Victoria: For this blog, I spoke with Carol Klamerus, who runs Tucson Parrot Rescue (see www.tucsonparrotrescue.com). Carol, how about a few words about your organization?
Carol: The mission of Tucson Parrot Rescue is to rescue parrots in need of new homes, no matter the reason, and to improve the lives of companion birds. One of our main goals is to increase humans’ knowledge of what to expect from parrots and how to care for them properly.
Tucson Parrot Rescue also assists in reuniting lost birds with their families, helps birds with issues so birds may remain in their homes, and arranges adoptions of unwanted birds into caring homes with educated caregivers.
We offer a personalized education program, which is held in your home (adaptations may be made during the pandemic). Each class is an individual-based course, which includes instruction in the general care, nutrition, proper housing, well-being of each bird, health, and household hazards.
Victoria: That sounds impressive! Carol, how long have you been running Tucson Parrot Rescue?
Carol: I’ve been running this for about 6-7 years. Before that I was part of Tucson Avian Rescue Association (TARA), but it turned out that many people don’t understand that the word “avian” means bird. So we got a lot of calls to rescue other animals, such as javelinas.
After TARA closed, I started Tucson Parrot Rescue, but even now the name causes some misunderstandings. I don’t just help out birds in Tucson, but in most of southern Arizona. Also, the word “Parrot” means the parrot family, which includes many different species.
Editor: According to Wikipedia, the Parrots – also known as Psittaciformes – have 387 different living species. These include true parrots, but also cockatoos and New Zealand parrots. Parrots come in many sizes, from the parakeets (budgerigars/budgies) native to Australia to the hyacinth macaws that hail from South America. They have strong curved bills (hook-bills) and two toes going forwards and two toes going backwards.
Victoria: What makes parrots so special?
Carol: Parrots, such as African greys, are some of the world’s most intelligent birds, which means they need stimulation. They can also live a long time – from 50 to 80 years – unlike dogs and cats, parrots often outlive their humans. Also, their innate wild nature make their needs greater than most people can meet.
Parrots, like many birds, need to belong to a flock. If you are your bird’s only companion, it will get upset and start calling if you leave the room. That’s why it’s usually better to have more than one bird, as long as the birds don’t attack each other. For birds to get along, it’s better if they’re at least from the same part of the world, such as both from South America or from Australia.
Even in captivity, after so many years of being bred by humans, they are not domesticated. Put some budgies together and they know how to flock! In the wild, they do murmurations of thousands! Editorial note: a “murmuration” is a flock of birds, most often applied to starlings.
Victoria: How do people, sometimes inadvertently, treat their parrots poorly?
Carol: Many pet parrots are malnourished, because their owners feed them only seeds instead of a well-rounded diet. Seeds are mostly fat; they don’t contain enough vitamins. Even if seeds advertise that they are fortified with vitamins, these vitamins are sprayed on the outside of the seeds and don’t always get absorbed by the bird. Parrots need much more variety, such as veggies and fruit, in their diets, but you should check with your vet that the other foods are OK before giving it to your bird.
Another common problem is that birds don’t get enough exercise, because people don’t let the birds out of their cages enough. Often cages are too small. Wider cages are more important than taller cages. (Editorial note: Tucson parrot rescue may have the right cage for your bird. Their website also has information about what makes a cage suitable – or not.)
Besides bad diets and insufficient exercise — problems common to us humans – birds, because of the way their lungs and air sacs work, are especially sensitive to certain chemicals. The gasses released when you cook with a Teflon pan can kill your parrot. New carpets can also be dangerous. If it smells funny to you, it’s probably bad for your birds.
Victoria: Hmm, if Teflon kills birds it’s probably not good for people.
Victoria: I think I’ll change my cooking habits. Anyway, I see why it’s good to get some coaching before bonding with a bird.
Carol: I need to do a home visit, to make sure that the place is safe and that people are prepared to let a bird or two into their homes. Of course, these days that’s not always possible.
Victoria: Can you tell us about any parrots that you have rescued?
Carol: Yes, I recently rescued a yellow-collared macaw. It was dumped outside a local Petco; the people there called me, and I picked it up. Unfortunately, the macaw had a wing with painful nerve damage and it had to be amputated so she wouldn’t be in pain. Petricia is living with me now.
Victoria: Thanks, Carol, for a fascinating and informative interview! Note to readers: you can learn more about Tucson Parrot Rescue at their website, www.tucsonparrotrescue.com. At any given time they may have 10 to 20 birds available for adoption, pandemic permitting, ranging from tiny lovebirds, budgies and cockatiels to majestic amazons, macaws and cockatoos. Remember, however, adoptions are not free and you have to be prepared to bond with a bird.