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One Rescue Story

I received a call that there were birds in Southern New Jersey that needed rescue ASAP. I offered to help out and told her I can accept 4 birds - 2 African Greys and 2 Senegals. This morning I got up before the birds were even awakened by the sun to get them all fed and watered before starting out for NJ. I arrived around lunchtime to the following scene. A woman and a man who work for Animal Care & Control were both wearing breathing masks and unloading filthy old cages into their van parked out front.


I walked into the front door of the house only to be smacked right in the nose with the awful smell of cat urine. This smell was soaked up into everything within the house, even the birds themselves. In the front room next to a disabled man with a walker was an Umbrella Cockatoo in a filthy cage with no more than leftover hulls from a handful of sunflower seeds thrown into his bowl. I wonder how many days ago he was even fed. The woman was helping this bird out giving him fresh water and a big bowl full of food. As I walked by him, the Cockatoo bobbed up and down and told me "good bird, good bird". Poor bird.     


I walked into the back room to find the 4 birds I was to take back with me. Their cages were filthy as was the room itself. There were multiple piles of waste surrounded by multiple cat boxes - all surrounding the bird cages in this one tiny room. At this point it was getting hard to breathe and I began coughing - a cough that did not go away for another hour or so. Both bird cages were padlocked shut. The cage that the Greys were in - well, that padlock didn't even have a key. It was evident that no one had opened the cage door in a very long time.  


There was about 8 inches of waste piled up evenly throughout the entire bottom of the cage. I'm not even exaggerating - 8 INCHES. African Greys growl when the are scared. They were growling the entire time. They were also frantically thrashing around in their small cage, hitting perches and other hanging objects within their cage as it appears they frequently do. The scrapes and marks on their heads tell me that. There were no toys in any cages. Nothing but a perch. If anything, at least they had a mate to share in their misery and were never alone.  


After getting all birds out of the cages and into carriers with a soft towel lining the bottom, I also tried to get a history on the birds. All are at least 18 years old and have been in this home for that amount of time. 3 are said to be wild-caught. Imagine that - being born with the jungle as your home only to end up in the back room of someone's house surrounded by filth and smelling like cat urine. All were frightened in the truck ride back to Virginia - the senegals hiding and the Greys growling.    


I did, however, at one point look over and down in the passenger seat to find Grayson (the Congo Grey) peering up at me with those soft inquisitive eyes as if to let me know they are scared but also to let me know they still have a glimmer of trust left in them and the hope that where they are going they will again be happy. It is 8:15 now and the Senegals are in a room with fresh air sleeping. The 2 greys are eagerly munching down on good food in my bedroom. Grayson accepted a nut from my hand and dove into it like it was the first treat he has had in a very long time.

Tallis & Ollie


Tallis and Ollie's stories begin long ago in the wilds of Africa. While born into freedom, their lives were not destined to remain there. Either as babies or adults, they were indiscriminately captured along with possibly hundreds of their flock mates and transported to the United States destined to become breeder birds for a burgeoning trade in pet parrots. While most of their history over the past several decades is unknown, we do know that both Tallis and Ollie ended up in cruelty cases and were destined to come together when Project Perry agreed to help them.


In the summer of 2011, Tallis was part of over 130 parrots seized in a Tennessee cruelty case. Alone and scared, she was brought to a Sanctuary in New Mexico. We were contacted just a few months later asking if we would accept her into our African Grey Aviary because she was one of the wildest and most fearful birds they have ever taken in. They knew that we had experience and success with such birds so we agreed to take her in.

Ollie was also part of a 2011 cruelty case, this time in Maine. The traditional shelter that handled the placements successfully found homes for all but one African Grey. Something was different about this bird — he did not want to be a pet, only barely tolerated the presence of people and never fully trusted his caregivers. After an unsuccessful home placement attempt, the shelter's staff determined he might be happier living among others just like him.


Tallis and Ollie's lives intersected in the early summer of 2012. Tallis had been transported back to the East Coast and was awaiting pick up in New Jersey. One of our dedicated and caring volunteers happened to be on vacation in New England and offered to pick both Tallis and Ollie up and bring them down to the Sanctuary. Both birds had been fully vetted and given a clean bill of health prior to coming to the Sanctu- ary. So, it was our idea to introduce them to each other indoors while monitoring them prior to being admitted into the Aviary.


For the first few days in their large indoor aviary, Ollie made sure to keep his distance from people and Tallis would not come out of her travel carrier. We would only catch glimpses of her eating and drinking from her bowls placed strategically near the carrier. When she noticed us, she would quickly dart back into the safety of her carrier. Finally, one day she came out and without her knowing we were watching — she and Ollie were cuddled up to one another, preening each other and finally after all these years — happy!


The two of them made the transition together into our African Grey Aviary where they now enjoy the freedom of a cage-free and natural environment. They have embraced the presence of a large flock once again, communicating with their various wild barks, hoots, and whistles to one another. They enjoy the feeling of wind gently brushing their feathers, the sun warming their bodies and the exhilarating refresh- ment of a passing rainstorm shower. Most of all — they have each other and will continue to share their new life here...together!


For the love of Fred



(Click the photo to read her full story in another window)


Noelle is a plucker and a self-mutilator. We began our journey together on December 26, 2008. She was taken in a few weeks earlier through The Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary, where I serve as a Co-Director.

As with most rescues, her history is very sketchy, but we do know that for an extended period of time in her former life, she was banished to live in an outdoor shed.


Fred is a gentle Greenwing Macaw. Along with his wife, Ethel, he came into my care in May. Although I have provided foster care for other animals over the years, Fred tugged at my heartstrings more than any other. I had originally thought that Fred and Ethel would be with me for just a short time. In just a couple of weeks, they will be gone, I thought, “Thank Goodness” because they were loud and obnoxious. They were also very frightened and they were extremely aggressive. As time went on I noticed some changes. Fred would always be on the perch by his food dish and wait for me to come in his room in the morning. I would turn the radio on and Fred would start dancing - swaying from side to side. We danced and enjoyed our time together. Fred’s behavior was so touching.


From the medical examination performed when he first arrived, I knew that Fred was very sick. He has a sore in his throat, full of bacteria including e-coli. We made regular trips to the vet. She would clean out the sore. He would be in so much pain from the procedure that he couldn’t eat. So, the day he received his throat treatment, along with an antibiotic shot, I would stand and slowly hand feed him pistachio nuts that contained his pain medicine. This would enable him to eat the next day.


I have been so blessed to have had the opportunity to watch this majestic bird go from fear to dancing, from lunging at me to trying to feed me, which is a behavior a parrot will do for someone he cares about. The last two trips to the vet, Fred stepped up onto my arm while we waited to be seen by the doctor. He knew that I was going to protect him. During our last trip to the vet Fred climbed up my arm and perched on my shoulder. He sat there comfortably for probably 20 minutes. He knew we had to wait for the vet to come in and he was looking to me for comfort.


On July 25, 2008, the CVPS was court ordered to turn Fred over to the same people who had given him such a horrible life. Also forced to go were his fellow flock members and his wife, Ethel. From that day forward, Fred must find comfort only in Ethel.


I have been so bothered by this situation and I have been trying to figure out why it has hit me so hard. It has made me think about the disposable world that we as human beings have created. We are a disposable society. I, as a child, was a disposable part of this society. I felt the pain of being passed around to 5 different homes in as many years every time finding I was in the way or cost to much or I wasn’t as small or as cute as they thought I should be. So, I guess I am saying this, after 50+ years, to make the point that I know how awful it feels to be a disposable part in this disposable society that we live in. It is confusing and painful, and yet we continue to do this to people (kids and adults), to dogs, to cats, to birds and to any and all living beings that don’t fit the definition of being worthy in our society. Shelters are full of throw a way animals; foster care programs are full of throw a way kids who failed to fit into their parents’ lives or idea of what the right color or size should be and many are just not wanted! Certain people and most all animals are part of our disposable society.


Relationships go through a rough spell and as a society we throw it away and get a new one. The same goes for dogs, cats and birds. Puppies, kittens and baby birds are cute. However, after a time, someone just gets tired of them or bored with them; they grow up, they don't reproduce well enough to meet the profit margin, they get old, they have accidents on the rug, or they vocalize too loud or bite when they get angry or hurt - and people just don’t want them anymore.


We fear that the 31 macaws may go through the same thing in Florida and when the defendants regain possession of them in eighteen months. I am afraid that it will be the survival of the fittest and Fred and Ethel will not be among the fittest. In fact, Fred will be among the weakest! Ethel will probably die from heartbreak if Fred dies.


Ethel was probably stolen from her nest some 30 years ago and brought to the states. Maybe she had a brief home and maybe she just was put in as a breeder and never knew the companionship of a human being. A ruthless human being stole her opportunity to be a free macaw and it is likely that a breeder stole the possibility of her being able to receive the love and affection from a human companion. Stolen was her opportunity to become a trusting Macaw. I don't blame her for not trusting and being mean and aggressive. The greatest affection she has ever known was from Fred and now she is in great danger of losing him, of being left alone.

Like Ethel, Fred was probably stolen from his nest and brought to the US some 30 years ago, but I believe that Fred, at some point in his life, was probably a companion pet and somewhere along the way he became Ethel’s mate. When they were rescued, they had been locked up in a rusty make shift cage - for how many years we don’t know - and they found comfort in each other.


Fred and Ethel are now considered property by the state of Virginia. Left in a field to endure the cold wind and rain by those who claimed they were “pets” with green, slimy water and hardly anything to eat. Now the abusers fight for them. However, when Fred and Ethel cannot produce young because they are too old or to sick, they will certainly be disposable. And, they will be forgotten to death.


Although this sad and totally unacceptable story of the 31 beautiful macaws make us, for a moment, feel beaten, and make us want to give up – make us feel we are fighting a war that can’t be won – we will not give up. We must keep fighting these kinds of injustices.


On the morning of July 25th, Fred and I spent a few quiet moments together before the transfer. He gently walked up my arm and sat on my shoulder. We talked and I cried. I knew what was in store for him and I could do nothing to stop it. Fred’s life or death wouldn't have been in vain. His life and his story can make a difference for others following behind him.


I know he made a difference in my life.

Charlie, the old Scarlet Macaw.

We received a call one morning from a concerned friend of a woman who rather unexpectedly became the new owner of a Macaw named Charlie. According to the limited history we were given, Charlie is most likely an old wild-caught who spent at least 40 years in the same family. The story we were told is that Charlie's original family loved him very much. In fact, they rode around town with him on the front handlebars of their bicycle.

Over time, Charlie moved from home to home within the same family - each time with a degrading quality of life. As his old owners grew old and passed away, he found himself in a "chicken coop" style cage where he was housed year-round outside. His dietary needs were not being met and he developed a serious overgrown beak. By the time we were called in to help, he was extremely thin and unable to eat because of the beak overgrowth. Charlie was voluntarily surrendered to us and we immediately brought him to Dr. Stahl for treatment. We're proud to say that months later Charlie has made such a huge recovery and has regained that Scarlet Macaw fiery personality he once had.

When Matt Smith walked out into the muddy field on the afternoon of May 12th, the scene was worse than he had imagined. Possibly worse than anything he had seen before. It had been cold and raining all day and the air was damp and raw.


Matt, accompanied by Project Perry volunteer Bobbie DeBenedetto, Dr. Hillary Cook and Animal Control Officer Patricia Dahl approached the collection of 31 macaws, stuffed into cages that were stacked beneath two open-sided carport frames. Only one frame had a roof.


(Click the photo to read the full story)

The 31 Virginia Macaws

Iggy's Adventures

In the early summer of 2006, a guest moving furniture out of Lily Kempf's home left the side door open just long enough for her beloved Iggy to make an escape into rural Virginia. Iggy had freed himself but was in great danger. Danger from predators such as the hawk and in danger of not being able to find a reliable food and water supply. Thankfully it was not winter. All of Lily's attempts to find Iggy came up empty.


Meanwhile, Iggy found himself many miles away in a new County - in search of something that looked familiar to him. He found a neighborhood with people congregated around a swimming pool. It is there he found his new family. Without hesitation, Iggy came to the new people and they took him in and provided for him. The new family liked the idea of having a parrot - Iggy sang, danced, and frequently vocalized "Gimme Cookie?". The reality of truly caring for a parrot and properly meeting their needs set in after about 6 months.


It was at this time that Iggy's new family, not knowing his real name and now calling him "Cookie", sought our Behavior Assistance. They were not quite ready to give up on Cookie and we were not quite ready to give up on Cookie either. The new family tried to work through Cookie's frequent and loud vocalizations but in the end could not handle it anymore. Three months later we got a call back that life with a parrot is not what they expected it would be and they discovered they are just not bird people. Cookie came to our Rescue after spending only 9 months with his new family.


"Cookie" spent only a couple weeks at Project Perry. In that short time he not only touched my heart but he touched most of the visitor's and volunteer's hearts too - along with some really nice bites! He got lots of attention here and changed his mind pretty frequently about which person was his favorite person of the hour. He is a bundle of high energy with an unforgettable "personality". Something was not right. Given the circumstances that the new family acquired this bird plus the clear indication that someone once loved this bird to pieces and was treated great just did not sit right with me. Someone had to have been searching for this little guy nearly a year ago.


My gut instinct led me to do some research on the Parrot911 group - an online group that provides information for lost and found companion birds. I found a May 2006 listing in which a Blue Crown Conure named Iggy went missing from the Central Virginia area. After sending out a batch of emails, I had one response from someone who may be able to get the old guardian in contact with me.


The next morning I made contact with a woman named Lily. When trying to establish whether or not this bird was really her Iggy, I asked her to tell me all about Iggy including all of his vocalizations and "phrases". Everything matched up 100% - I had her Iggy here - it was an emotional moment to say the least. I couldn't wait to reunite her and Iggy so I drove a few hours to bring Iggy back home that afternoon.

A story like this is a wonderful example of things happening for a reason, or fate as many call it. Is Iggy a miracle bird or was he just on a nine-month adventure that brought him through the wilderness and into people's homes to touch their lives? I'll never forget you Iggy and I'll miss you but you're back in your real home now.

Sam, a wild-caught Blue Crown Conure.

I write this on the evening of July 26, 2004. Sam passed away today as a result of complications from his surgery. I wish that I could say he had a great life, but to be quite honest, he didn't. One of his first memories was being torn from his parents in the wild at only a few weeks of age. He then endured a scary trip towards the U.S., most likely with no food or water, while watching the majority of the others with him die slow and painful deaths.


Upon reaching a pet store somewhere in the U.S., he was promised a great life with lots of love and attention from the purchaser. As with all baby bird purchases, the cute and cuddly baby became what the pet store did not tell the buyer what Sam would become - a wild parrot with wild behaviors. What else would anybody think a baby wild parrot would grow up to be? How about a grown up wild parrot. After Sam was tossed around from place to place for many years, he finally ended up in rescue and found something he had never quite known before. Love. This love came from the one place it was meant to come from - another parrot. A Blue Crowned Conure named Chad.


Just last night, the two of them were playing together happily on some bamboo, one of their favorite chew things. As they played together, little did they know that it was to be their last playtime together. Despite Sam's newfound love and the constant supply of tasty, healthy food, and of course the endless supply of bamboo, it was far from the life he knew best from previous years - a life of fear, lonliness, and knowing he was unwanted for so long. This is all due to animal exploitation. They are kept for their beauty, while inside they do not feel so beautiful. They are kept for our society's entertainment, or something to look at such as one would keep a fancy and expensive painting around.


Sadly, Sam is not the first, nor will he be the last to endure such a life. He should have been left in his parent's nest to enjoy a life of freedom, just where they are meant to be. Remember, parrots have wings for a reason.

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