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If you are like me this holiday season, you do a lot of shopping online. I love using amazon.com to buy my gifts because I can shop around for the lowest price and take advantage of Amazon Prime’s 2 day shipping. If free two day shipping isn’t reason enough to do your shopping online, what about a free charitable donation to sweeten the pot? Amazon Smile – smile.amazon.com is a part of Amazon.com that donates a portion of your entire order cost to the nonprofit organization of your choice. There are a lot of great avian nonprofits that are in the Smile system, which makes it easy to stretch the holiday cheer a bit farther with the click of a button. To get started, go to smile.amazon.com and search for the nonprofit you wish to support. For your convenience I’ve compiled a list of avian nonprofits that are currently within the Smile network.

  • Parrot Outreach Society Inc
  • Parrots International
  • World Parrot Trust Usa Inc
  • Feathered Friends Parrot Adoption Services Inc.
  • Lucky Parrot Refugee & Sanctuary Inc
  • Parrot Education Project
  • Parrot Toy Angels
  • Chloe Sanctuary For Parrots And Cockatoos
  • Parrots R 4ever Avian Rescue And Sanctuary Inc
  • Priceless Parrot Preserve Inc
  • Wilson Parrot Foundation Inc
  • Association For Parrot Care Conservation Adoptions Rescue
  • Dees Haven
  • Amigos De Las Aves Usa
  • Miss Vickis Parrot Village
  • Parrots First
  • Soft Landings Parrot Rescue Inc
  • Companion Parrots Re-Homed
  • Safe Haven Parrot Sanctuary Inc
  • Parrot Guardian
  • Parrot Rescue Services
  • Parrot Enhancement And Adoption Program
  • The Quad Cities Parrot Society
  • Parrot Educ & Adoption Ctr
  • Parrot Hope Rescue
  • Real Macaw Parrot Club
  • World Parrot Mission Inc
  • Endangered Parrot Trust Inc
  • Long Island Parrot Society Of New York
  • Olive Branch Parrot Rescue Inc
  • Parrots As Pets Rescue
  • Parrot Adoption Education Program
  • Iowa Parrot Rescue
  • Capital Region Parrot Society Inc
  • Parrot Rescue Inc
  • Parrot Fanciers Club IncParrots At Play Corporation
  • Echoes Of The Forest Parrot Sancturay Inc
  • Gingers Parrots Inc
  • Pattys Parrot Palace
  • People Insuring Parrots Surival – Pips
  • H A P P E Parrots
  • Black Hills Parrot Welfare And Education Center
  • Connecticut Parrot Society Inc
  • Parrots Of The Hills Bird Club
  • Cali Fid Parrot & Exotics Rescue Sanctuary
  • National Parrot Rescue And Preservation Foundation
  • Pinellas Suncoast Parrot Sanctuary Inc
  • Southern Nevada Parrot Educationrescue & Rehoming Society
  • Feathered Friends Of Michigan Parrot Rescue
  • A Place To Call Home Parrots Rescue Nfp
  • Welcome To Birdland Parrots For Life
  • Parrot Adoption And Rescue Resource Of The South Inc
  • Colorado Parrot Rescue Inc
  • Ziggys Haven Bird Sanctuary, Inc.
  • Phoenix Landing Foundation
  • Project Perry
  • Under My Wing Avian Refuge
  • The Gabriel Foundation
  • Feather To Feather Inc
  • Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services, Inc.
  • Peartree Avian Sanctuary
  • Jojo The Grey Adoption And Rescue For Birds
  • Center For Avian Adoption Rescue And Education
  • Melbourne Avian Rescue Sanctuary
  • Uncle Sandys Macaw Bird Park Corporation
  • Noah’s Ark Rehabilitation Center, Inc.
  • Oasis Sanctuary Foundation, Ltd.
  • Feathered Friends Forever Refuge/Rescue Inc.
  • The Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary
  • Burge Bird Rescue
  • Macaw Rescue Incorporated
  • Spirit Of The Hills Wildlife Sanctuary A Non Profit Sd Corp
  • Free Flight
  • Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue
  • Knapptime Adoption Rescue And Education
  • Florida West Coast Avian Society

So go get that shopping done and support an avian organization at the same time. If you are aware of a parrot related nonprofit that does not appear in the list above, please let me know by leaving the name of the organization in the comments. Thanks!

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DSC_0714When we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.

Emily: Can you tell us the background story of how The Lily Sanctuary came to be?

Venette: Over 20 years ago my husband talked me into visiting a bird store where he had been spending time after work.  All the huge birds scared me to death, but he led me through the welcoming party to an area in the back that had baby macaws and cockatoos.  I didn’t even know the difference between a macaw and a cockatoo, I just knew they were so ugly they were adorable..
He said he REALLY wanted to get one and  had already chosen one of the macaws.  We visited often and I seemed to spend more time with the little white one (umbrella cockatoo).  So he bought it for me.  We named them Lucy and Lily.

One day we got a devastating phone call from the vet who came around the store regularly to check all the birds–Lily tested positive for PBFD (psittacine beak and feather disease) and she had to be put down.  He agreed to retest and wait a week;  we took a crash course in tube feeding babies and took her home for the best week of her life.  When the week passed, what to do?. We weren’t going to return her to be killed and pick out another bird.The vet stepped in and told us that if we wanted to try, he would work with us with medicine (experimental  Interferon) and he was wonderful.  Never charged us a dime.  He, like us, wanted to see Lily make it.

We were the typical couple that we would NEVER adopt to now. (unless they were willing to educate themselves, read, and attend a class)  We didn’t know anything about birds.  My husband knew a little, but basically we were utterly stupid.  The bird store did not supply any information.  So of course we did a lot of things wrong, but fortunately over the years our love for parrots created a thirst for knowledge of these wonderful creatures and we became pretty good with them.  Apparently the word was getting out and the parrots were coming in.  We were forced to move out and landed in Orange County.  More space, more birds.

Our intention was never to hoard, but that is how it appeared.  We were providing medical care and working with birds that were formerly considered monsters; we were a complete rehab center with only the two of us!  That’s when the idea came that if we formed a non-profit we could hook up with the best of the best bird people and use our collective knowledge and talents to help these precious birds.  The name was a no-brainer.  Lily was a miracle and we wanted to honor her and share the miracles, which we have.  From an expected life span of one week, Lily was with us for 21 Years.

Emily: You run your rescue from your personal residence = can you tell the readers the challenges that come with a home based facility?

Venette:  “Challenge” is the perfect word. After 11 years of being a recognized non-profit and able to have volunteers, our house has basically not been ours. It’s an open-door circus. We not only have volunteers in and out, but prospective volunteers touring, prospective adopters meeting with our Adoption Coordinator and others further along in the program coming back to visit with their intended adoptee; birds coming in, birds going out… The lack of privacy is the first thing to go, and that’s a tough one. Things don’t get put away where they should be, or just don’t get put away. We basically have no control over our household. Occasionally we have volunteer BBQ’s outside which allow the Monday volunteers to meet the Saturday vols,, etc. and everyone gets to play with birds. That, however, is the sum and substance of our social life at home. We cannot entertain, birds are in every room and they scream when we have company. We gave up the dining room table for more cages so there isn’t any place to either serve or eat. Our families just don’t come over, they can’t take the noise, so our lives are intertwined with our own kind: Bird People.

Of course we are with the birds 24/7 so we are aware and responsible for anything that happens when volunteers aren’t here. Covering, uncovering, many a disaster either averted or resulting in a 3:00 am trip to the 24 hour emergency, trying to lip-read the actors on tv programs.

Emily: One of the birds that I met during the tour, Tito, has passed away. I know he was one of your long term residents – an you tell us more about Tito and his legacy?

Venette: Tito was a special needs nanday conure. He was missing the tips of most of his toes (primarily from close encounters with another bird) and his lower mandible (beak) had been torn away by his buddy, a blue front amazon parrot. His owner had passed away and her husband could not continue caring for the birds (no wonder, there was also a moluccan involved) so they came to us. Tito was a sweet, messed up looking little boy whose lower beak had grown out as a lethal scissorish thing and he loved to pull himself up and fluff as though he was a gorilla and chomp your finger. It didn’t hurt a bit so we told him he was huge and awesome and then kiss his head. He was adopted out twice, both times to people who specifically signed on for a special needs bird and he was returned both times. It was nothing he did, parront life issues..

In the last couple of years he hooked up with a female nanday we named Zipper. She looked like she’d been run over by a lawnmower and rightly so—she was found in the wheelwell of a car and brought to us. Zipper fell in love with Tito and his life was never again his own. She was bossy, needy, co-dependent and the worst kind of overprotective. We let them play together outdoors in one aviary where she only had a few hours to preen him to baldness. Indoors we partitioned the cage to save his sanity.

He passed away suddenly as he was about to be groomed. Grooming (in-house) was not something that normally stressed him, his little heart just gave out. My personal opinion is that he seriously needed space from Zipper. He passed in my hands with love and kisses, and our two volunteers who were grooming also got to send him off with love. We had him about 15 years and he was approximately 10 when we got him. He was so dear. Zipper was devastated to thepoint of manic sessions that were pathetic. Another volunteer with a small bird took him home and he immediately transferred his needs. He is happy.

I’m sad to report that since your visit, within a few weeks of Tito’s death, we lost our beautiful calico macaw, Ms. Bogie. She was loved far and wide, from fans all over the world. Ms. B. went to all our events and was the star whenever we did photos of people with our birds. She was stunning and sweet as she was beautiful. It was a complete shock, within 2 hours after coming inside from hanging out in her outdoor aviary she was gone. She was very young, early twenties.

The necropsy revealed athersclerosis, which could have been going on for years and macaw pulmonary issues. That one really surprised us, we felt she was in the most optimum area of the macaw room, maximum fresh air circulation. She is dearly missed and will always be.

I know you met Roger, our sanctuary cat. An orange tabby—all Watch Cats with bizarre personalities are orange tabbies—Roger knew everyone in the neighborhood and met everyone who entered the sanctuary. Even if they only went as far as the front lawn, he was on their chest grinning like a Cheshire cat before they even got to meet a bird. We lost Roger too. It wasn’t a surprise, but the sadness is just as deep. He had multiple health issues that we treated but it only
works for so long. His bi-polar issues we just had to live with but it was part of his charm.Obviously having a large number of animals increases the chances, the frequency, of enduring the pain of loss. But we have to remember what they brought to us, not the void left behind.

Emily: If you could tell our readers one thing about bird ownership, what would it be?

Venette: Ask a bird owner that question and 99.9% of them will say, “Don’t get a bird”. It isn’t because they don’t love their bird, but because a bird owner has to almost pledge their life away. Willingly. I’m going to skip the myriad reasons because I’m sure you’re covering it over and over (if not, let me know, I’ll write a new blurb…).  But “don’t get one”? Pretty harsh. Sharing one’s life with a companion bird is the most astonishingly fulfilling thing I can imagine. I love all animals—adore, even—but birds? OMG, I think about one or two or 10 of our birds and my heart melts. They are amazing. So here is my nugget: “It is an honor to be chosen by a bird.”

Venette Hill

Executive Director, The Lily Sanctuary



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944623_528041890594866_368229719_nWhen we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.



Emily: You are a state licensed non profit – can you tell readers the difference between state and federal non profits?

Anna: It is very important for folks to understand that the term “non-profit” is a type of organization or business and “tax-exempt” (sometimes misrepresented as a “federal non profit”) often refers to organization’s status.  A non profit can have a tax exempt status but it does not have to in order to be a valid non profit.  A non-profit is a category of business, primarily applied for and granted on the state level.  Just as any business would file a valid business under a specific category, we have filed with the state of New Mexico as a “not for profit corporation.”  You may notice the abbreviations LLC (limited liability corporation) or INC (Incorporated) following the name of a specific business.  Like these, all valid businesses must file under a category that best describes it within the state that it is operating in, including those who wish to operate as any non profit organization. Filing for the status of state “not for profit corporation” is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a business that has filed with the state that it resides in as an organization that does not have an objective to make profit from it’s work and (in some cases) cannot claim any employees on a payroll.

If there is no profit being made and none of the employees are paid, as is the case with our organization, it often ends up that state or federal taxes are not owed even if the organization is not really “tax exempt” simply because the business spent more than it was able to make in a year, which is often the case with small, privately funded not for profit organizations.  The organization must still file taxes as any other profitable business might do and if profit is made, the business must a) put those funds directly back into the organization and b) could then owe taxes on the earnings of the business.  The major difference between a non profit (which happens on a state level and is the first step to seeking federal tax exempt status that is granted through the IRS, not the federal government) and having a valid federally tax exempt status (such as the infamous 501(c)3 tax exemption) is that a non profit without tax exempt status cannot write receipts to give to generous donors who wish to enjoy filing a tax write off on their personal taxes. An organization with tax exempt status may function almost identically to it’s non tax exempt brother, but it has the advantage to advertise as being tax exempt.

There are some other advantages and disadvantages to holding each status, such as less stringent rules regarding the way in which a “regular” non profit is allowed to raise funds vs. the appeal a federally tax exempt organization may have on those who are looking to donate a particularly large sum of money in order to receive their federal tax write off.  What folks may not know, and may be shocked to know is that “non profits” are first born on a state level.  A tax exempt status is not it’s own unique non profit organization.  It is simply a non profit organization with an extra tool to help it along. Those seeking to achieve a federal tax exempt status or a federal Charity status must establish their business as a state non profit organization first, before they can benefit from those other statuses on a federal level.  So when you ask what the difference is between a state and federal non profit, the answer is that non profit organizations are born at a state level and are given tools at a federal level that can further their success.

Emily:  While you are a rescue based from the home, your birds are housed in their own area on your property. Can you tell readers a bit about that and the benefits it offers?

Anna: I have always tried to encourage others and have been encouraged myself by the concept that we must do the very best we can with what we have.  For many years, my passion has been rescuing parrots of all sizes, inviting them into my home, loving them like they were my own, and tearfully but confidently sending them back out into the world when they were ready and the time was right.  Our journey with the parrots has been a wonderful one, though keeping our dreams alive has not always been easy and rescuing has presented us with many challenges as well as joys.  As the rescue grew in popularity, so it grew in numbers and so space in our home became limited.  At times, we were not prepared for the numbers of birds that needed our help, but in order to save lives, we would take them in and share our personal space with them if there was not enough room in designated bird areas, practicing quarantine in a bedroom or with our vet, or having outside families keep new arrivals until we could ensure good health.

This worked for a time, but sharing your own space with not one or two or even twenty, but more like forty to fifty chattering feathered friends, with no place left for quiet time to be inside your own head, certainly takes it’s toll on the most well meaning of people after so many years.  We love our birds and the crucial work that we do, but could not help rising tensions in the Sloan household with two frazzled parents and two young children.  We realized that the rescue would either have to stretch it’s wings or we would have to think about helping fewer birds for the sake of our own sanity and the health of our family. Without a significant increase of financial support, building a facility seemed a far stretch.  Still, I was determined to find a way and was elated when I came out of the bank one afternoon with a personal loan that would make the dream a reality for us and the rescue within a few short months.

Our birds were able to move in to their brand new 400sq foot, heated, cooled, insulated, painted, tiled facility (which is located on our property, behind the house) this past February and it was a celebration for all.  We found ourselves wanting to spend more time out with the birds, laughing and singing, passing out toys and treats, encouraging out of cage flight time, etc. instead of wanting to run away from the noise we had previously been so overwhelmed by.  The birds noticed a huge difference too!  There is no pressure for them to be quiet during certain hours and they have the ability to mingle with other species that are similar to them, freely, with supervision.  They are far less crowded and seem to have a real sense of ownership over the place.  It is easy to keep clean and the air is cleaner.  With the construction of the building, we have been able to completely separate new world and old world species, with macaws, amazons, and conures enjoying their new bird “house” while the cockatoo species remain in the old dedicated aviary that is private and soundproofed, but still attached by double sets of doors to our home.

I would have to say that the greatest benefits are that we are able to now have a quarantine room that is truly on a separate air system from all of the other healthy birds, that the birds can be free to be birds, no matter where their cages are located here at the rescue, without affecting family activities, and that we can still hear the birds softly from inside the house and can still check on them any time, day or night.  We have really combined the benefits of having a dedicated facility with having an in home rescue where the birds will never be locked up and left after business hours are over.  Volunteers can spend hours out with the birds without feeling like they are imposing on our family time and everyone wins!  We will likely continue to pay our new facility off, small amounts at a time, month by month but in our minds, the decision has already paid off!

Emily: Does being based in New Mexico offer any unique challenges? I’m not sure if the general public is aware there is a population of bird owners in the state.

Anna: Something that many people may not realize is that Albuquerque, New Mexico is one of the largest growing cities in the United States.  On top of that, New Mexico is a bordering state of Mexico, where legally and illegally smuggled parrots were (and still are) brought over the border for years and years.  New Mexico has a very small, and somewhat disjointed number of bird enthusiasts who are mostly older folks who have an outdated way of caring for pet and breeding birds.  Several clubs have come, struggled and gone as politics always seem to get in the way of the goals to educate.  In this regard, although many people in the state have pet birds, a much smaller number of residents seems to have an adequate grasp on proper avian care, compared to other states, and those that do mostly keep to themselves for fear of offending someone who may disagree with their ideas.

There are a staggering number of families who own birds and nothing ties them together.  They are completely on their own with only a few resources in their community, if they are lucky enough to find them.  By the time many families realize that we are here and an active resource for them, they have lived with their bird’s frustrating behavior with no solution for so many years, they just feel burnt out.  New Mexico is not well known as a breeding state for parrots and in fact, there are very few serious breeders here but there were a number of larger breeders (mostly of cockatoos) residing here one or two decades ago and because birds live so long, their stock is still prolific in the state.  Hobbyist breeders seem to pop up here and there and many of the local pet stores do carry various species of birds, but what we have seen more frequently as a rescue, is that these birds are absolutely saturating the state from families who have moved here from other states and now can no longer care for their bird.

Additionally, the state seems unusually saturated with elderly wild caught birds in their 30’s and 40’s and that makes our job of placing birds with new families much more difficult. At the moment, approximately half of our adoptable birds are seniors, many with health complaints or special needs.  They will not be easy to place.  New Mexico is my homeland and I am proud to live here, but certainly the state has some exceptional challenges to offer an avian enthusiast.  Did you know that the state of New Mexico is the 3rd most impoverished state in the nation? Furthermore it has proven year after year to be one of the weakest states as far as education of it’s children.  These may just be statistics for some, but they are statistics that we see and feel every day when working with the people in our state.  Drumming up donations can be difficult when well meaning supporters or potential adopters just don’t have the money to help, when volunteers must learn from scratch, and when applying families don’t want to learn new things about avian care.

On the flip side of the coin, this makes us extra grateful and extra proud of those successes we have.  When we are able to secure good, knowledgeable, loving homes for our birds, or educate a stranger, or when we meet a stranger who is already well versed and enthusiastic about avian care, when we see our volunteers advancing into wonderfully well educated advocates for the birds, we are very, very proud.  We often solicit the majority of donations from out of state and this helps to keep us afloat.  We are dreaming of a day when there are enough well educated enthusiasts here to really give us a boost with the critical work we do but for now, we are trying in whatever ways we can to be that voice for our feathered friends AND their families.

Emily:  If you could do one thing differently in regards to bird rescue, what would it be?<

Anna: There is one thing that I often think about and would love to change as a rescuer, if only I found the right resource. As it is now, I am the director of the rescue.  As the director, it is my job to to do any job that is not filled in by a volunteer that day or that week or that month.  I feed, I water, I vet, I chop and pass out fresh food, I bathe, I clean and scrub, I sweep, I mop, I sing, I play games, I medicate, I am an expert pin feather crumbling device.

These are all the things one might think of when they think of managing a parrot rescue, however, there is a completely opposite side to that coin which includes screening families, giving tours, soliciting public donations, meeting with the media, record keeping, tax filing, filling out and signing forms, balancing bank accounts and allocating funds, paying bills and ordering supplies, education, behavioral consults, grooming, answering e-mails and facebook posts, returning phone calls, responding to emergencies, and the list goes on and on.  I am often embarrassed and ashamed that I can only do so much before I burn out or before the day is done!  I have a wonderful team of volunteers who help with socializing, cleaning, changing waters, etc. but it would be a dream come true to find someone with a passion for administrative work so that I could put a more focused effort into educating the families that come to tour the rescue, who want to adopt, and the general public. If I could have started with someone on our team to help with these things a decade ago, I believe we could have accomplished even more than what we have done.

My heart always goes out to those “home based” rescue groups who are primarily a family run organization.  We have been very blessed with an increasing number of folks who want to help support us by volunteering, but the moment I find someone really good to help me take over the administrative side of things, who has a heart for volunteer work, life as a rescuer will seem much more complete!

Emily:  Any final thoughts or words of advice or encouragement to readers?

Anna: So often in my line of work I come across families and individuals who are discouraged and frustrated.  Bird keeping is not what they expected it to be at times and it is difficult to understand.  Perhaps their bird is doing something unhealthy and they are afraid they have let their feathered friend down.  Perhaps they are not good enough to keep a bird happy and healthy?  Many of the most wonderful people I have met in this world are bird people, and every single one of them have one significant thing in common.  No one is perfect and we are all learning! Working with these delightfully intelligent, thoroughly complex wild animals in the confines of our homes is a challenge for every one of us, whether rescuer, breeder, enthusiast, empty-nester, single individual, expert or new beginner.

Be creative with how you approach your bird and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things to entertain your bird, to reduce repetitive screaming, to ensure that your bond stays strong with your bird for years to come.  Always foster an attitude of curiosity and let your bird teach you what he wants and needs!  Let him tell you what he needs instead of giving him what you think he needs and don’t forget to make sure your needs are being met also!  Focus on all of the many positive things you have been able to do for your bird and he has been able to do for you, instead of the one or two things that aren’t going the way you planned.  A huge thank you to every single person out there who has ever considered giving new hope to a second hand bird!

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Sharman Hoppes, president of AAV with Gulliver

The Association of Avian Veterinarians invited me to speak at their 2013 conference this August, after hearing about The Roaming Parrot and what we are trying to accomplish. Being able to present anywhere is a gift, and being asked to give a presentation to a group of professional avian veterinarians was an honor. So about a week after I arrived home back from the first Roaming Parrot trip, I hopped a plane to Jacksonville, Florida.

I am very serious about the future of The Roaming Parrot, and I consider any opportunity to get the word out there a great blessing. I was extremely nervous when I checked into the hotel and spent the night perfecting my presentation. I woke up extremely early the next morning to load up on caffeine and went to check into the convention. The first thing I saw getting off the elevator and headed to the registration booth was a group of teenage girls wandering around, with Justin Bieber’s face plastered on their fronts. What on earth? Word through the grapevine travels quickly and I learned that the famous pop star was performing in the city that night, and was staying at this very hotel. Wonderful. Not only did I have to present myself and this project to a convention full of people I didn’t know, but I had to push through throngs of ‘Beliebers’ as well. Thankfully, the fans dissipated once they realized Justin Bieber was not hanging around a bunch of avian vets.

My presentation was at 10:45, and by 9 am I was shaking. I attended a few other the other lectures, and then willed my nerves to calm down so I could climb the stage and talk without trembling. 10 minutes before I was supposed to present, my laptop died – gasp. Thankfully the sound crew that was recording the convention let me hook up a flash drive to their macbook and all was well.

As I climbed up on the stage, I decided that I should try to find someone in the crowd that I knew, and pretend I was talking to them about the trip. Better then picturing the audience naked, because I couldn’t burst into awkward laughter that way. As I started talking and forced myself to be comfortable with the microphone and the clicker, I was scanning the crowd for anyone that I might know. Looking around, the first person I saw was my very own avian vet, who I had no idea would be here. GULP.

I quickly looked around again, trying to find someone else that I could comfortably talk at, and noticed someone familiar looking towards the back. Who was that? I think.. is that… no, it can’t be. It was Ted Lafeber, of Lafeber Company. That threw me for a loop and I started to lose my train of thought as I continued, more desperately now, looking for someone I knew. My knees were trembling a bit, and then in the back I saw someone else – Barbara Heidenreich. I quickly stuttered to a stop, took a deep breathe, regrouped and started my sentence over again. After that I zeroed in on my slideshow.

aav-registration-trpAfter running through an outline of The Roaming Parrot mission and goals, I showed a few photographic examples of some facilities visited. I followed that with data gathered on the trip that would be of relevance to avian veterinarians, and then wrapped up with explaining long term goals and how TRP will continue on. During one part of my speech when I talked about networking and  building bridges instead of burning them, one person towards the front enthusiastically started clapping. I can’t tell you what a relief that was to have some immediate and positive feedback.

Once I finished my presentation, I was able to talk with Ted, Barbara, my vet, and many more people who were interested and enthusiastic about what The Roaming Parrot Project is aiming to accomplish. I got some fantastic feedback from people who attended my presentation (including Dr. Lafeber and Barbara) and were wanting to learn more, and get involved. I made some fantastic contacts and connections that I hope to use in building the future of The Roaming Parrot.

The convention ended and I flew back where I immediately turned around to go to the American Federation of Aviculture’s Annual Convention in Raleigh. That’s another post, however. Now that both of these conventions are done and I have some time to sit down and really take care of business without having to squeeze work in-between travel, expect a lot more coming from The Roaming Parrot!

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DSC_0489When we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.

Emily: Best Friends is located in Kanab Utah, a fairly small town not directly close to any large city. What do you do to offset the unique challenge that this offers for adoptions?

Jaqueline: Because we are so remote we do not limit our adoptions to a specific geographical area.  We have adopted birds to people from California to Maine, and even into Canada.  Because we have Best Friends Animal Society members all over North America, it is easy for us to arrange a home visit in any community.

Emily: When answering my question about number of yearly adoptions and adoptions for a five year period, you also gave additional information about the dramatic increase in the number of adoptions that has happened in recent years. Can you tell readers about that?

Jaqueline: The fact is that a person can walk into a pet store and buy any bird they can afford without worrying about proper diet, husbandry or enrichment. If we treat potential adopters with distrust or judgement, we are driving them to just go purchase a bird.  When an adopter comes to the sanctuary to meet the birds it is our job to assess where they are at regarding parrot care knowledge, and then educate to get them where we would like them to be.  Bottom line – we want to adopt to people who want to adopt from us.  They have spent a lot of money and time getting here to meet the birds.  It is our job to prepare them to adopt.  Because we do constant follow-ups we can use that as an opportunity to continue educating adopters. And we make ourselves available for any question, any time.

Emily: A reader has a question about the No More Homeless Pets Campaign – she says “Hi my avian rescue is a part of the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network but it seems to be geared towards cats and dogs. How can our birds benefit from this partnership?”

Jaqueline: While Best Friends works, on some level, with many different animal species, our primary focus is on cats and dogs, since they make up the vast majority of animals dying in shelters. The opportunity for birds to benefit is to take the targeted thinking, the messaging strategies, the need for data and measurement etc and apply them to your understanding of what leads to bird homelessness.

Emily: Best Friends staff does a lot of continuing education. Can you offer some ideas for smaller rescues that want to keep their staff up to date on avian information?

Jaqueline: Network with other rescues, join in bird discussion groups, and follow Dr. Scott Echol’s podcasts to keep abreast of new developments.  We also have a program where one staff member will research a topic/species/behavior and then present the finding to the rest of the staff.  Each staff member is responsible for 2 presentations per year. This is a method of increasing everyone’s knowledge base, with little or no cost.

Sign up for Dr. Susan Friedman’s Learning and Living with Parrots (LLP) class.  There is a 2 year waiting list, but the information will change the way staff interact with parrots.

Emily Strong has written an amazing booklet called the Bird Owners Manual.  It is available for free on her website:  http://www.oldworldaviaries.com/text/pdfs/TheBirdOwnersManual.pdf

Parrot Enrichment.com also has two incredible books available for free download.  We offer this information to every visitor to Parrot Garden.

And finally, there are some excellent Facebook parrot sites.  Two of the best are Parrots Pantry and Feathered Angels.  You will find some of the latest information regarding diet, husbandry and enrichment.

Emily: Can you tell us about one of your current residents? Everyone loves a heartwarming story

Jaqueline: Crystal is a Blue & Gold macaw with congenital birth defects. Her feet don’t work and she holds her head upside down. One ear is not formed properly. For many years she lived at a vet clinic in the eastern part of the country. She was one of several birds who had been abandoned there over the years. She was a favorite of the staff who loved and spoiled her. Unfortunately, when the vet who owned the practice died of liver cancer, the clinic was sold to a corporation. When the new owners came in they insist the birds all leave. The smaller birds were quickly placed in new homes. But the owners were horrified by Crystal, and didn’t believe that she could be happy in such a twisted body. They thought the kindest thing to do would be to euthanize her.  The clinic staff didn’t agree.  They knew and loved Crystal and believed she was a happy bird.  Eventually the staff took up a collection and paid for one of the techs to fly Crystal to Best Friends. She is slowly settling in and her personality is beginning to shine. Crystal is a perfect example of how quality of life does not depend on a perfect body. (And this afternoon she was hanging from the top of her cage by her beak…typical macaw!)

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DSC_0574When we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.

Emily: What made you decide to start an exotic bird rescue?

Sonya: Working at the sanctuary here in Washington state gave us a much needed boost to see the need. We have the passion, the space and did a lot of research to see what we could accommodate.

Emily:  You are celebrating your one year anniversary – can you tell readers one of the most challenging things you have faced during this year, in regards to the rescue?

Sonya: The most challenging? There are many many many. Don’t want to spoil the good. However. The biggest challenge was staying away from the negative aspects of folks who wanted to try and hurt the very cause of helping birds do to personal issues with us. Not the rescue but us as people. #2 People feeling as if they have ownership of the rescue i.e. we support so you should listen to what we want you to do. Many folks had come to us telling us what to do and what not to do. What to rescue, what not to rescue. It was mind boggling to say the least.

We awake and tend to the flock and awoke to many folks behind key boards telling us how to run a rescue when they don’t have one to run? I could not grasp the idea at all. #3 I Learned that one thing was evident to expose all we do had it’s downfalls folks turned a lot of goodness into there own playing field of rumors and acts of “noise” in which took form the very purpose of caring for the birds. #4 That a lot of passion can be misconstrued to my way or no way. We stay focused on the birds and learned that everyday there will be neg factors thrown our way. We became very exhausted with NOT the birds but with human element. We had to reassess and then move forward, reassess and move forward.

Biggest struggles are the human elements that get in the way of goodness! Yes many may not like what I have to say on that aspect, but all know it is true. Second struggles is committed volunteers and members that give fully to the birds in car,. and as always funding for the birds in our care. We are constantly building more and more to attend to the birds needs.

Emily: Scooter is probably your most famous resident – tell us her story

Sonya: Scooter story is::: Scooter did not show up to us in a state of perfection. Scooter, cannot walk, perch, or even stand like most of her kind. For most her story is known, and for others it is not, I will not go into that here. What I do want to tell you that Scooter and our family have broken the bounds and definition of perfect in my opinion.

Scooter was to have surgery to repair the damage she was born with, and had aggravated by well meaning, but untrained former owners. Sadly the surgery was not meant to be without risking Scooters life. But let’s say had it been successful, would Scooter be perfect then? No. Scooter would not be “perfect”. Scooter would have more movement maybe. But Scooter would still not be perfect. Not in the way Webster’s defines perfect.

Her little weak and broken legs do not define her as she is. They only make her different. Different as I see it can be perfect as we see with Scooter. Scooter knows not of her inabilities or her limitations. Scooter only knows of the love she receives, and the joy she gets in being who she is.

So I say one thing about Scooter, She Is Perfect in an Imperfect World. She is perfectly happy, she is perfectly content with who she is. She is perfectly loved by her family, and she is perfectly loved by many of whom she’s not met in person, including me. She is perfect in the way of bringing the community closer still. If that is not perfect I don’t know what perfect is. And I think if Mr. Webster had met little Scooter, I think he would agree…

Thank You Scooter for being Perfectly yourself……..Written by Bob Kaegi For Scooter

Emily: You run the rescue out of your home. Have you faced any issues with being home based vs in a separate facility?

Sonya: Oh yes. We promised within 5 yrs of open we will hopefully have All Parrot Rescue run itself. In which we would rather have an offsite facility. We will get there. We want to joys of our home as opposed to a facility. One day!!!

Emily: If you knew someone interested in starting their own rescue, what would you tell them? Any words of advice?

Sonya: Oh yes!! Research research RESEARCH I read.http://featheredangels.wordpress.com/rescues-and-sanctuarys/what-to-look-for-in-a-legitimate-rescue-or-sanctuary/ I tell you it is all great information.

Sonya Brewer and her husband Steve run All Parrot Rescue in Graham, Washington. You can find them online at www.allparrotrescue.com

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Gulliver at the Grand Canyon

With the growing interest in this amazing adventure, I’ve been getting a lot of the same questions asked lately. I thought I would compile the most commonly asked questions, and their subsequent answers, into a quick and easy blog post. Do you have a question that is not addressed here? Please feel free to ask – you can email me at any time.

Q: Are you a public organization? Or a nonprofit?
A: No! While we are using a grassroots type movement to grow The Roaming Parrot, this is technically a private venture that is privately funded. People are welcome to donate to the cause if they agree with our mission, but donations are NOT tax deductible. We are not a nonprofit and we will never mis-represent this mission by claiming to be one. Funds were raised for this trip via fundraisers such as T-shirt sales, ad space sales, auctions, and raffles.

Q: Why in this trip did you miss xyz rescue in xyz state? Don’t they deserve a visit?
A: We are only visiting places where we have been invited, or have shown interest in participating in this project. We are not here to be judge, jury, or executioner, nor are we going to be demanding to be seen by people who may not know us. This is a goodwill mission. We will from time to time visit totally public entities that are open to the general public, where an admission fee is charged to get in. However, even though we may go there, whether or not they want to participate in the survey is up to them and will not be forced.

Q: Why is Gulliver in a lot of touristy places?
A: Gulliver (our blue and gold t-shirt wearing mascot) is enjoy visiting all the sights and sounds that the beautiful United States have to offer. Remember, The Roaming Parrot trip was built around a personal road trip between two friends, so occasionally we take ‘time off’ from business and use personal funds to go visit places – museums, zoos, states parks – along the route. Gulliver has his photo taken at several of these places to mark where he has been and where he is going – it is all in fun!

Q: What is the future of The Roaming Parrot once you return home?
A: When we return home this year, I will be immediately turning around and going to present at the Association of Avian Veterinarians convention this year in Jacksonville, Fl. I was invited by a board member of the AAV to speak to the attendees about The Roaming Parrot. From there I will be going to the American Federation of Aviculture to make a presentation on another favorite subject of mine – caiques. When I return home, The Roaming Parrot does not stop. Just because I am home, doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to further the mission! Using online resources such as SurveyMonkey to continue to compile data, upload data collected from each location visited on the trip, planning smaller, more regionalized trips for the future, and working on a database of all rescues in the US, are just one of the many functions I can do while not on the road.

Q: Where did you get this survey/questionnaire from?
A: The first person I reached out to when wanting to compile a comprehensive from scratch survey was Jacqueline Johnson of Best Friends Parrot Gardens. She immediately helped me compile the majority of the questionnaire by suggesting the most pertinent data. It was then revised, sent out for recommendation, revised, and worked on some more.The questionnaire is made to be like a checklist – when a person answers a question I simply check the appropriate answer off. This makes sure there is no personal opinion inserted into the data, so that each data remains true in its original form. The survey has also been reviewed by a couple others in the avian field, including Dr. Burkett of The Birdie Boutique in Raleigh.

Q: How can I be involved?
A: If you are a rescue – ask us to visit! If you are a supporter – simply go to Facebook and ‘like’ our fanpage – facebook.com/theroamingparrot or go to our website and subscribe to our blog – theroamingparrot.com/blog/ – spreading the word about our mission is some of the best help you can give!

Q: Why isn’t all the data you’ve collected available NOW?
A: We are still on the road. Each survey for rescues/sanctuaries is over 100 questions, not including copies of intake paperwork, adoption paperwork, relinquishment forms, boarding forms, educational handouts, and more. It is next to impossible for me to upload all of that information (some of which needs to be scanned in) from the road. As soon as I get home and have access to the proper tools (and hug my birds!) I will start to upload the information so it can be available. Please keep in mind that due to the vast amount of information from each place, each entry will take at the very least, a couple hours to compile.

Q: You have bird stores listed on your site. Why are you supporting stores and breeders?
A: A part of this trip is us also visiting bird stores. The general public wants to know information about the stores so they can a) find out if there is a store in their area b) find out what services the stores offer and b) decide if they want to patronize that store before actually setting foot in it. We took the 20 most asked questions from our supporters and assembled them into a survey that is conducted at each store we visit. Just because we may have visited a location does not mean we personally endorse that store.

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It never ceases to amaze me the things that can come from people who share a common bond. During this trip we have received so much help and support from a myriad of people who share my passion for parrots. Not only have bird people cheered for us from the sidelines, they’ve filled our gas tank, treated us to lunch, given us a place to stay and a bed to sleep in. More then that, they have given us goodwill and friendship – powerful ties that I carry carefully out into the avian world and gratefully extend to other people.

During our travels, as you know, we have made ‘non bird’ stops along the way. One stop in particular is a ghost town in California called Bodie. Bodie was a booming mining town in the late 1800’s and dwindled away to nothing in the early 1900’s when the gold rush dried up. Once home to a couple hundred people, Bodie is now a state park and sits vacant. The amazing thing that sets this old town apart from other ghost towns is how preserved it is. Unlike other towns where you can go and are lucky to see maybe a few original buildings still standing, Bodie boasts of about 100 original structures still standing – and remnants of the townspeople have been left behind. Liquor bottles line the bar inside of the popular saloon; a hat sits on a chair in the living room of a house. A single place setting remains on the kitchen table, inside a kitchen where pots and pans sit in the sink waiting to be serviced.

No one knows why the former citizens of Bodie left a large majority of their belongings behind. It is literally as if the entire town simply stopped what they were doing and left one day leaving their former lives behind. As haunting as this sounds, it is even more chilling to walk around the town and peer inside of the windows to catch glimpses of lives left behind. In the hardware store we spotted a calendar turned to June, 1934. Inside the church, the organ sits silently at the head of the building behind the preachers’ pulpit. Peer into the windows of the school to see writing on the chalkboards, an ancient globe, and textbooks open to the last lesson.

Jessi and I spent nearly 3 hours walking around this ghost town and speaking in whispered tones, wondering about the lives of the former residents that used to live here. It wasn’t until I looked into the window of one particular house that it really hit me – these people did exist, and they lived and worked on the same soil I was walking on. I had stepped up to the front door of a house and was peering in one window, while Jessi looked into the other. Looking into the window my heart dropped in my chest – it looked like a normal family living room. A wood burning stove, a stuffed couch, a sewing machine tucked into the corner – and there, sitting next to what used to be a vanity – was a bird cage. A small, old, rusted out bird cage hanging from a stand, much like the ones that pet stores still carry today.

I wondered what type of bird this family kept – a canary, for the mines? A pet budgie, or perhaps a dove? Did they have children that delighted in the songs of the bird, or perhaps was it a newly married couple – the wife longing for companionship while her husband worked? What kind of fate is it that me, on a cross country bird filled road trip would stumble across an abandoned cabin 80 miles in the middle of nowhere and find a link to a bird owner from 100 years ago.

It really made me pause and appreciate my journey even more. Someone from 100 years ago carried with them a love of birds – perhaps they passed it down to their children, who passed it to their children. This mutual love, the sharing of a common bond, was passed from generation to generation, and has been spinning wildly across the nation, and has in some way contributed to my passion for birds today. I wouldn’t be on this journey if I didn’t have that passion – that fire – within me. If generations before me ceased to keep birds, ceased caring for their feathered companions, and didn’t move forward in a quest for more knowledge, bird ownership as we know it today would be vastly different.

I share a bond with this unknown bird owner from the past – and it is a bond that stands the test of time. This shared interest burns brightly in the faces of the new people I meet and is carried forward to the next generation of aviculture. I hope that we can all step back and reflect on where we as bird owners have come from, where we have been, and where we are going in the future. Remember that single bird cage, and pass on that shining thread of knowledge into the future – carry it like a beacon and present it proudly when you meet other avian enthusiasts.

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higgins-outsideA few days ago I visited my old stomping grounds of Nevada. Not only do I love the wild, untamed beauty of the sagebrush covered plains sheltered by the mountains, but I hold Nevada in a special place in my heart because of what started there. My bird journey started in the outskirts of Reno – a young kid walking into a petstore and coming out with a budgie, uninformed as so many first time bird owners are. My thirst for knowledge led me to a local bird club, where I immediately started attending monthly meetings and seminars. I was incredibly lucky to live in an area that had an active bird club, but also a bird store and large bird community that greatly contributed to my knowledge and experience with birds. Not every bird club would take the interest of a teenager seriously.

Instead of shooting my interests down or not paying me any attention, the club took me under their wing and encouraged me to learn and grow in aviculture. I fostered various species of parrots that were in need of new homes – the club operates as a nonprofit and focuses not only on education, but adoption of second hand birds, utilizing a foster network, It was through Reno Area Avian Enthusiasts (RAAVE) that I fostered my first bird, and subsequently had my first experience with a caique – that caique, Higgins, whom I adopted and is still with me today.

Strolling through the city that I have not visited since moving to North Carolina, a rush of memories and emotions came flooding back. I visited my former bird store haunt, where I was thrilled to find it exactly the same as I remember it. I got some much needed cockatoo cuddles in, and let the stores white bellied caique surf on my t-shirt. I have fond memories of meeting bird club folks at the store, interacting with the various birds that are boarded there, and learning tidbits from the stores’ longtime owner.

DSC_0381Who would have thought that 10+ years later, I would be travelling the country, conducting this great and exciting experiment? It made me pause in my tracks, and once again be thankful for the state that started it all. As we wound our way up to look at Lake Tahoe later that evening, and the birds flew in the sky, I winged a silent thank you to whatever caused me to walk into that pet store in the first place, and walk out with a blue budgie that started it all.

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 When we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.


Emily: How long has Black Hills Parrot Welfare been involved in avian rescue?

Greg: BHPW has been an Incorporated non profit since 2007 but Cindy and I have been involved with birds since the 70’s

Emily: You don’t like your facility being referred to as a rescue – can you explain to readers why that is?

Greg: I could go on forever about why we don’t use the word rescue. But since we are involved with all aspects of the avian world we are aware that the majority of our work seldom is directly related to rescue. Although those cases do exist. If we were not involved with what we do, we would need to seek provisions for our birds after we were gone like so many other people, and the word rescue by itself says that all birds are in need of better circumstances when in fact most of the birds we deal with have come from excellent homes with good diet, love and stimulation. We also feel that the use of some words and slogans have been counterproductive to the avian community.

Emily: I really enjoyed learning about and seeing your softbills – including the toucans – during our visit. Can you tell readers a bit about the toucans, why you have them, and how you are using them in educational programs?

Greg: We have a love for “all” birds, and softbills are a group that we have spent many years studying and caring for. Many people seldom have the chance to see and experience this side of aviculture and understand the need for conservation. Nearly all of the softbills in our program have come from different zoo’s for rehabilitation efforts and are used in school and public education programs.

Emily: You mentioned working closely with zoos and one day being AZA certified – can you tell our readers more about that, and how it will help further the mission of your facility?

Greg: Our work with zoo’s enable us to network with some awesome and innovative veterinarians, allows us to get the most current data on conservation efforts, is a good source for species survival planning and species champions. We hope that someday our continued work with zoo’s will develop into a more involved role in conservation.

Emily: Perhaps one of your most well known birds in residence is Peaches, the cockatoo. Can you tell readers more about her and her background?

Greg: Our records indicate that about 18% of our birds have come from documented abuse cases and one of the notable ones that most of our returning visitors identify with is Peaches. A 68 year old Moluccan Cockatoo. This is a good example of why we need to plan for our birds before our passing. She lived with the same family for approx. 58 years and after the death of both of her caregivers within a year, she was passed through several homes and ultimately ended up in one that severely abused her. She has had boiling hot water thrown on her, had head injuries resulting in blindness and has had to have surgeries to repair damage. This is now a bird after extensive rehabilitation that once again has regained human trust and will greet every single visitor with a head bow for a loving head scratch.

We feel it is very important to lead by example. Our facility is open to the public and seldom do we actively solicit for donations. Our philosophy is that when a person takes the time to visit us first hand and they believe in what we do, then we have a supporter for life. The most common comment we get from bird people is “your birds look so happy and healthy”. Our answer “love, dedication, education and experience”