Friday, November 16, 2012

A Parrot Sanctuary

What do you do on a rainy day in Vancouver?  You go play with a big bunch of boisterous birds!

This was one of the most fun and the most heartbreaking activities we did on Vancouver Island.  The refuge is located in Coombs on the Alberni Highway.  We bought our tickets at the gift shop and were strongly advised to use the ear plugs they handed us.   The minute we walked into the aviary, we heeded their advice.  I tell you, these birds (all 800 of them) are raucous, mischievous and loud.  Piercingly loud!  Everywhere we turned, we were greeted with a "hello" in a squawky, but very human voice.  It was unnerving.  I found myself talking to several birds, and I swear they understood every word! 

Anyone who has read this blog, knows I love birds, but I confess that I, too, gave away a couple of beautiful lovebirds because they were so noisy and mean.  Birds are meant to be free.  I've learned to love them from a distance.  I now watch them with binoculars in forests and parks all over the world.  This is the way it should be.

  The staff and volunteers at this World Parrot Refuge are a dedicated group of folks.  I was so impressed at how clean they kept the large free-flight aviary.  One young man was scrubbing down the walls while we were there; another was mopping the floor in the macaw area.  Believe me, not a pleasant task!  The 23,000 square foot building is home to hundreds of abandoned and neglected tropical birds.  If they had more space, they could easily take in hundreds more.  It's very sad that we buy these creatures before truly understanding how much work it takes to care for them properly.

In Santa Barbara, we have a flock of parrots, birds that have either escaped from bondage or have been released.  I hear them flying over my house-- happy and scrappy and glad to be free.  They are able to live here because our climate is warm.  I see them in the palm trees, eating dates.  But in Canada?  These birds are about as far away from Panama as you can get.  On the other hand, the aviary is heated, food is plentiful and the birds are adored.  Not exactly paradise, but close to it.   

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