81 neglected exotic birds rescued

February 9, 2009

Wilson Parrot Foundation volunteer Lisa Nichols holds a cinnamon green cheek conure Friday afternoon. This bird is one of 81 recently rescued. The foundation will need people to foster some of the birds. (Frederick News-Post/Sam Yu)

DAMASCUS -- The birds at the Wilson Parrot Foundation  live in the lap of luxury with clean cages and the freedom to roam safely around the house.

Not all pet birds are so lucky.

Last weekend, the foundation rescued 81 birds from a Montgomery County breeder's home. The birds, which included conures (parakeets), macaws and cockatiels, had been living in unsanitary conditions.

"I wish we had masks when we went in there," said Brian Wilson, who founded the Wilson Parrot Foundation in 1999. "It smelled so bad."

Lisa Nichols, a foundation volunteer, said some birds were confined in pet carriers, while others had gone days without food or water.

"It was pretty bad," she said.

The cages were dirty and some food bowls were moldy.

"It looked like he had changed the papers, but that's it," Nichols said.

Some birds were even hatching from eggs during the rescue.

Wilson and his volunteers spent the night of Jan. 31 and part of Feb. 1 moving the birds to the foundation at his Damascus home. After all the birds were moved, the staff pressure-washed their cages.

"Now everything's spotless," Wilson said. "It's mandatory that we keep it clean."

The Wilson Parrot Foundation is a nonprofit 503(k), which houses, rehabilitates and cares for parrots that have been rescued or given away. Wilson often takes his birds to visit nursing homes, parties and other events.

Before last weekend's rescue, the foundation was home to 36 birds. The new additions are being housed separate from the rest of the flock until they are tested for diseases.

Wilson said that this was the foundation's largest-ever rescue.

"Usually it's one or two at a time."

As soon as the breeder of the rescued birds formally gives up ownership, the foundation will start looking for foster homes, Wilson said.

Wilson thinks the former owner loves animals, but took on more than he could handle.

"He was in over his head," Wilson said.

Wilson emphasized the importance of keeping pet birds in clean environments and giving them lots of attention.

"Anybody who wants a bird should think long and hard," he said. "Study and keep reading and reading."