Friday, August 05, 2005


One of my earliest childhood memories involves sitting in a neighbour’s yard watching multicoloured birds fly inside a large outdoor enclosure. I was fascinated by the colored feathers, shrill calls, flapping wings, and wide open eyes of these beautiful birds as they moved along the various perches. Today I prefer to watch birds in nature.

However, many birds live their lives in captivity and most people do not have the patience, time, or space to allow for a bird to live the natural span of its life. This is particularly true of parrots who are found naturally in the wilds of Africa, South America, and South East Asia where the larger birds can live to the age of 70 years.

Pet parrots tend to be hatched by humans, who they take to be their parents, and never learn the life skills of a wild parrot. Humans are attracted to parrots because of their talking, beauty, social graces, and loving gestures. Most people do not realize how time-consuming parrots can be and these ‘pets’ end up living solitary lives inside small cages. Parrots are intelligent beings who need to be fully engaged, through-out their lives, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Birds fly! The natural instinct of parrots is to live in flocks which provide them with a certain amount of protection from predators. Many local eagles, hawks, and humans will remember the ill-fated ‘Bird World’ across from the Mid-Island Co-op where exotic birds were displayed for profit until vandals released them all. Those parrots escaped to a certain death in the harsh environment.

I was glad to find that the World Parrot Refuge takes a completely different approach to the plight of parrots. A charity organization, ‘For the Love OF Parrots Refuge Society’, operates this educational facility providing a home for life for previously owned pet parrots.

My first visit to the veterinary hospital in the World Parrot Refuge was both exhilarating and overwhelming. Volunteers introduced me to some of the birds that are healing after horrendous experiences with past owners who subjected them to all sorts of indecencies.

As soon as I entered the hospital the birds began to talk to me and vied for my attention. Despite their injuries these birds climbed across the handmade wooden canopy to greet me. One hopped onto my arm and climbed up onto my shoulder where it tickled my chin with the top of its head. Another hopped onto my foot and began to use its beak and claws to climb up my pant leg. A volunteer pointed out a few of the birds which might not be so friendly. I watched a Green Macaw rip off chucks of wood from a 2x6 table with its beak then I saw a Gray tear open a hard shelled almond nut in one motion. When treated badly these birds can certainly defend themselves.

Next I took a tour of the flight aviaries where staff and volunteers have created wooden canopies for flocks that include many species living together in free-flight environments where their wings are not clipped. Every time an eagle flies by outside the birds on watch by the window let out a shriek of alarm and the entire flock flies for safety. An abundance of toys, food, and companion birds allows these birds to make the most of life in captivity. International laws, lack of natural environment due to human development, and the extinction of many species of parrot in the wild prevent these birds from being returned to the wild.

Today over 400 birds live at the World Parrot Refuge which is open to the public for educational purposes and is located in Coombs at 2116 Alberni Highway. The grand opening takes place on August 13 at 1 pm. For information phone: 951-0822 or check