As the sun sets, they begin to settle down and wait with their companions for the arrival of the keepers at 7am.
“Once you become a birdman, you are fundamentally changed,” said Pearson. Her blue-and-gold macaw often perches on her shoulder as she does her job, eagerly nibbling on her face, hair, shirt, sunglasses, or whatever else it rests its beak on. “A little bird at first, but when you get attached, your life changes. You can’t have them in your life.”
A flock of 330 parrots and a handful of pigeons are plagued with a bit of drama, resentment, jealousy and love affairs. He has a crush on Max, a macaw, and his cagemate Madison, who is also a macaw. A heartbroken staffer continues to try to introduce him to other birds that could crush him, but to no avail.
The staff also sympathize with Lonely Iggy, an endangered blue hyacinth macaw who will not be adopted because she is endangered. His best friend was recently adopted, and luckily the adoptee is doing rescue work and can take the bird to work to spend some quality time with Iggy.
Birds are like people. Sometimes I like other birds, sometimes I hate them. When they make friends, staff gather them in their area. And even more so when two birds appear on the verge of falling in love.
“I try to pay attention if they meet or flirt with another bird unexpectedly,” Pearson said. We’ll let them out and play with us, and maybe we’ll eventually make them cagemates indoors.You want their lives to be fun.”
Julie Weiss Murad, founder, president and CEO of Gabriel, can trace her love of birds to a third grade teacher who had a collection of bird miniatures. She also remembers staring at cardinals and blue jays she spied on in her Chicago suburban neighborhood, as well as budgerigars, the little parakeets she had as a child. Then, in her early 70s, when she was living in Kuwait, where birds are precious animals, it was a large parrot that her parents-in-law gave her as a wedding gift.
“I’ve been with the birds longer than I used to,” Murad said. “I love watching them fly and the sounds they make, their body his language, their actions have always been special to me.”
After returning to the US, she owned The Birdbrain in Denver in the early 1990s, selling enrichment items for birds. Around the same time, she acquired Gabriel, a blue hyacinth she longed to add to her flock. However, her newborn baby, who was less than two years old, fell ill with small bowel problems and died within 24 hours.
“His death was a little unusual, but not unexpected as birds were hand-raised at the time,” Murad said. I wanted to turn it into a ritual of experience. I felt I could help people.”
Now nationally known as a human and parrot behavior consultant, lecturer, and author, Mr. Murad founded the non-profit parrot welfare organization in 1995. Other creatures that needed a home when their owners were no longer able to care for them.
Parrots reach shelter through many routes, including animal shelters that are often abandoned, and people who, for various reasons, are no longer able to care for the birds. About half of the Foundation’s parrots are sanctuary birds and will spend the rest of their lives in rescue.
In the main building, adoption manager Melissa Heath puts up about one bird each week and records it on a whiteboard in her beloved flock. It’s halfway through July and this year 69 of her birds have been adopted and 173 are available.
Years ago, there were 600 to 700 birds in the shelter, but staff have cut back on numbers to give them time to work with the more difficult parrots, get used to humans and find homes. made it possible.
In the early days of the rescue, Heath had his sights set on adopting African Grays, but a particular white umbrella parrot had other plans.
“Lady Anna chose me when I started working in the building she was in,” said Heath. I didn’t do it.”
Heath was chosen. And now she’s making gorgeous handmade dresses for her 23-year-old shadow of tiny white, whom she calls a “fashionista.” She has about 120 outfits, including her cowgirl dress, and her extensive wardrobe is highlighted on her Instagram by Living_with_cockatoos, with Heath’s other parrots, Miss her pearls who don’t get too hung up on dressing up. you can watch it together.
“Birds tend not to like dressing up, so she’s been featured in a few magazines, but I like her,” said Heath. “She’s very protective of her wardrobe. When I try to dress them, they actually chase other birds.”
Adopting a parrot is quite different from adopting a dog or cat, unless it’s a small bird such as a budgie, cockatiel or pigeon. They are same day adoptions. For the bigger ones, adopters can expect a minimum of five visits per week after completing an application and conducting a pre-adoption interview via Zoom.
“Birds are more complicated than dogs and cats,” said Heath. “Their behavior requires more training for people. We also look at diet and enrichment. And their beaks do more damage, too.”
Pearson always encourages potential bird owners to give older parrots a chance rather than insisting on getting chicks from breeders. A large bird lives long, from 60 to 80 years, depending on care. And just like humans, it’s important to note that they too go through their teenage years.
“One of the nice things about adopting an adult parrot is that its personality is already established,” says Heath. “Parrots in particular, and perhaps macaws, change their personalities as they go through their teenage years. They start to act out. I did.”
The adoption process continues even after the parrot is home with its new owner. Follow-up reports are required after 24 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months. And every adoption comes with a lifetime free behavioral consultation from two of her behaviorists at the foundation. For birds that have lived with other birds for years, being the only bird in a new environment can be stressful.
“If you live in a condo or have a full-time job, go to school, or have a large family with a big parrot in your heart, it may not be the best because it took a long time. said Murad. “Consider the environment in your home and the impact the bird has on your life and other people in your home.”
for the love of the flock
Birds, like golden retrievers and tabby cats, can be close to your heart. We all know that’s not the case.
Murad recently lost his cockatiel of 25 years. They are parrots that many people may overlook because they are not as big and sparkly as some of their larger relatives.
“We shared a lifetime,” she said. “A little 100g weighing that has brought so much joy and fun into my life. He will be sorely missed.”
Marianne Batchelder is also well aware of her special affection and is drawn to older birds. She has been volunteering at this nonprofit for eight years, and in the process, she regularly adopts parrots. She now has 7 of her dogs, 5 of which have been rescued. She has had one of hers that hasn’t come from a rescue for her 24 years, almost the bird’s entire life.
They each have their own personality, and are thought to be smart and have the intelligence of a five-year-old, Murad said. In addition, there are challenges that Batchelder appreciates.
“These are not dogs or cats that have been domesticated for 10,000 years and adapted to life with us,” she said. Or two generations apart.We have to get to their level.They are not as predictable as cats or dogs.They are so different from us that other It’s different than interacting with pets.”
For Heath, not only is the parrot’s longevity attractive, but he can bring Lady Anna and Miss Pearl around the neighborhood in costume to educate people about their care.
“It’s kind of like having kids, but I don’t worry about sending them off to college or changing diapers,” she said. “When I started volunteering here and applied for a job, I never thought I would love birds so much.”
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