TRURO - A home on the outskirts of Truro has become a place of healing for many exotic birds.
Ray McLennan runs Parrot World sanctuary, taking in parrots who have plucked out their feathers due to stress, those whose human caretaker has died and some who just are not the right fit for the person who bought them.
"A lot of people get these birds as an impulse purchase and that's not an acceptable way of doing things," said McLennan. "These birds need a lot of interaction to be content."
McLennan used to breed African Grey parrots but stopped when he felt he was contributing to the problem of overpopulation.
He currently has 14 birds in his home and says it's like having a room full of toddlers.
"Parrots have the mentality level of a five-year-old child and time-outs work as well for birds as toddlers," he said. "Their capacity for learning is greater than that of a cat or dog."
Boredom can result in an enormous amount of emotional stress for a parrot. Frannie, an umbrella cockatoo who is a permanent resident at McLennan's home, chewed the toes off of her left foot because she was left alone too much. She also has a 142-decibel scream and went through three homes in one year.
"We went down to Yarmouth to get her," recalled McLennan, a home inspection contractor. "We took her out of the cage and she walked up to my wife and said, ‘I love you.' The next day she bit her on the nose."
Frannie is now happy. Because she has no toes on her left foot she has difficulty preening her crest and McLennan does the left side. She is unable to play on things like the climbing swing and has to use her beak more but loves to interact with her human family.
McLennan's wife and his three children, aged eight to 14, also enjoy spending time with the birds and giving them the attention they need.
One of the birds currently available for adoption is Cookie, a Goffin cockatoo who came to the sanctuary after her owner died. She had plucked out her feathers due to stress and was thin. After a month-and-a-half she is healthy and growing her feathers back.
Dexter, a three-year-old Meyers parrot, and Digby, an 11-year-old Senegal parrot, are also among those ready for homes.
The adoption policy is strict and there is a fee to discourage those attempting to get a free bird they could then sell. The cage in which the bird feels comfortable goes with it to its new home.
McLennan has been doing rescue and rehabilitation for three years and has re-homed about 50 birds, 12 of those being in 2012. During the first year he had several budgies and cockatiels but because there were so many he had to limit his operation to the larger birds.
"I would like to see a ban on exotic pet sales in stores," he said. "There are about 40 million parrots in North America and at least half of those are not cared for properly."
He tries not to re-home wild-caught birds, as they are in high demand by breeders.
One of the wild-caught birds who is a permanent resident is Pete, a blue fronted Amazon. Although he was said to be 14 years old when his previous owner got him, McLennan checked his leg band and found that he came through Miami in 1972. Pete had spent many years in a cage that was too small and just has enough movement in his wings now to be able to lift them.
Mugsy and Willie, white-bellied caiques, are also permanent residents. Willie had a stroke in 2009 and lost his sight for a while.
McLennan stresses that parrots are not suitable for first-time bird owners; budgies and cockatiels are good choices.
"If people are considering a parrot they should ask themselves if they mind a mess," he said. "They're noisy, messy and their demands come first. People should have one-and-a-half to three hours a day to be with, and interact with, the bird. They need to be inventive and make toys. These birds need things they can destroy, not just the indestructible ones you can buy. Another important thing is not to say the word ‘oww' when they're bitten, as that will encourage the bird to do it again."
McLennan also works with people in their homes when they need help with their own birds, helping them learn about the bird's body language and needs.
More information on Parrot World can be found online at http://parrotworldnovascotia.yolasite.com/.