Rescue group helps long-lived birds find new homes

Rescue groups for cats and dogs are growing in number, but there are critters who have much longer life spans — increasing the possibility that something will happen to their owner and they’ll need a new home. And these are creatures who can pose quite a challenge for an unprepared owner.

Southern Nevada Parrot Education, Rescue & Rehoming Society to the … well, to the rescue.

The group started in late February 2006, said Madeleine Franco, president.

Beverly Harrison, the group’s rescue director, said there are many reasons why a bird may need a new home.

“Sometimes it’s behavioral issues with the bird, and they feel like they can no longer take care of that bird and give it what it needs,” Harrison said.

“They’re not just cute little things you take home from the pet store you can put on a perch and just forget,” she said. “There’s a lot to raising a parrot.”

That would include feeding, cleaning the cage, grooming and socialization.

They’re fed dry pellets, she said, “but they also love their fruit and their vegetables and they have a wide range of foods that they like” and that are necessary to ensure their good health. At the same time, she said, those fresh foods can’t be left in the cage for extended periods because they’ll grow bacteria and the bird may become ill.

Baby birds must be hand-fed, she said, until they’re about 12 weeks old.

Some birds — such as cockatoos, African greys and Amazons — require daily baths, Harrison said. Birds continually produce new feathers, she noted, and the feather sheaths break down and create a dusty powder. For the aforementioned birds, especially, “it’s pretty extreme.”

The grooming, Harrison said, is “good for their feathering, and also good for their psyche.”

Add to all of this the fact that the bird may well outlive its owner — or at least outlive the owner’s ability to take care of it.

“They’re so very long-lived,” Harrison said. “When we take on that responsibility, it’s quite a commitment.” Conures, she said, can live 35 to 45 years, and larger birds such as cockatoos and macaws upward of 75.

“Some days, I swear, I wonder, why do I do all this,” said Harrison, who would admit only to having “a few in my flock.”

The reason, she said, is “they’re such wonderful companions and so loving. They are very entertaining. They just bring a lot of joy. They’re very spiritual little beings.”

Harrison said group members empathize with owners who can’t keep their birds.

“We have had calls from people saying: ‘Come get this bird! I can’t take it anymore,’ ” she said of the more frustrated cases. “More often than not, the guy is just beside himself that he has to give this bird up. He wants to see it have a better life. Those kind of rescues are pretty tear-jerking.”

The group, which meets quarterly and has a quarterly newsletter, has about a dozen members, she said.

“We are looking for members, be it members of the club, foster families or adoptive families,” she said. Members are planning an educational program to teach new and prospective owners more about their birds.

For more information about the Southern Nevada Parrot Education Rescue & Rehoming Society, visit the group’s Web site at www.lvbirdrescue.org, or call 856-3300.

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