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Words of Wisdom

That is my repertoire of birds. If after reading this article, you are crazy enough to want to own a bird, then may I make the following suggestions? First of all research the species you would like to own based on your lifestyle and your temperament. There is the internet, there are magazines like Bird Talk, and Bird Times, there are bird clubs that you can join, and of course, others you can talk to who own the same species. Be aware that medium to large size birds have very long life spans. Some of them live 40, 50, and even up to 70 years. Do you want to live with an animal who might outlive you? The divorce rate among humans is fifty percent, so our track record for relationships is not that great. And speaking of outliving you, you might have to make arrangements in your Will as to who is going to take care of your parrot if you should die before them. You are going to have to have patience, compassion and a sense of humor especially if you get a second hand bird or a rescue, as they each come with 'baggage.' But with time, patience and understanding, it is possible to turn them around into trusting people again. It is my opinion that animals come into our lives to help us grow and to teach us about love, but it is not a one way street. We do it for them also.
            So if even after you know that they can be loud, they can scream, they can be bratty, they demand attention and they are very messy, you still feel you want to own a bird, may I suggest someone who you can purchase your bird from and no, it is not me. It's my friend, Donna. She was the person that I bought my first pair of Blue-And-Gold Macaws from. I located her in an ad from Bird Talk and I called her. I told her about the fact that I had decided to enter the bird business and she set me straight about my naiveté.
            Although she had given me wise information, I still decided that I needed a challenge, so I went to visit her at her aviary to try and convince her to sell me one of producing pair of birds. Now realize this. No one in the bird business sells you their successful producing birds unless they are coming out of the business. For every producing pair that you have in your aviary, you will have twice as many non-producing pairs because just putting a male and female together does not make a happy couple. These birds are looked at as "eating out the profits" and breeders will try to get rid of them quickly. This produces a lot of scamming in the industry. Since females are the valuable ones, they will do things like putting two males together and try to pawn them off as a pair. I got caught in the early days by this scam where a breeder tried to pull this one off on me and had even put a nest box on the cage to give the impression that they were a pair. And to add insult to injury, he told me that he would throw in the nest box as a bonus if I bought the birds. Most birds are not dimorphic, meaning that there are differences on the bird to tell whether it is a male or a female and can only be determined therefore, by sexing through blood or feathers. I have learnt that when a breeder sells their inventory, unless it is a reputable breeder or someone you know or trust, treat the sale as "buyer-beware." There is usually a reason why they are getting rid of the bird, for instance, the bird produces infertile eggs, or doesn't sit on their eggs, or breaks or eat their eggs. There are a multitude of different reasons. It's for you to take a chance or figure it out. 
            Be aware also, that a lot of scamming exists on line for the sale of birds. A very prominent one is where they will list a very expensive bird for free, like a Toucan for instance. When you contact them, they will tell you that they had to move out of the country for missionary reasons and that their bird who accompanied them is not doing well in a foreign country. They will tell you that it breaks their heart to have to part with the bird but they must do it for its welfare. They will tell you that all you need to do is to pay the shipping which is about eight hundred dollars which you must pay in advance, and they will ship the bird to you. You think you are so lucky to get a ten thousand dollar bird for eight hundred dollars and you send off your payment in a cashier's check of course. Well, you know the rest of the story. And they get to continue their business because a sucker is born every day.  So, be very careful on the internet.
            When I got to Donna's house, which was three hours by car, she met me outside and ushered me to sit on some patio furniture which was under a huge tree. She has a closed aviary which means that no outsiders get to enter because diseases can be spread and also because of disturbance to birds sitting on eggs. I had carried a tape recorder and I asked her if she would allow me to record what she was telling me as all the information that she was about to give me was new to me and I wouldn't remember half of it by the time I got home. She agreed and I thought I was under-studying her, but it was actually the other way around. She was deciding whether I was committed and eligible enough to own one of her breeding pairs. After three hours of deliberation, I guess she took to me and decided to let me have a pair. This began a very long and beautiful friendship between us.
            Donna has been in the business for over twenty-five years. She is one of those old timers who used to work at the quarantine stations before the cessation of importation of wild birds. She was born to work with animals and her talent is in rescuing. She has told me stories of how she has rescued birds with deformities of all kinds, from splayed legs to crooked necks, and how on many occasions she had to wire them up so that they could become functioning birds again. If she had left them alone, they would have died. The care of animals is a passion for her. She truly loves them and their welfare is more important than making a sale. In fact, she will tell you if you are not a suitable potential owner, so don't be offended if she does.
            Donna mainly keeps medium to large birds and from first-hand experience she has a wealth of information. She is somebody I totally trust. You can reach her at (941) 484-0191. Call her at around 9.00a.m. in the mornings. After that, she is tending to her animals until dusk as she also breeds dogs. I have been convincing her to get a website which she has been resisting because she says she is not computer savvy. If you don't get her, then leave a message and she will call you back the next day. Even though she is willing to talk to you, please don't take up too much of her time with your inquiries as she has lots of animals to take care of. I don't want to be the cause of her being bombarded or overwhelmed.
            The only other advice that I would like to mention if you decide to get a bird is to always make sure that their wings are clipped. If a window or door is open, or they get spooked, no matter how much they love you, they will be gone. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this story. Buy a book or let someone with experience show you how it is done. You want the wings to be clipped so that when they are in a resting state, it doesn't look like someone butchered its feathers. Also when the feathers are clipped too short, the bird will be unbalanced and if they try to fly, they will hit the furniture or the ground and possibly hurt them self. You want them to be able to make a safe landing without the ability to gain altitude. In doing this, you will avoid injury and accidental escapes.
             I have been keeping birds for 12 years now, but I have not actively been breeding for a few years due to the amount of work involved. A lot of times I ask myself why I still keep so many because so much of my time is still spent caring for them, but I never find a good enough reason not to. They are a gift that keeps giving to me beauty, laughter and joy.

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Suzanne Hosang Author and Healer