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The Roaming Parrot » The Parrots of South Dakota

The Parrots of South Dakota

by Emily June 24, 2013

The second stop in our journey after Iowa Parrot Rescue was Black Hills Parrot Welfare and Education Center. Located in Belle Fourche, (pronounced Belle Foosh, not ‘for-che’ like I thought), Cindy and Greg Poulain run an absolutely wonderful facility. It’s always interesting to meet someone in real life that you have been acquaintances with online, and this was no exception! Greg and Cindy did a wonderful job of making us feel right at home, and I had a great time getting to talk with them and learn more about the birds, the facility, and their vision.

Let’s talk for a moment about what makes Black Hills so unique in comparison to some of the other facilities I have visited so far. They have softbill birds in addition to parrots, and they work very closely with other institutions with the conservation and education of softbills. Currently, they house toucans, aracaris, and toucanets, with all but one of the birds having disabilities. In addition to the toucans, there is a (non breeding) pair of cuckoos that was actually donated by the Dallas World Aquarium. To round this motley crew off, there is Murphy, the pied crow/raven hybrid. Having never gotten to get much hands on interaction with softbills before, I spent a lot of time picking Greg’s brain on these amazing creatures. He gladly educated me on the specifics of their diet, the vast differences of softbills vs hookbills, and explained the differences in the species he houses, and how Black Hills implements the birds into their educational program.

If you are ever in Belle Fourche, I recommend taking a tour of the Welfare and Education Center. For a mere $5 donation, you can get a complete guided tour of the facility and the outdoor gardens. The outdoor portion of the facility is comprised of flights and garden paths, in a manner that reminds me somewhat of Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge, TN. The resident birds are rotated out into the flights each day, weather permitting. Visitors get a great glimpse into the daily workings of the facility, and an education on parrots in general.

During our stay at the center, Jessi and I accompanied Greg, Cindy, and 6 birds to downtown to a small street type fair that happens every Friday night during the summer. Residents of the city flock to the downtown and enjoy the other vendors and live music. As a part of their education and outreach, BHPWE sets up a few tables that contain information about parrots, their facility, and sells stuffed parrots to delighted children. As soon as the tables were set up we were surrounded by interested people wanting to learn more, and there were so many chances to education and expose new people to birds – I was thrilled. There is nothing that I enjoy more then seeing a child’s face light up as they see a parrot, and their genuine interest in learning more about these amazing feathered creatures.

Jessi and I really enjoyed our visit to South Dakota, and were reluctant to leave. It’s always so exciting to find like minded people – Greg and Cindy were so enthusiastic and supportive of this project it was a great moral booster. They explained one reason they will be following The Roaming Parrot so closely: they feel it is a great way to see what other rescues are doing, how it works, and how they can implement those ideas into their existing structure to make life better for the birds. When you dedicate your life to rescue, you aren’t able to travel around and compare and contrast ideas and techniques that other facilities use, so sometimes you can get into a rut, or just overlook an option that you might have not considered. Being able to see via data and photographs how other facilities operate can potentially help others out.

Needless to say, the warm welcome we received and the education helped spur us onward to the next rescue. It was about 7 hours worth of driving to our next location, and talks of toucans filled the air! Look for the data we collected to be available online soon.

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