Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots

by REP for Wildlife; SoCal Parrot
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Help save injured and orphaned wild parrots
Brooke Durham and her fancy parrot hat
Brooke Durham and her fancy parrot hat

This is the slowest time of year for us here at SoCal Parrot.  The parrots are busy pairing up and finding nests right now so lucky for us, we don't see many injured parrots coming in.  I figured I'd fill everyone in on some of the obstacles Brooke Durham, the founder of SoCal Parrot, has had to endure.

Brooke started out as a volunteer at Project Wildlife, a San Diego based wildlife rehabilitation organization.  She spent years caring for and rehabilitating all types of wild mammals and birds.  She eventually achieved her goal of specializing in rehabilitating raptors.  Red tailed, red shouldered and Cooper's hawks as well as great horned and barn owls were soon in our flight gaining strength so they can be released back to the wild.  During one windy night, a wild baby parrot was brought into Project Wildlife after the palm frond his nest was in was blown down.  We took this broken parrot home because he would never be able to fly after his injuries.  Once parrot after parrot kept coming in and were never released back to where they came from, Brooke new she had to do something.

What are we doing?  When Brooke started spreading the word about what she was doing, people felt free to criticize.  How dare she help a non-native species.  She was supposed to let them die or be taken as pets.  That was the safe thing to do.  As a wildlife rehabilitator, she knew she had to save wild parrots.  As a conservationist she knew this was the right thing to do.  Ten years later and things are starting to change.  I'll get to what Brooke has planned this year but first I need to fill you in on some of our struggles.

If you didn't know, people who work with animals tend to be a little different.  I mean we tend to prefer to be around animals more than other people.  So I guess it should come as no surprise that these same people are running organizations that are supposed to put the welfare of animals first.  Supposed to.  

Our first story goes back many years, before we had our first wild parrot release.  We had been taking in wild parrots for years but were unable to release them.  As wildlife rehabilitators, we knew we had to do a release of non-native parrots with the approval of California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW).  We had requested several times that CDFW give us a decision on a release but they wouldn't take a stand and we were handed off to one person after another.  Around this time a local parrot organization that specializes in re-homing pet parrots approached us.  They had two parrots that were wild that they wanted us to release.  One was a blue fronted Amazon and the other a red-crowned.  It was obvious the red-crowned came from the local wild flock but we did not know where the blue fronted came from but it was definitely not domesticated.  We told them we would not release any parrot until we had approval from CDFW.  They then asked us to help them "take down" a parrot organization that took parrots to Balboa Park and charged people money to take pictures with them.  We let them know we were here to take care of parrots, not to take down other organizations.  So instead, they decided to "help" us by sending over one of their board members to volunteer for us.  Long story short, this volunteer wound up quitting without notice and convinced our volunteer coordinator to leave us and join their organization.  They threatened to sue us if we did not return the blue fronted Amazon because we had not released it.  They didn't even know that this parrot had clipped wings and we had to wait for the next molt for it to even be able to fly.  We were also turned in to the County Department of Animal Services for inadequate care of our parrots and to CDFW because we were going to attempt to release non-native parrots.  Nice huh?  Well, we had been rescue partners with the Department of Animal Services for years so they came out to do their mandatory investigation and apologized for the visit.  The blessing in disguise was the complaint to CDFW.  This complaint forced CDFW to investigate and rule on us releasing wild parrots.  They determined we were the experts as far as naturalized parrots go and as long as we don't release any monk parrots (illegal in California), we were allowed to release.  Soon after this we had our first release and we were able to release the red-crowned Amazon this organization gave us.  We never understood why we weren't going to be sued for the red-crowned and only the blue fronted Amazon. The blue fronted was given back and never released, we are assuming it will be kept in a cage the rest of its life.  So much for putting the welfare of animals first.  By the way, the organization at Balboa Park disappeared and we never learned what happened to all of their parrots.  Also, the director who was apparently pushing to take down all other parrot organizations was kicked out and is no longer associated with that parrot rescue.  Our previous volunteer coordinator also left that organization once she saw what the director was up to.

Here's another story about people forgetting to put animals first.  A permit from CDFW is required to legally rehabilitate wild animals.  For some perspective, there are four wildlife care centers in San Diego County compared to 86 throughout the rest of the state.  Unfortunately, there hasn't been a permit issued in San Diego for over 25 years.  Why so long?  Well, there is a regulation for wildlife permits that you must gain permission from the two closest wildlife centers to your facility.  SoCal Parrot is an organization under R.E.P. For Wildlife (Rehabilitate, Educate, Protect For Wildlife).  Brooke was looking to expand our reach by including native wildlife into our rehabilitation efforts.  So Brooke applied for a wildlife permit.  She was over qualified and met every requirement.  The only hurdle was approval from the two closest care centers.  This approval is based solely on if the other care centers believe there is a need for another care center.  Are there enough care centers to handle all of the wildlife that needs help?  Project Wildlife seemed to think so.  They are one of the largest wildlife care centers in the U.S.  They gladly recommended us for a wildlife permit.  However, the other closest organization didn't believe another organization was needed and would not respond to any requests for their reasoning so we were turned down, end of story.  Was it personal, fear of taking "their" rescues away or fear of losing donation dollars?  We'll never know.  Lucky for us we were able to get recommendations from the Fund For Animals, the second largest care center in San Diego as well as Sea World, who rehabilitates all water based mammals in San Diego.  This was enough for CDFW to issue us a wildlife rehabilitation permit.  This was a very quick re-telling of this story, this took as years to get done.

After all that Brooke has gone through so far, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year.  She just joined the board of directors of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC).  She bypassed the California and U.S. wildlife organizations and went straight to THE international organization.  Very impressive and unheard of for someone who rehabilitates non-native naturalized parrots and dares to release them.  She was given this opportunity after helping the IWRC to raise funds for other wildlife care centers that were impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria of 2017.  She will be the keynote speaker for The Oasis Sanctuary's Discover The Oasis 2018, their annual fundraiser.  They are an excellent organization that gives parrots that have such long lifespans a home to live out their lives.  They take in all kinds of pet parrots that lost their homes, check out their website to see their stories, www.the-oasis.org.  She will also be speaking about parrot conservation at the 2018 American Ornithological Society in Tucson this April.  The idea of parrot conservation in urban settings has come a long way, she wouldn't have been giving this talk 10 years ago.  She also has plans to speak at the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver as well as the Western Field Ornithologists Annual Conference in Ventura.  She's doing all of this on top of keeping SoCal Parrot moving forward and working on more plans for speaking engagements and working with other conservation groups.  

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Best buddies
Best buddies

We made it to the end of 2017 and I wanted to thank all of our donors for their support.  Thank you to everyone who has donated to us through GlobalGiving, who have sent us supplies through Amazon and volunteers who have donated their time at our facility.  Without everyone's help we wouldn't be able to do what we do.

Let's get to it!  As of December 15th, we have taken in 118 parrots for 2017.  We had our annual amazon release in November.  We had 62 amazons sitting in carriers waiting for the wild flock to arrive.  As always, the flock comes flying in pairs.  They start landing in groups within a couple thousand feet of their night roost.  As they start landing they are squawking and our amazons start to realize that there are other parrots in the world.  You'll here an excited call back here and there from our carriers.  As the sun starts to set, you'll get a group of about a hundred or so amazons decide it is time to go to roost.  This is when we start to release our amazons so they can rejoin their parents, brothers and sisters that they were apart from for 6 months or so.  One by one they realize that they can fly more than 60 ft, which is their limit in our flight.  Our amazons quickly assimilate into the flock and we can't tell them apart anymore.  As the wild amazons flying into the roost went past 400 individuals plus adding our new releases, it becomes a very loud jumble of squawks and screams.  As always, the social makeup of the flock takes in strangers without question or fights.  We currently have 15 conures in our pre-release flight who are building up their flight muscles.

In October we held our annual Picnic With The Parrots at our facility.  We have scaled back this event over the years to make it manageable.  The more parrots that arrive at our door the less time we have to plan events.  However, this was one of our best Picnics we ever had.  We saw a bunch of new faces as well as the dedicated who come year after year.  It's cool to hear each person's story of how they first came across the wild flock flying around San Diego.  The most common is the flyover of little screaming green things and wondering what the heck was that!  Animal care organizations are always underfunded so we always try to help each other out when we can.  A big thank you to Project Wildlife, The Living Coast Discovery Center and Intertwined Conservation for setting booths at Picnic to help spread their conservation messages.  

Here are a couple of updates of parrots I discussed in previous reports.  Two Stroke is out flying across San Diego with his new flock.  He was released in November.  Once he was put in a carrier and taken to the release site, he became one with the flock.  I have pictures of the release but I couldn't tell you which one Two Stroke is, from far away it's hard to even tell if an amazon is a red-crown or lilac-crown so recognizing a particular individual is almost impossible.  We hope he lives a long life with his flock.  As I have mentioned in the past, each of the parrots we release have been microchipped so if we ever get one back injured, we will know who they are.  Hopefully we will never see Two Stroke return to us and we can imagine him flying free with his new family.  In the last report I told the story of a yellow head parrot that came to us shot.  She was from the small yellow head flock in Imperial Beach.  After almost four months of medication to fight lead poisoning and putting weight back on, she was finally healthy enough to meet our other yellow head.  We knew they had to know each other and have a good chance of being related since they came from the same small flock.  It made all of the waiting worth it when they saw each other.  They are inseparable now.  Over the years that our yellow head IBY was in our flight as the only yellow head, she would make her "flock call" which is a call for her flock to join her.  It's a very distinctive call and sad to hear when you knew no other parrots would be coming to join her.  Now we don't hear that call as much.  

We are planning on having a great 2018.  We are currently in the process of getting our permits to build our new wildlife care center.  I hate to think we won't be up and running by this time next year but it is a sloooooow process.  We first submitted plans in May and are still working through the red tape of trying to build in California.  I won't bore you with the details but I will keep you informed of our progress.  We are building a temporary cage to make space for the number of parrots we ae taking in every year.  We are maxed out for room at our current property so we are building a cage that can be moved to our new proerty once it is ready.  Thanks again for all of your support.

Parrot release (see the green blur?)
Parrot release (see the green blur?)
Wild flock coming in to land
Wild flock coming in to land
Temp cage front
Temp cage front
Temp cage side
Temp cage side
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Yellow head trying to heal
Yellow head trying to heal

We have survived our busiest time of the year.  The big rush of amazon babies is over and we are just about through the conure baby season.  Before I get to the details of our baby season, I wanted to some information to our last report.  I wanted to give an update on Two Stroke.  

Two Stroke is doing great.  He stayed in our brooders a little longer than most parrots but he was always a healthy eater, which is half the battle of getting babies to thrive.  Along with all of our other healthy amazons, he has graduated to our flight cage.  He is learning to be a parrot.  He is building his flights muscles and learning how to maneuver and make 10 point landings.  I attached links to a couple of videos ot Two Stroke.  The light feathers that we thought would come in yellow came in green.  Two Stroke turned out to be a red-crowned amazon but he is unique.  He has red feathers going down both sides of his throat.  This isn't normal but we have seen this coloring before. We've seen this with amazons coming from Pasadena.  We've also seen this coloring in the native flocks of red-crowned amazons in southern Texas.  In the video, his two buddies still have their baby call, begging for food.  They are eating on their own but the babies tend to keep begging for food months after they need to.  When the wild flocks are bedding down for the night, we still hear the "babies" begging for food even though they are the same size as their parents.  

I also wanted to comment on our conure, Conner.  I forgot to mention one of his most annoying habits.  I did mention how he likes to make as much noise as he can, he is a conure after all.  But I didn't cover how he waits until he eats all of the food out of his metal bowl so he put his head into the bottom of it so all you see is his tail sticking up in the air.  That is when he screams as loud as he can!  He uses his bowl like a megaphone.  It's so loud we have to say his name about 5 times before he can even hear us over his screaming.  We always ask him why he must scream like that but he never gives us a straight answer.

Our baby season has been great.  We have taken in 98 parrots through the middle of September and we took in 104 through the same time in 2016.  We had a total of 112 parrots come through our doors last year so we are looking to a quiet ending to the year.  The current breakdown is 77 amazons, 20 conures and 1 yellow chevroned parakeet.  This is an increase in amazons and a decrease in conures compared to last year.  All of our parrots that are physically able to be released are in our main flight together.  Every single one was able to "wild up" this year, we don't see any that have imprinted and cannot be released.  Like previous years, we will be releasing our amazons in the month of November.  Our conures will then get the run of the large flight to really develop and build their strength.  The conures are so small and agile that they never have any problems making tight turns and flying like jet fighters.  We break a sweat whenever it is time to catch them for release.  

I hate to say this is a success but we "only" had two parrots come in who were shot with pellet guns.  The amazing thing is that they both survived.  They can't be released but they will live.  One that we are really excited for is the yellow headed amazon that was shot in Imperial Beach.  Our other yellow head that has been here for years was also shot in Imperial Beach, her name is IBY.  We excited because the existing flock of yellow heads had a maximum of 7 individuals.  So this new yellow head is most likely related to IBY.  We don't know if they are siblings, child or parent.  They haven't come face to face yet because one of the pellets could not be surgically removed from the new one and she has been fighting lead poisoning.  After months of having close calls in her health she is finally gaining weight.  We want to make sure she will live before we introduce them again.  We assume they will love each other but we didn't want to add stress to either one of them until we are comfortable with her recovery.

We also have two red-crowned amazons that are blind.  They can see some light but that's about it.  What's amazing is how long they hide their disability.  These birds are watched continuously as they grow and they always blend in with the other babies.  They figure out where to hang out with the other birds and where the food and water is.  It's always when we see some small little action that isn't quite right when we figure out they can't see us like the other parrots can.  I tried to take pictures for this report but they were not cooperating.  I'll get some together for the next report.  We don't know for sure but they appear to be a male and female.  We have them in the same cage and they are slowly getting used to each other.  Their names are Stevie and Justice, I'm sure you can figure out how they got their names.

Once again we are having our yearly open house to the public on October 8th from 11 AM to 4 PM.  Our fifth annual Picnic With The Parrots is a chance see what we do and meet some of our incredible volunteers.  We are also proud to have other non profits that will be joining us.  Project Wildlife (where we got our start working with wildlife) www.projectwildlife.org, the Living Coast Discovery Center www.thelivingcoast.org and Intertwined Conservation www.intertwinedconservation.org will all be here.  Please stop by if you happen to be in town.

Picnic With The Parrots
Picnic With The Parrots

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Two Stroke taking a break from the begging
Two Stroke taking a break from the begging

If you're a Game of Thrones fan you know that Winter Is Coming.  Here at SCP we know that the Parrots Are Coming.  This is the time of year we look forward to and dread at the same time.  We take in parrots that are just starting their lives that we can rehabilitate as well as others that come in too broken to help.  It's the constant joy and sorrow that a rehabilitator just has to deal with.  The babies have started arriving.  We take in a lot of parrots but sometimes there are some that stand out for one reason or another to the point that they earn a name.  As a rehabilitator you have to try to not get too attached since the whole point of our rescue is to release every bird we see.  One of the babies that came in last month inspired this GlobalGiving report.

When you earn a name like Two Stroke as a baby with no feathers then you must be pretty special.  A two stroke engine is the motor that powers a motorcycle.  Brooke, our founder, grew up in the mountains of Kentucky and has been around a dirt bike or two.  We have a baby that came in from Pasadena that begged louder and longer than any other baby we've seen in all the years we've been a rescue.  By begging I mean a very loud and repetitive huh-huh-huh-huh sound.  I'll attach a link below to some video that will show what that sounds like.  So little Two Stroke is very impressive in his begging abilities.  It makes sense that if these sounds make us pay attention that this would also attract the attention of Two Stroke's parents during feeding time.  His call is so loud and extended that we think he might be an amazon that we are not used to dealing with.  He has some yellow feathers coming in under his eyes so there is a possibility he is a red-lored amazon which are quite a bit larger than the red-crowns we are used to dealing with.  As babies they are just impossible to tell what type of amazon they will be until their feathers start coming in.  Please take a look at the pictures and videos of two Stroke that I attach below, I plan on following his story as he grows and is ready for release.

I was reviewing a previous report from September 2016 and saw another little personality I'd like to share with you.  There were three nest mates that came to us because of tree trimmers.  They were three red masked conures with no feathers and the youngest had not even opened its eyes yet.  This parrot was very small and was very lethargic.  He wound up growing at a slower rate than his siblings but he did survive.  When we have parrots this small that need special attention to make sure they survive, there is always a chance they will not "wild up".  I'm sure you can guess by now that this little guy earned a name, Conner the conure.  His two older siblings did "wild up" and were released earlier this year.  Conner became imprinted and we decided it was best to not attempt a release.  This is always a hard decision but we know that if he didn't have the round the clock care that caused the imprinting that he would not have made it.  Conner is sassy as a good conure should be.  He won't hesitate to join in when it's time to make noise, which is pretty often in a house filled with parrots.  He loves to have his head rubbed by women but I usually have a 50/50 chance of a head rub or a finger bite depending in his mood.  I would say he can hover more than fly.  He can make it over to Brooke when she's 10 feet away but it takes about 10 seconds for him to get there and boy is he tired.  What is really nice is that he has become friends with Nene, the first conure we rescued and is represented in our logo.  Conner has learned how to be sassy from his buddy Nene.

Nene came to us back in 2007.  He was the first parrot we took in for surgery and proved to us how tough these little guys are.  He was a fledgling learning to fly and our best guess is that he was hit by a car.  His left wing and left leg was broken.  His lower beak is permanently shifted to the right.  Nene had external fixators on his wing to be able to allow it to heal with shattered bones.  10 years later he's still a ball of fire.  He'll never fly, his foot has never regained its strength and we have to trim his beak to keep it growing normally.  None of this has ever slowed down Nene.  He earned his name after the nene goose of Hawaii.  He likes to be loud and he sounds like a nene.  Just so you know, a conure is not happy unless it is making noise.  Conures aren't great "talkers" but Nene picked up "Nene!  Stop it right now!".  This was before we knew that parrots will learn the thing they hear the most.  Ten years every time another bird is being loud, Nene makes sure to tell them to "Stop it right now."  Followed by "I said stop!"  For as much conures can drive you crazy, they are also the sweetest birds.  Nene likes to blow kisses when he is in a good mood and is ready for some head rubs.  These are some of the personalities here at SCP that keep us going.

Our baby season is just starting.  I included a link to Brooke's personal Facebook page where she is posting videos of the daily feedings of the new babies.  It's a great way to learn what we do and to watch how fast these baby parrots grow.  I'll have more updates on how our 2017 season is going in the next report.  As always, we hope our intake numbers go down this year.  Thank you for all of the support you give, we appreciate everything you do.

Two Stroke and a younger buddy
Two Stroke and a younger buddy
Conner taking a break from being sassy
Conner taking a break from being sassy
Nene as a baby after surgery
Nene as a baby after surgery
Nene letting you know you better "Stop it!"
Nene letting you know you better "Stop it!"

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Canary Island date palm with cavities
Canary Island date palm with cavities

Soon SoCal Parrot's vacation will be over.  Although taking care of the parrots at our facility is a year round job, this is the time of year when our intake of new parrots is the smallest.  In May of last year we took in 2 parrots but in June?  37!  Why do our numbers increase by so much in June?  It's because right now is the beginning of the breeding season for our wild parrots.

After tracking the whereabouts of San Diego's wild flocks for several years, we know that the flocks gather in a town called Ocean Beach starting in February.  For reasons still unknown to us, this is where the parrots come to every year to breed. It's obvious when you drive through OB (Ocean Beach) why the come here.  There are palm trees everywhere that have numerous cavities to nest in.  This is another way in which the parrots' impact on native wildlife is minimized.  Our parrots (non-native) only nest within palm trees (non-native) that are not used for nesting by other species.  Not only do these palm trees provide shelter, they also provide food to eat.  Make sure you take a look at the pictures I included with this report.  I was able to spend some time in the streets recently where the parrots are picking out their nest sites.

I was able to observe quite a bit of parrot behavior a couple weeks ago thanks to the San Diego Bird Festival.  Every year SoCal Parrot leads field trips over 4 days to take birders to the parrot night roosts as well as their breeding grounds.  It always makes me laugh as I watch bird watchers see a flock of wild parrots for the first time.  They're used to going to pristine native habitat and quietly waiting to spot one or two individuals of a particular species.  Here we are standing on a sidewalk and then they start to hear some squawking in the distance.  As they look up, all of a sudden there are 200-300 parrots flying in circles above us before they start diving towards the trees.  Yes it is loud.  Yes it is awesome.  Jaws literally drop open from the shear numbers and noise coming out of nowhere.  

We don't have a lot of time to watch parrots in the wild so these field trips are an easy excuse to make time to appreciate our flocks.  I took all of the pictures I included with this report in OB.  Since parrots mate for life, it is a special thing to watch a pair of parrots repeatedly returning to one tree and to a particular cavity.  You can see them starting to claim a particular cavity, making sure no other parrot s get too close.  The one thing I was really surprised by this year is that amazons and conures were nesting in trees that were side by side.  I didn't see any mixing between the two species on one tree but I always assumed that their territories might overlap but that they would never nest next to each other.  Maybe it's the acceptance ingrained in the flock mentality that allows them to tolerate strangers during the breeding season.

As we wait for the young parrots to start arriving in June, we received some great news this week.  As you may know, SoCal Parrot is our organization to take care of wild parrots that is under the umbrella of our non-profit, REP for Wildlife. The REP stands for Rehabilitate, Educate and Protect.  We created this parent non-profit so we could create multiple organizations that have a different focus on the animals they help.  We just received our Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  This will allow us to rehabilitate and release native wildlife.  We are in no way turning our back on our parrots.  SoCal Parrot will continue without change but we will be expanding to help care for native wildlife.  I won't get into the details of the process of getting a permit but this was years in the making.  As far as we can find, there hasn't been a new permit issued since the 1990s.  Taking care of non-native parrots is a hindrance to getting a permit but native and non-native animals will be completely separated on our property.  We are very excited for this opportunity to be able to help our native wildlife along with our beautiful parrots.

Palm trees supply food as well as shelter
Palm trees supply food as well as shelter
Amazon checking out a nest site
Amazon checking out a nest site
Amazon keeping a lookout for its partner
Amazon keeping a lookout for its partner
Two conures claiming their cavity
Two conures claiming their cavity
Red-masked conure hanging out
Red-masked conure hanging out
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REP for Wildlife; SoCal Parrot

Location: Jamul, California - USA
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Project Leader:
Joshua Bridwell
Jamul, California United States
$24,368 raised of $25,000 goal
 
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