Sam the Parrot Speaks Out for Bird RescuePublished October 7, 2010
I'll never forget the first time I met Sam, a volunteer assistant- receptionist at the Florida Wild Veterinary Hospital. Sam's main task was greeting folks at the front desk to make them feel welcome. The unforgettable part? This diminutive and chatty receptionist is an Eclectus Parrot. Before he got the job, Sam was in desperate need of medical care and adoption. His nearly bald back and chest - due to his self-mutilating feather plucking - was painful to see. But a man who rehomed birds from the Sanford Flea Market surrendered Sam to the hospital. Knowing little about birds, I was curious about Sam's condition. Linda Hemby, the clinic Human Resource Director, avid bird lover, and experienced handler, graciously agreed to talk with me. Sam was considered unadoptable due to his bizarre appearance. His feather follicles were ruined forever by his constant plucking and they would never to grow back. But Linda took him under her maternal wing and quickly grew to adore the "wonderful, sweet, personable bird." Sam has been a beloved member of her flock for over 4 years. She said, "He is possibly the sweetest bird on the planet." While much of Sam's history is unknown, Linda is at least his third owner. His age remains a mystery since his hatch date is unknown. What remains of his feathers are green. The Eclectus Parrot's gender is determined by feather color. Males are green and females are a distinctive red. Caring for birds and educating folks about this truly amazing species has become Linda's life's work. Many people are not aware that just like dogs and cats, every bird has an individual personality. Birds are highly intelligent, devoted and loyal to their human parents. Because birds can actually talk to their owners, they make truly unique pets. This said, birds are not suitable for everyone, as they are one of the most misunderstood domestic pets. There's a high rate of bird re-homing caused by people who don't research the special care they need. Some common misconceptions about birds are: All birds talk. While African Greys or Amazons are known for their extensive vocabulary, many may never say a word. Stick them in a cage and feed them, and they will be okay. Birds are very social creatures. Owners become their flock. Birds need interaction, stimulation and plenty of toys to keep them occupied. They require good food, a clean cage, lots of out-of-cage time, and most of all, an abundance of affection. You can't get emotionally attached to a bird because they don't have personalities. The bond that can develop between a bird and its owner can grow as deeply as with any other pet. A bird can become your best friend. Birds bite. Birds only bite when feeling threatened or frightened, since its beak is its only means of defense. Birds don't require veterinary care. Since sick birds are easy targets in the wild, they hide illness as a hard-wired survival tactic. Blood work to establish base line readings and yearly exams are necessary to keep your bird healthy. Linda suggested that anyone considering a bird carefully research the breeds you like, and learn the difference between those breeds in order to choose one that best suits your lifestyle. Adopt a rescue bird - as there are so many that need a loving, forever home. And most importantly, make frequent visits with the bird before taking the plunge, and in fairness to the bird, never make a hasty decision based on a whim.