2003 May

by Shauna Roberts
Spring 2003

Parrot Welfare Politics :: Parrots and Animal Shelters :: Mackie Comes Home :: Volunteer :: END and Rehoming :: Bird Care in the Netherlands

Parrot Welfare Politics

by Shauna Roberts

mekona36sAnytime you have a group of impassioned people, it is extremely likely that some will butt heads. One might think that if a group has a common objective like the welfare of birds, that politics would not under any circumstances enter the picture. But it does and this can be extremely potent and deeply hurtful. People in rescue are individuals, with independent personalities, egos, ideas and goals. Unfortunately, all to often, the general result is that the welfare of the birds ends up taking a back seat. Due to individual politics, the rescue effort as a whole has not moved forward to establish standards of care, communicate about numbers of birds taken in, pass on individual experiences, share ideas about parrot rehabilitation or housing etc. If the layers of personal agendas would be peeled away, I believe everyone could clearly see without a doubt that everyone involved really wants what is best for the birds. Working together for the benefit of the parrots has been tried a few times with successes and failures.

A certain amount of tolerance toward each group’s policies and methods could help, as long as tolerance was not so moderate that birds were put in or left in jeopardy, such as ignoring a lack of quarantine procedures or many other possible neglects that could jeopardize birds in someone’s care.

In the business world, keeping ones personal feelings and agendas at bay and working towards a common ambition is known as professionalism. Because we are individuals, organizations, rescues, whatever we may choose to call ourselves, each will have a somewhat different method. Is being dissimilar so bad? No. Differences can be a strength and a way to extend everyone’s knowledge as long as differences are shared and discussed, with or without an open mind.

The world would be very monotonous if we did not have different ideas and ways of doing things. As long as the birds are receiving the best care, husbandry and bio security possible, now and in the future, and come out the winners, we should celebrate our disputes and use them as learning tools. Shouldn’t that be the goal? Many assumptions are made, putting words into another’s mouth without asking that person or welfare group directly. This is an ineffective communication downfall that results in the community only being pulled apart on a personal level, and does absolutely nothing. Nothing, to help the birds, that everyone professes to care about so deeply.

The birds would do better in our care if we would put our differences aside and work for those we claim to love so much: the birds. The community should not let itself be pulled apart as it has done in the past. The ones who continue to suffer as a result, and whose future remains unclear, are the parrots.

Parrots and Animal Shelters

by Shauna Roberts and special thanks to Kelly Ballance

With the ever growing problem of parrots needing new homes, animal shelters that normally house dogs, cats and rabbits are seeing more parrots. It is extremely important that we all lend a hand if possible,
by contacting shelters and offering them help.

Help can be given in several ways:

  • Offer to be a foster home
  • Offer donations, especially to parrot adoption programs or for specialized avian veterinary care
  • Offer to educate the staff about companion birds and their needs
  • Offer to write a parrot care book that the shelter can provide to adoptive
  • Offer to spend time with parrots, evaluating them, rehabilitating them
    if need be
  • Set up a network of foster homes
  • Donate cages, toys and other items that can either be used or sold for
    donation to raise money
  • Donate food
  • Hold a fundraiser to benefit your local shelter

Too often when one sees “parrot needing home, inquire at animal shelter” we panic. Many shelters have changed drastically from the older shelters and some are even no kill shelters. Instead of jumping to conclusions when seeing that a parrot is in a shelter we need to first inquire about the care, familiarity with and educational level concerning parrots at that shelter instead of ever jumping to conclusions that birds may not being taken care of in a species appropriate manner. Many shelters have changed for the better, so our mindset should change along with them as they improve. If a shelter near you hasn’t changed yet, then perhaps you and others can contact them and start working to help it change for the better.

kona04sThe Oregon Humane Society (OHS) is a wonderful example of how shelters can be an excellent addition to the parrot rehoming community. Once the Oregon Humane Society saw the amounts of surrendered parrots increasing, putting a strain on local avian rescue facilities, they stepped up to the plate to help. Kelly Ballance, Foster Care/Outreach Supervisor oversees parrot adoptions. Parrots surrendered to OHS are vet checked, put into quarantine and kept in foster homes, away from the hustle and bustle of the actual shelter.

” Most animal shelters are not equipped or prepared to meet the needs of anything more exotic than a budgie. We feel fortunate that we have
skilled, experienced foster homes that can adequately care for
surrendered parrots.” says Ballance. “We have had great success in finding excellent homes for our parrots.”

Parrots are posted on their website (as well as PetFinder.org, Yahoo Classifieds, and more) as needing homes but they don’t necessarily go
home with the first applicant. Interested parties fill out adoption
applications, interactions between the bird and adopter is evaluated,
and the potential home is visited being receiving final approval.

little-shadow1sIf all goes well, the adoption is granted with a contract that states that
if for any reason the bird does not work out, it must be returned to OHS. I’m personally very impressed with their program, willingness to learn and to keep learning and network with others (shelters and avian rescue groups, bird clubs). Their objective is to find that special person and home match for each individual bird. Care is taken and as much time as it takes to find the right home for each and every bird who enters their care. They have also done an excellent job of rehabbing some birds before they were willing to find placement.

“We get in the gamut of parrots, from feather pluckers to hormone driven attack birds. I’ve had my ear pierced by a 5 yr. old male U2…see the scar? Every one of our birds is matched up with just the right foster
parent, then just the right home. They’re not kidding when they say the
parrot chooses the person!” Kelly Ballance

When parrots are available for adoption, they can be seen on the OHS
website, under the small animal adoptions section. http://www.oregonhumane.org

If you would like to learn more, please contact:
Kelly Ballance
Foster Care/Outreach Supervisor
The Oregon Humane Society
(503) 416-5025

Mackie Comes Home

by Shauna Roberts

meetmackie2sSome of you may already be familiar with Mackie, a male umbrella cockatoo, age unknown but probably 18-20 years old at this time. Mackie has an extremely sad story with a happy ending. He was truly rescued in 1995 and has known nothing but love since.

While I was planning a fundraiser for the birds at The Gabriel Foundation an idea was discussed, to possibly ask the attending group to sponsor a parrot there. It would have been $10-$20 per person at the most, but with an attendance of 80 people, it would have likely been much less. The crowd just did not feel right to me for sponsorship, so it was not asked. Three possible candidates had been chosen for the group and Mackie was one that I could not get off of my mind. So after the fundraiser, already three years ago, my husband and I decided to sponsor this special boy, we had not met but had stolen my heart.

Mackie came to The Gabriel Foundation in 1995. A call was taken from his original breeder and they were asked if they would take him or otherwise he would be euthanized. Of course The Gabriel Foundation did not want that to happen so Mackie was brought up to the aviary from Ft. Collins, CO area. That is when they heard his sad story.

mackie4sWhen they arrived the aviary staff saw a plucked, mutilating, dispirited and fragile bird. His feathers were ragged, and his chest mostly bald. Mackie,like so many baby cockatoos, had been purchased by a young couple who had very little education about his needs. Mackie spent nearly all of his first couple of years like a cockatumor of the womans body! He was the light of his caretaker’s life and she was the center of his universe.

As time went by, her boyfriend became increasingly irritated and angry at the attention and noise that Mackie generated. This caused bad relationship problems, and Mackie’s life was soon to change. He was no longer the light of his favorite person’s life as she tried to better things with the boyfriend. Mackie was soon moved to the basement. Not understanding the rejection of being moved, he started screaming, very loudly, This time, the screaming began sooner than before. Mackie was eventually banished to live in the bathroom and came out only when the boyfriend was at work or away. The relationship was not a good one, and things grew worse.

Mackie’s screaming became endless, and the boyfriend believed that as the “owner” of the bird, he could punish him as needed. He burned Mackie’s chest and body with cigarettes. Why? Out of sheer frustration? Cruelty? The bird was viewed as his property. It did not do the job, and Mackie continued to scream. In this same home he was sprayed with bleach (possibly thinking that it would help his would heal) but the bleach only made his skin worse. Mackie was mutilating himself by that time. He ended up in a few homes, after the girlfriend feared for his life, eventually making it back to the breeder. She had him back for only a day, and with other baby birds and no place to put Mackie he was in need of someone to literally save his life.

mackiesOnce at The Gabriel Foundation he was given immediate medical care and put in a place where he had human contact, at least within voice range, or eye range at most times in the vet hospital. Due to lack of quarantine space, he went to a volunteer and her pre-teen age daughter. That relationship allowed Mackie some good time, but the family situation changed, and another home was needed. Quarantine was again full, and another volunteer family with just one bird expressed willingness to care for Mackie and their children adored him. That situation lasted about 5 months, until their financial situation changed due to illness. During both foster situations, the Foundation continued to pay for Mackie’s intensive medical care, housing and enrichment. After the second foster home, founder Julie Murad took him into quarantine in her home, as he still needed continued veterinary care, and the aviary staff was hectic due to the aviary relocation and office moves.

Since his arrival in 1996, Mackie has improved greatly and is now a busy, nearly normal cockatoo, who adores his toy box, his hanging stainless steel metal pail, getting the dogs to bark (with a mischievous cockatoo glow in his eye) and doing his dinosaur imitation at a human’s request. He’s an extremely sensitive individual who has a way of picking up a person’s moods and imitating them, as cockatoos do, but like no other cockatoo I have yet to meet. He is a gentle soul, with a bit of broken spirit that seems to surround him in an aura. Amazingly, after all that he has endured, he wants to be with people and seems to have forgiven any wrong doing to him. He was leery of most men but seems to enjoy some as company today. But if a petite brunette young woman appears in Mackie’s vicinity, he will become the biggest, fluffiest and most endearing and handsome male cockatoo that he can be, and will waste no time in his wooing efforts to intimidate her by his grandiosity! Going into instant overload.

After meeting Mackie and returning home, I was calling my dog Mackie, other cockatoos Mackie, and dreaming about Mackie. Even though Mackie is in a wonderful place, it has always been a hope of the foundation staff and Julie that Mackie would have a special home to fulfill his special requirements and where he could chat with other cockatoos.

Mackie’s dear human friend Autumne often had him for play and sleepovers with her adopted cockatoos, and he liked that a lot. At the time I committed to sponsor Mackie I didn’t have room for another umbrella cockatoo but after adding a new large bird room, there is space for Mackie and a large cage. He’ll be arriving soon, on the arm of the one who saved him, who loves him very much and wants to help him settle in. This is a decision that has been 3 years in the making, because it was of utmost importance that any move be a good move for Mackie. Once he arrives, he’ll be in my home forever, in long term foster care, for I can take care of him. I live in a humid area, which is different than the dry CO climate, which may help his skin and feathers. He will also have cockatoos, 3 other male umbie friends (Mackie adores having other male umbrella cockatoos as friends) and a moluccan hen to yell, scream, sing and chat with. My cockatoos function as a small flock and also have an outdoor screened aviary, going outside every day the weather allows. I think Mackie will be happy, the Foundation will be happy and I will certainly do my best, loving that boy with all my heart. Stay tuned for further updates.


by Charise Mixa

MiriammesI am an active volunteer for The Gabriel Foundation® (TGF), “a 501© (3) nonprofit corporation promoting education, conservation, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and sanctuary for the needs of parrots everywhere.” (www.thegabrielfoundation.org) Like any non-profit organization, TGF relies heavily on donations and volunteer help. And just like any other non-profit organization, volunteer help is sometimes at a premium. I live approximately 4 hours from TGF, and try to visit once a month for 3-4 days, helping in any capacity I can. This may be filing paperwork, straightening, cleaning, helping with beak and nail trims, making food for the birds, or sometimes (and my personal favorite) just playing with the birds and giving them quality one-on-one attention. When TGF holds a symposium, fund-raiser or educational event, I will try to schedule my time off so that I might help. But not everyone has a flexible enough schedule that they can devote so much time to a volunteer task. And, sometimes with the long drive, and a conflicting work schedule, this is just not feasible for me either. As much as we’d like to volunteer more of our time, the “stuff” of our lives, jobs, home, family, are always in the forefront.

What is a volunteer?

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a volunteer is “a person who performs or offers a service of his or her own free will.” Although this definition is completely and totally accurate, what this dictionary fails to mention is that a volunteer not only performs these services of free will, but regularly there is no monetary gain for these services. Volunteers must often times rely on spiritual and emotional rewards for giving of themselves so selflessly.

Some special people I’ve met while volunteering for TGF:

Autumne McDonough has been associated with TGF for several years now. She is a kind and giving woman, and children and animals alike are drawn to her warm smile. She has helped, extensively, with the Basalt Bird Brains, a course taught to children at the local school. In class, children are educated about parrots, their habitat, social and nutritional needs, and are offered a wide variety of fun and enriching tasks, like making bird toys, drawing pictures, making cards with bird feathers, etc. Autumne is a loving and artistic spirit, and has taken in several wayward Cockatoos and helped them learn independence and social structure. Basically, she has taught them how to be birds, while still maintaining a strong human-animal bond. Autumne has, on several occasions, taken books to TGF and read to the aviary birds. “It may be a dry read, like How to Properly Assemble a Lawn Mower, but she reads it like the most dramatic children’s book, with facial expression, tonal variations, and hand gestures. It’s very engaging, and the birds love it. Some parrots watch her, fixated, as if waiting for the final climactic ending when she reads: ‘and THEN you’re READY to MOW YOUR LAWN! TA DAH!!!’ while other parrots chime in, some squawking in delight, or talking along, forming sentences that only the birds themselves can understand.” Regardless, you can tell that they, Autumne and the birds alike, thoroughly enjoy the readings.

CindyMackie1sCindy Engler lives as far from TGF as I do. She makes the trip to TGF several times a year, and usually stays for a couple of days. She also tries to attend as many educational and fund-raising events as her schedule will permit. She is a woman with a quiet wisdom. Like any avid parrot person, she absolutely loves to give the aviary birds one-on-one attention. “The birds, especially cockatoos, Eclectus and Greys, respond exceptionally well to her. And the nice thing about Cindy is she knows her way around the aviary, and knows what needs to be done. So many times the staff are busy, and Cindy just makes herself to home, checking the parrots’ toys for safety and replacing old, worn toys.” She helps with beak and nail trims, fearlessly holding some of the more aggressive, large Macaws. And she has an inner strength and conviction that one could easily covet.

louisindisLouis Beck isn’t a formal volunteer, but he does give his time in a very generous way. Several times a month, and for no money, Louis brings his guitar and plays music for the birds. “I have done it for species varying from Budgies to Macaws and they all seem to like it. Many begin to dance and pinpoint their eyes at me. Many very docile birds will become animated when I begin playing, then try to sing along.” Louis recently began playing his guitar for a Blue & Gold Macaw named Maxine. Maxine, until that point, had not allowed hardly any human contact and was fairly aggressive. But within two visits, Maxine was stepping up for Louis, and several visits later, the two, Louis and Maxine, have really bonded. “I believe she opened up initially because she had so much fun with the music.”

shaunasAnd then there’s Shauna Roberts, an offsite volunteer. Shauna is a kind and honest woman, and I’ve never heard her speak ill of anyone. I first met Shauna at the “Parrots in the New Millennium” symposium in San Diego. I had never met a person so dedicated to a cause than she. She worked tirelessly during that event, ensuring that the auctions were all organized correctly. And for those of you that have been to a TGF auction, you know what a humongous task this is. And when she’s not volunteering at a TGF event, she’s holding fund-raising events for TGF in her hometown, which typically brings in thousands of dollars per event. She hosts a TGF booth at all the animal related events in her area, passing out TGF information, answering parrot questions and answering questions such as how to start a 501©3. She is has been asked by TGF to contact and offer support to people whose birds have PDD or people with bird related questions or problems in her area. She is also the person on the forefront of information, e-mailing us parrot related updates religiously, like the recent Exotic Newcastle’s and West Nile Virus updates. And if that’s not enough, Shauna paints beautiful works of art, and all the proceeds are donated to TGF. (http://home.pacifier.com/~birdart/galah/paintings.html)
More than just a “job”

Working closely with The Gabriel Foundation®, and using the above definition of “volunteer” as a guide, I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that even some of the paid employees of The Gabriel Foundation® are loyal volunteers as well.

4-red-birdssTammy Murphy is The Gabriel Foundation® Adoption Coordinator, and travels approximately 3 hours round trip to work at TGF with the birds. During her “off-time” she communicates with scores of people, helping with bird-related problems, for free. Normally, Tammy works 3 days a week, but routinely puts in a 40+ hour week, “e-mailing and talking to people about the birds they have adopted from us.” But her dedication doesn’t stop at the people that need help with their birds. The birds, you’ll find, are Tammy’s number one priority. Tammy is a gentle and healing spirit, and will do whatever it takes to both nurture and nurse a sick bird back to health, or be with it when it passes, so that it is surrounded with love. “Tammy spent hours and days with Captain after his stroke, (please read Captain’s story) http://www.thegabrielfoundation.org/HTML/birdofthemonth.cfm?heading_id=30 hand feeding him and caring for him for no extra pay.” She fed him around the clock, as if he were still a chick, warming his hand-feeding formula to that “just right” temperature, adding good quality, wholesome ingredients so that he might put weight on his skeletal body. She cleaned his vent and beak, worked his atrophied muscles, kept him warm, and concocted perches that he would be able to use with his limited mobility. Her dedication to this wonderful parrot is monumental. If you were to meet Captain today, you would never guess that he had suffered a stroke, came within inches of losing his life, and was paralyzed. She has truly given him a new lease on life.

Rick8greyssThen there’s Rick Van Tuyl, The Gabriel Foundation® Aviary Manager. When he was first hired on as a part-time employee, he routinely would come in during his days off and clean up around the aviary. “I tore down the old poultry flight behind the aviary and tidied things up on my time off.” Now, even though he’s a full-time employee, his dedication still shows no limits. He routinely, every morning around 7:30 am, whether he’s on the clock or not, makes his trek to the local market and collects fruits and veggies that would normally be thrown away due to expiration date. This food is still in good and edible condition, and is inspected by Rick before it is cleaned and chopped and fed to the birds. By doing this, every day, he has saved TGF around $200 a week in food bills. On several occasions he goes to work on his “off-time” to complete paperwork, write articles for the web-site, bring foster birds out for much needed sunshine and exercise in the outdoor flights, attend meetings, and the list goes on and on. Rick is a gentle and honest soul. He is also the TGF’s resident African Grey magnet. Because of his kind and caring demeanor, he has been able to take phobic Greys into his care, and nurture them. (Please see Wally’s store) http://www.thegabrielfoundation.org/HTML/birdofthemonth.cfm?heading_id=5 “They trust him, implicitly, just like any human would. He has a heart as big as Montana, and when you meet Rick, you know that you can trust him as well–just like the Greys know.” He has 10 TGF birds in his care, at his home, so in essence, when he “punches out” and heads for home, his day is just beginning. “But”, Rick insists, “I would not have it any other way.” Rick is certainly a dedicated and loyal employee.

In an era of success based on financial gain, why do we find ourselves so giving of our time without pay, or extra pay? By giving in a selfless way, I think we gain a spiritual and emotional reward. To look into those little parrot faces, and know that your small actions have made a difference, well, that’s payment enough.

How can you help?

Many people just cannot take the time to volunteer at the organization of their choice. But we don’t have to give time to make a difference. We can save our change and at the end of the month, cash it in and donate it. We can give up a candy bar or cigarettes, and use that extra money as a donation. We can hold a garage or bake sale, and donate the proceeds. And the most powerful action we can take? –We can speak! We can speak out on issues that we feel really passionate about. Is it the destruction of the environment, or reduction of habitat for wild species that makes your blood boil? Is it animal welfare, or vegetarianism that drives us? Then tell someone. Everything we do creates a ripple from which other actions are effected. If we can connect with one person, who in turn, can connect with one more person, and they in turn connect with another person, then even the tiniest of our voices can be heard far and wide. Each one of us CAN make a difference!

Exotic Newcastle’s Disease and Rehoming BirdsBy Shauna Roberts

Since the outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease many things have changed, including rehoming or accepting birds into welfare facilities. Birds that are in quarantined States, cannot or should not be accepted by facilities outside of the quarantined areas, for the safety of their present aviary birds. Also birds that are not currently in quarantine areas, should not be adopted to homes or aviaries that are under quarantine. Exotic New Castle Disease (END) is a very serious disease that is threatening poultry business and is also fatal to parrots.

For END updates bookmark http://www.cocka2.com/newcastle/

Current states that have counties under quarantine for END are California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
Bird Care in the Netherlands

Living with parrots and other birds is different around the world. In the last issue of the Holistic Bird Newsletter, Vanessa Rolf, DVM, discussed some of those differences that are in Japan, this issue we’ll take a look at someone in the Netherlands who is making a difference.

Parrot Walk Incentive

Dr. Jan Hooimeijer DVM. has taken a proactive role in his clients education and uses a “Parrot Walk” as reward and incentive for education about parrot care. The Parrot Walk takes place in the Netherlands once a year in a beautiful park and is for clients and patients only and only those who take part in learning and doing what is best for their birds during the year.

Dr. Hooimeijer feels that parrots need to have time outdoors and be part of their families on a regular basis and not just a caged pet bird. The walk is a wonderful way to get everyone outside and involved. It is also a chance for parrot caregivers to network with each other, sharing enrichment ideas and making new friends. During the Parrot Walk, companion birds are found riding bikes and walking with their committed caregivers.


Dr. Hooimeijer not only teaches clients about parrot requirements, how to keep a parrot healthy, and how to enrich their environment but he also is very involved in parrot welfare. He also has been a speaker at AAV and other national conventions to teach, share and exchange ideas.

Anyone making an appointment with Dr. Hooimeijer for their parrot will first watch a video on care and see pictures of happy parrots interacting with family members. They’ll then be able to ask and discuss their questions with the doctor, such as what to expect of their parrot and how to best care for it. With involved veterinarians such as Jan Hooimeijer, it is more likely the parrots in his care will remain in their homes rather than being placed in new ones.