Saturday, August 27, 2005

Unwanted Parrots Need Your Help

Foster Parrots, a tax exempt nonprofit Parrot Rescue, Sanctuary and Adoption Center, is seeking parrot lovers to volunteer in the care of 200 parrots at the center in Rockland. Volunteers are involved in education, cleaning, feeding and improving the lives of the growing number of unwanted parrots in captivity. Volunteer positions are available for all days of the week especially Saturday and Sunday.
Foster Parrots is currently looking for parrot lovers to spend time at the center, changing water and food cups and offering attention to the many grateful residents.
Check out the Web site ( for additional information about Foster Parrots or contact Marc Johnson at (781) 878-3733.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Polly Wants Proper Care

"Mommy go to work, Mommy go to work," Lacey Jo warbles as Jackie Vore flies out the door. When Vore returns and perches at the dinner table, her 2-year-old's likely to come over, pleading "want some, want some."
The wee one can be loud. And messy. And bite Vore. And even damage the furniture. It's at times like these the woman may want to send the little rascal to her roost.
A Congo African Grey, Lacey Jo's part of a flock tended by Vore and friend Laurie Florio.
Also included in the feathered family of parrots at the women's home are Moluccan cockatoo, Apollo; Hahn's macaw, Sarah; Quaker Parrot, Peanut; Congo African Grey, Louie; and Timneh African Grey, Sammie.
Aware of their "parrotal" responsibilities, the women urge others to note the care parrots require before adopting one.
Parrot precautions
"People get them because they're pretty and they make a 'living decoration,'" said Florio of her avian intimates. But, parrots "can't live life in a cage being pretty."
"They need a lot of socialization and stimulation," said Linda McFatridge of the Kokomo Humane Society. Without companionship, she said, such birds can get stressed and will pluck out their feathers.
"Basically, they're not domestic," Vore reminded parrot parent-wannabees. While it's in their nature to roam the skies -- they fly all day long -- foraging for food, "we take them and put them in cages. It's like putting a kid in a cage" Florio said.
Ignored, birds "get bored and stressed and can start mutilating themselves."
"When you take them away from their flock, you have to become their 'flock,'" Vore said.
To help relieve the problem, Vore suggests giving the birds some variety through different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Their diets must be watched carefully, Vore said, adding calcium deficiencies are especially important if the parrot is a female and laying eggs.
Many African Greys, prone to fatty liver disease, also are susceptible to mites, as are other birds.
Because her feathered charges have delicate respiratory systems, the guardians can't wear perfume.
Vore said chemicals can't be sprayed in the house. As a result, she cleans with vinegar.
The birds require much bathing to take care of their "almost like baby powder" dander.
The taloned "tykes" also relieve themselves often and are generally messy. As such, Vore said, office mats around the house are cleaned daily.
And, "the bigger the beak, the bigger the bite," Vore continued. Not unlike an eager puppy, a parrot may bite if rough-housing becomes too rough.
Fingers and arms aren't the parrots' only targets.
Vore said they chew their entire lives; "cardboard, window moldings, every piece of furniture, anything and everything."
Cockatiels and other small birds can live 15 to 20 years. Some parrots can live to be 100.
Potential owners might want to consider who will get the bird in case of a divorce or human death.
Time with birds rewarding
While birds require a lot of attention, that can be rewarding for the guardian, too.
Casey was one of four cockatiels dropped by the Kokomo Humane Society shelter, said facility employee Vore. Casey found a home there and also caught Vore's attention. She said she also became fond of an African Grey "kind of dumped" on a friend.
And that affection has grown.
"They're very social; they consider you part of their flock," she said. "They love chaos and noise."
The birds' demands for attention also can make them pleasant companions.
"We talk, we sing," she said, noting she has just to start whistling the tune "Tequila" and they'll whistle and sing along.
Vore claims her charges are far from "bird brains," saying Lacey and others have the ability to put together words and express themselves.
The birds fly throughout the house and are even allowed -- on occasion -- to play outside.
The women love their winged ones. They're quick to overlook and even forgive their charges' errant behavior because "they love to sing ... they're playful, loving; they're like having kids."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Freeing caged birds may not be a good idea: Experts

In an ad shot with a Rajasthan backdrop, Richard Gere plays a shining white knight who helps a girl free caged birds by buying them from a roadside seller with his credit card. But such moves can actually make things worse for the birds, say experts.
Dr Vijay Kumar, the veterinarian at the Charity Bird Hospital says, ‘‘ Many times, people give us birds they’ve bought from the street because they can’t take care of them. If they are released into the wild, the birds can’t fend for themselves.’’
Things are particularly bad for budgriegars, also called lovebirds, which are originally from Australia.’’
A large cage in the hospital has almost 50 of the tiny birds. The vet says, ‘‘Recently, one man bought 300 lovebirds near Jama Masjid out of pity for them. After that, he didn’t know what to do with them, and we had to work with a number of groups to have them safely released.’’
Buying the birds is a major problem as it encourages them to get more birds.
A spokesperson for the group Wildlife SOS says, ‘‘This is a big problem. People want to help, but don’t know how to.
The bird seller doesn’t care about the birds after they’re sold. As long as he’s making a sale, he will cage more and more birds.’’ Kumar also says, ‘‘For every single live bird sold, at least six or seven die in the capture and handling stage. As long as people buy budgies, for whatever reason, the seller’s business thrives. Birds which are released may die, be eaten by stray animals, or even get caught again. And the sellers will be the only beneficiaries.’’
If people want to help, he said, then they should try and stop the sale of birds.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Feathered friends: Sanctuary provides care for parrots

"I'm scared."There's a lot of screeching noises coming from one of several large sheds just ahead; the racket is enough to scare a grown-up, much less a 3-year-old boy whose experiences with birds are so far limited to the sparrows he finds in his back yard, and the seagulls he chases on the beach."Protect me," Sean Fitzgerald of Wall, says, quietly, extending his hand, as he nevertheless starts up the rickety wooden steps."I want to go home now," says his twin brother, Dylan, as the birds sense someone approaching, and start screeching even louder. But Sean goes in anyway, and the two little boys stand as close as they possibly can to each other, and survey what's inside, without making a sound.Not that they would have been heard if they had.What they see are birds, parrots in particular, of every shape, color, size and sound, from parakeets to parrotlets, from cockatiels to cockatoos and from macaws to lovebirds. Some of them have been here, at the Arcadia Bird Sanctuary and Educational Center, for years, and others for just a matter of months; all of them are here because their owners could no longer take care of them, says Terri Jones, who runs the sanctuary."There will always be reasons why people give up their birds," says Jones, who lives on the three acres of the estate where the Freehold Township-based sanctuary for birds is situated. "You don't know what the future holds."Lifestyle changes, like new babies, divorce and natural and unnatural death, are some of the reasons owners give up their feathered pets. Others cite medical reasons, like allergies, or a sick family member, and even puberty, "when a bird's personality really changes," says Jones.Some owners didn't relinquish their birds soon enough, severely neglecting or abusing them instead. And then there are the owners who simply got "tired of their screaming," Jones says.But for all their differences, there's one thing all the birds have in common: They're survivors.There's Oscar, an Eclectus, who was left in a basement and essentially lived in the dark for most of his life. "He's been with us for three years and he still has major trust issues," says Jones.And then there's Nordie, an umbrella cockatoo whose owner fed him water only once a day, so he learned to regurgitate it to have some for later. It took eight months to break him of that habit, recalls Jones. He needed to know his food was going to stay.Angel lost her owner on 9/11. But except for every once in a while, when the Moluccan cockatoo starts screaming, you'd never know it, says Jones. During those times, Jones will take her out of her cage and hold her for awhile. "She just wants to be cuddled," Jones says.Alfie, on the other hand, was "deeply depressed" for 18 months when his owner passed away from Alzheimer's disease."They just don't act like birds," Jones explains when asked how she knew the yellow collared macaw was in mourning. "He just hung back and let you know he didn't want to be bothered."And then one day he simply came over to her at feeding time as if to say: "I'm ready to get back into the world."But the world might not be ready for him. Of the 70 or so birds currently living at the sanctuary, many of them will reside here indefinitely, says Jones, who is solely responsible for the sanctuary.The avian rescue, a nonprofit organization that relies entirely on donations, is primarily a shelter, says Jones, who has been officially taking birds in since January of last year, when she got 501 C status, so that all donations are tax deductible. While she does foster and adopt out some birds, her "primary function is sanctuary; if we adopt out that's great, but I'm in no hurry." Besides, her birds are "better off here than where they came from," she says.And one thing is certain: If they were allowed out on their own, they wouldn't survive, she says.She uses the donations she does receive for food and veterinary care for her birds. She could charge money for her services, but doesn't because "the education should be available to everybody, not just those who can afford it."But she does have a wish list: She is trying to raise $200,000 for a building to shelter the birds, and is looking for someone to donate that amount. So far, no one has expressed any interest, she says.But she keeps on doing what she's doing, traveling around the tri-state area to raise awareness about birds, so that one day they might not need such a sanctuary."Part of our work is to educate youngsters about birds, so they won't end up here," Jones says.She and her granddaughter, Caitlyn Jones, also of Freehold, often visit preschools and give presentations on bird health and safety."I made my first presentation to my preschool class when I was 3," says Caitlyn, who is now "7 going on 40," says her grandmother. Caitlyn nonchalantly carries Cuddles, a parakeet, on her finger, and holds him toward Dylan and Sean, but not without a warning."He thinks your nails are like seeds, and he likes to chew them, she says." The boys inch closer to the parakeet, thinking about testing her. Caitlyn continues to explain the parakeet's peccadilloes to her "students" — another of which is "pooping" on her head. Both boys look expectantly at her head, as if hoping for an encore performance.The more people know about birds, the better off their birds will be, says Jones. People need information to make intelligent choices: about what kind of bird to choose, about how to keep the bird and how to treat it.Besides education the sanctuary sponsors a "Young Aviculturalist Society" that is open to children between the ages of 6 and 18."Children are the future of aviculture," says Jones.For more information, call the sanctuary at (732) 995-8562.


Another possibility would be for groups of bird lovers to collectively donate money for housing

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Logging blunder clears rare parrot nest

Logging has devastated more than half of an endangered native bird's protected nesting colony, because of a bureaucratic bungle by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

The blunder was discovered when a botanist alerted the department, triggering an audit that ended the logging.

As few as 150 superb parrots still breed in Victoria, in a handful of nesting colonies around the Barmah State Forest near Echuca.

A century ago superb parrots could be seen as far south as Plenty, but are now mostly found in NSW, where about 6000 survive.

To stop the birds' numbers dwindling any further, nesting trees are supposed to be protected from logging by buffer zones of at least 100 metres, and their locations are a tightly guarded secret to keep the birds safe from poachers.

But the department's north-east regional director, Kevin Ritchie said staff forgot to check maps before approving a new logging coupe in March 2003.

"The logging operation intruded into the protection zone for superb parrots, because that (protection zone) hadn't been recorded in the Coupe Information System, and the forestry officer who would normally have known to check the maps was away ill," he said.

As a result, from February to June this year loggers felled almost 6000 tonnes of river red gums in about 60 per cent of one of the largest superb parrot nesting colonies in the forest.

In mid-June, when logging was halted because of wet weather, botanical consultant Doug Frood visited the forest.

"I was stunned, because this was one of the best remaining stands of old growth red gums in Barmah and it had been severely impacted," he said.

When a department staff member investigated Mr Frood's complaint on June 29, he realised that the loggers had been allowed deep into a 35-hectare protected zone.

The parrots are due to arrive in the Barmah forest for their annual four-month breeding season within weeks, during which time all human disturbances are banned.

But when The Age visited the forest this week, a clean-up of the area appeared to have hardly begun.

At least five large logpiles were scattered through the woods and the ground was covered with sawn debris, including dried-out tree canopies the size of tennis courts, and 15-metre trees lying next to their stumps.

Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Corporation chairman Lee Joachim was particularly upset by the number of old growth trees left to rot on the ground.

"Most of these have got no timber value at all. They'll be lucky to be used for firewood or woodchips," he said.

Mr Ritchie admitted the area could become a fire hazard if not cleared out before the parrots arrive. He hopes the work will be done this month.

The department is hiring a superb parrot specialist to investigate and will overhaul its logging approvals process.

Logging will soon resume in the area, after the State Government this week closed tenders for another 4000 tonnes of river red gums to be cut in the Barmah State Forest, along with 3000 tonnes from the nearby Gunbower Island State Forest.

That worries some local environmentalists and bird lovers, including Birds Australia's Chris Tzaros: "Superb parrots are one of most elegant and graceful parrots we'd have in this country … the more we keep chipping away at the edges of where they can live, the closer they get to extinction."