Why is it that most birders/ birdwatchers are against birds in captivity? When people ask me how I got into birding, or why birds, I immediately think of my parrots. I’ve actually started filtering my answer based on who’s asking! I usually tell part of the truth: I grew up on a dead end road and spent a lot of my time keeping tabs on the birds in the yard at the feeders and hiking through the woods around the house before most kids got sucked into video games and computers. The rest of the truth is my mother adopting a little gray, female cockatiel named Bingo. We knew Dad would say no so, Bingo was Dad’s birthday present! 😛 I was 6 or 7 years old at the time and I became quickly attached to Bingo. We did everything together, shower, get ready for school, homework, play in my doll house, watch movies together (see the pic above of her in my popcorn), etc. Everyone in our little community knew my family couldn’t say no to an unwanted bird or a parrot without a home. At one point we had 18 rescue birds! I enjoyed being the main care taker of all these little creatures while in grade school. Unfortunately most of these birds didn’t live very long, as they were all rescues, a lot of them were already sick and/ or malnourished. When I moved out to my own apartment I couldn’t stand the thought of being without my birds, which were really my parents birds. I adopted a little cockatoo named Daisy and eventually another Ducorps Cockatoo/ Solomon Islands Corella, named Molly. I still share my home and my life with these two little girls. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together. I’ve missed out on some pretty amazing field tech positions abroad because of them but they’ve helped me through the hardest times of my life…and I wound’t have it any other way. Mom and Dad are still owned by an Umbrella Cockatoo/ White Cockatoo (Victoria), a Green-cheeked Amazon/ Red-crowned Parrot (Chiquito), a Black-capped Caique/ Black-headed Parrot (Luigi), a Senegal Parrot (Kelley), a Rose-bellied Parrot (Scarlet) and a cockatiel (Peter).
This is NOT a plug for you to go buy a bird! Please! If you’re willing to put up with the noise, the mess, the expense and provide for these highly intelligent creatures for the rest of your lifetime (and sometimes will to someone else willing and responsible because of how long lived they are) then consider adopting. I’ve been involved with parrot rescues across the country and am proud to be on the board of the Aloha Hawaiian Parrot Association, which fosters and rescues a lot of birds. And no, my family and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we brought home our first bird.
Even telling people that I worked at an AZA accredited zoo can easily start a debate. I understand the cruelty to animals in captive facilities and homes all over the world happens but I truly believe captive populations are just as important for genetic viability and conservation through education. Perhaps those against it should look into the standards and level of care these accredited zoos and aquariums are held to. It’s quite impressive. Even the enrichment I created for our animals at the zoo was monitored. Aside from all the success stories about bringing a species back from the brink of extinction thanks to captive breeding in accredited zoos. I’ll gladly quote my friend Che, “you can’t protect what you don’t know exists.” I’m not condoning the circus, road side zoos or hoarders. I’ve seen many animals living a very good life in captivity (that have always been in captivity) and have inspired many people of all ages to care more about protecting wild animals and their habitats.
The reverse is true as well. I’ve met very few bird owners who are birders. How you could share your life with such a comical, intelligent, sensitive, and complicated little being and not wonder about all the others out there flying around? Even more so in Hawaii, where we have so many introduced birds from the pet trade. Yes, I’ve spoken with parrot owners here in Oahu who have never even noticed one of the dozen species of parrots flying around on this little island! From the time I cared for Bingo as a young girl and birder I started researching more about wild parrots. I learned where they live, why they’re so endangered, what they eat, and what I could do to help them. My love for my parrots brought me to the remote tropical rainforests of southeastern Peru to study macaws in the Amazon! From there I was officially obsessed with traveling to find new and exotic birds and do what I could to be a part of bird conservation around the world. I’ve seen wild parrots in Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Aruba, St. Martin and a week from today I’m traveling to Australia, the land of parrots! Here’s to experiencing a new culture, making new friends, enjoying new birds, finding new adventures, growing my life list, and perhaps seeing a wild Bingo!!!