Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Feathered Friend in Need

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Feathered Friend in Need

Article excerpt

CHICAGO

My family has been discussing how long my sons and I can expect to live. I have to plan for another 50 years but realistically, I'm probably only good for about 40 more.

Here's why: If our family of four (plus our dog, who has to pass muster) can successfully pass the extremely rigorous screening, application and training process to adopt a certain blue and gold macaw -- who is about 12 and expected to live until approximately 2065 -- my future grandchildren will be seeing to its relative comfort.

How did I fall into the heart-wrenching rabbit hole of traveling to the exotic bird sanctuaries of the Midwest, trying to find a parrot physically and mentally healthy enough to adopt? Why have I spent countless hours of the past few weeks filling out applications lengthier than those I completed for graduate school, finding appropriate personal references to cite and budgeting a minimum of $1,000 (just for starters) for adoption fees and a proper cage for a two-foot-tall bird with the intelligence of a toddler and a wingspan of nearly four feet?

I'll save that for last.

For now, let me tell you that visiting bird sanctuaries where large, ultra-smart exotics go (if they're lucky) after being discarded for not living up to the expectations that people get from watching trained animals on TV and in movies is absolutely soul- crushing.

You see birds that have been terribly abused and are being nursed back to health by dedicated volunteers. You see parrots that look like whole chickens from the grocery store because in their depression and anxiety, they've plucked themselves bald.

In some cases, they've gouged themselves with their immensely strong beaks the way some humans cut themselves to relieve psychological pain.

A Wisconsin sanctuary pointed me to a PBS documentary from 2013, "Parrot Confidential," which details the multibillion-dollar business that is the poaching or breeding of exotic birds.

According to the film, produced and written by Allison Argo, the Wild Bird Conservation Act took effect in 1992 to protect exotic bird species from being imported into this country. As an unintended consequence, poachers in the warm-climate U. …

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