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.
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.
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.