Some birds have cancer; some birds are addicted to drugs or alcohol; a large number come from abusive homes; and, some owners bring their birds to the parrot refuge because they are no longer able or willing to care for them.

This is the Parrot Refuge in Coombs and to visit is an eye opening but worthwhile experience.

The special needs area is loud and heart wrenching. Birds here are struggling to adapt to a life of sickness or one where they are no longer abused. They are scared or depressed and will self mutilate (pull their own feathers out). Some just want love, like a one legged cockatoo that Niña held for a really long time. The more love it received, the wider it opened it’s mouth.

Here you will like hear a bird say: “shut up” or various swear words instead of a gentle “hello.”

From the entrance, if you walk down the corridor to the right, you’ll see some of the good that the refuge has done for these birds: the flock cages. Here are the macaws who look peaceful and happy as they live out their lives with their family and mates.

If you walk down the corridor to the left of the entrance, you’ll head through the cockatoo flock. These birds will happily say hello and some will even shake your hand. Again, happy birds living together.

The room at the end of the cockatoo walk has more traumatized birds, sick birds, or ones waiting for a place. Many vye for a chance to sit on your shoulder and at one point I had one lovely bird on each shoulder, one on my head, and one clinging to my purse. That was until our new friend Socrates staked his claim and sat on my shoulder and in my hair for both of our visits.

While in Costa Rica we learned about the plight of both parrots and toucans. And, we’ve now seen this problem on both sides of the world. As such, I will actively discourage anyone who wants to own an exotic bird. Trade only exists as long as people buy birds from pet stores. These creatures belong in the wild and certainly not in North America.

In the meantime, I would also encourage anyone who wants to help the Parrot Refuge to visit or donate. Like many non-profit organizations the Parrot Refuge has its ups and downs financially and donations of any size are more than welcome.