Mickey, African Grey Parrot, fully feathered
Foster Stories

Mickey’s Story

Hi, my name is Mickey. I was donated to Birdline three years ago. I was a very much-loved pet, but unfortunately my owners were never taught how to care for me properly and my health suffered as a consequence. I lived on a “junk food” diet of black sunflower seed and monkey nuts, which are both very high in protein and fats – but low in the many other vitamins and nutrients I need to be healthy and happy. Eventually, I stopped eating and started to pluck out my feathers. Poor diet can be a major cause of behavioural issues such as plucking. Unable to cope my owners surrendered me to the care of the rescue charity, Birdline. When the Birdline volunteers collected me, they didn’t think I would make the journey to my new home because I was so weak and thin.

I was taken to a safehouse for care and rehabilitation. I was very frightened to start with, because although I had my own cage and toys, I was in strange place, with people that were new to me. It took me a little while to get used to my safehouse parents and my new surroundings, but slowly we got to know each other. I was being given all these strange things to eat, that I’d never seen before like vegetables, fruit, nuts and chicken. It took me a little while to get used to all these different colours, textures and flavours, but slowly I began to get excited when my breakfast bowl came and I also started to gain weight and stopped pulling my feathers out.

Along with my new diet there was something else new happening in my life. This great big hand kept coming towards me and a voice kept saying ”tickle, tickle”.  To start with, I thought this was very frightening and on several occasions, I caused my safehouse Dad a lot of pain and bleeding because I bit him in order to defend myself. However, over the following weeks, I decided the “tickle tickle” was nice and not at all scary. I fell in love with my new safehouse family and the feeling became mutual. I am now fostered and have a forever home with them. I am now  a very happy, healthy and fortunate bird, who without Birdline Parrot Rescue may not be alive to tell my tale.

Love Mickey.

Unfortunately, this is a very typical story of birds that come into Birdline Parrot Rescue. Birds are often sold by unscrupulous dealers and pet shops, who have a  severe lack of knowledge of the birds’ needs, and can not hope to impart best practice to the people who buy their birds. This leads to poor husbandry, ill health and behavioural issues such as loud squawking, biting and attacking and self harm including plucking and mutilating. The once beautiful creature you kept in the corner of the room has become noisy, disruptive and sometimes dangerous. These ‘problem parrots’ are often passed from one home to the next, sometimes being yelled at and treated even more cruelly by the frustrated humans they live with. Eventually, the lucky ones may find their way to a rescue charity such as Birdline. Please help to stop this cruel trade – don’t buy, foster.

Birdline Parrot Rescue operates across the U.K. and  re-homes hundreds of parrots each year. We also work to raise standards in parrot care through education at events and through resources such as the Birdline website. The charity is run entirely on a voluntary basis and a dedicated team of people give their valuable time to enable birds such as Mickey get a second chance of a loving home. Each year the charity’s biggest cost is for vet care, ensuring birds such as Mickey get the support they need to live healthy and happy lives. Funds are raised through a membership scheme, donations and events. As parrots live for such a long time, they remain in the ownership of Birdline for life. This gives the much needed reassurance that if a foster family’s circumstances change Birdline will step in to give support and if necessary re-home the bird once again. You can find out more about the charity and ways in which you can help support it at www.birdline.org.uk

Foster Stories

Rani’s story

I had been considering on and off for a couple of years whether to add another parrot to my family. After much debate and discussion, I concluded that I would apply for a rescued bird, in order to give a parrot in need a second chance of a happy home. Now the wrong side of 40, I felt that taking on a baby would not be the right thing to do, as the potential for a parrot to outlive me is a real possibility. I won’t lie – the thought of dealing with a baby parrot’s nippiness and “terrible-twos” once more was also a little daunting, and I figured a more mature bird would bypass this issue! A little Green Cheek Conure caught my eye on Birdline Parrot Rescue’s website and with some excitement I registered as a member and put in an application. 

I soon received a call from a lovely Rehoming Officer who conducted a 45-minute phone interview. This was followed up with a home check, which I was both delighted and relieved to have passed. However, as my application progressed it became clear that the bird, I had applied for had bonded with another at his temporary home and his Safe-House carer decided to keep him. Of course, this was brilliant news for the little chap, and I was thrilled for him. Safe-Housing is Birdline’s first step to a parrot finding their forever home; giving the bird time to settle and be assessed before being put up for adoption. However, I understand it’s not uncommon for the Safe-House to end up keeping their little feathered friends.

Fortunately for me the Rehoming Team had another bird in mind, and I was asked whether I would consider Safe-Housing a special-needs Green Cheek who had recently been surrendered to the rescue because her owner could no longer care for her. Any concerns about coping with her condition (a deformed beak) were quickly allayed and I readily agreed to take her. So, on a wet and windy evening at the end of October 2017 I drove into a Tesco’s car park somewhere close to Manchester, with instructions to look out for a Birdline Area Manager and the tiny bird who would shortly steal my heart. The Area Manager had kindly suggested the supermarket as a meeting point because it wouldn’t take me too far off my planned route for the evening. She met me with a hug and after a brief chat in the rain I said hello to my new little foster parrot – Rani. What I saw near broke my heart, as a scruffy little parrot, huddled into a corner of her cage, peered back at me with a terrified look in her eyes. How confused and unsettled she must have felt. 

With paperwork signed and Rani safely secured in her cage on the backseat of my car, we set off for the relative’s house where I had arranged to stay for the night. Not a peep was heard from Rani on the hour-long journey – not even a single squawk in objection to my terrible radio Karaoke! On arrival I was therefore extremely surprised to hear her excitedly say “biscuit, biscuit” as I offered a hospitality gift of cookies to my relative. 

Rani sitting on her little cage displaying her overgrown beak.

I placed the little cage on a side table next to where I was sitting and debated whether to open the door, or just to let her settle. But after noting that she screamed every time I left her sight, I decided she might be happier if she wasn’t stuck inside. She immediately rushed out and climbed up to the top of her cage and leaned towards me. 

I offered her my finger to step-up and she promptly bit it. Quite right too – where were my manners? I’d forgotten to introduce myself properly. After a little bit of quiet conversation and reassurance I offered a covered arm and she hopped on. By the end of the evening I had tackled some of the pin feathers on her head that were causing her obvious irritation and she had fallen asleep in the crook of my arm. Such trust from this tiny creature – I was already falling in love. 

Ranii snuggled in fosterers arm

So, we were off to a flying start with the bonding, but sadly I noted that she wasn’t in the best of health. She was in poor body condition, which I put down at least partly to the difficulty she had eating with her long and deformed beak. But worse still she smelt bad – I suspected a fungal condition. She also seemed to be in some distress and pain whilst passing her droppings.

The next day I messaged the Rehoming Director of Birdline with my initial observations and she kindly reassured me that the charity would cover the vet costs for any pre-existing conditions. Shortly after getting home I took her in to the vets for that much overdue beak trim. The vet also weighed her and gave her a general wellbeing check. Examination of her droppings under a microscope confirmed the fungal infection – for which she was prescribed medication. Two weeks and several baths later she smelt better but still had frequently runny droppings and continued pain.

Back to the vets we went and this time we came away with antibiotics and an appointment for X-rays to investigate her internal problems. Fortunately, the X-rays showed no blockages or other ominous signs – but the vet suspected damage to the muscles in her vent area from a previous egg laying episode. He prescribed painkillers (0.05 mm of Loxicom a day) which started helping her discomfort levels immediately. She is such a good girl and comes to me when she sees the medicine bottle. She licks the dropper clean – it must taste very nice. Since bringing Rani home, I have gradually been introducing pellets and chop to her diet of seed and started supplementing her water with calcium and vitamins. I’m delighted to see her feather condition improving along with her general health. She has also gained confidence and started exploring her new home. Her delightful cheeky side is now emerging too. 

Rani happy on play stand

Rani was clearly much loved by her previous owner and quickly bonded to me. She stuck to me like glue for the first few weeks and would lunge at anyone who came near me – including my other Conure. Any hopes of an immediate friendship between my two girls was quickly dashed. But I’m hopeful that within time they may become friends. For now, each Conure has time out with me alone and they at least have each other’s company from their side-by-side cages whilst I’m out at work.

Having initially taken Rani on a temporary basis, I’m delighted to say that I too am a failed Safe-House. Just before Christmas I applied to foster her permanently. Taking on a rescue is so rewarding. Any time and effort I have spent has been paid back to me tenfold with the love and trust she has shown me. I’m so grateful to the Birdline team for allowing me to care for such a special little parrot. 

I’ve also become part of the Birdline Community and the support and advice given to me by the Rehoming Team has been invaluable. Having seen the wonderful work that Birdline does, I decided I too would like to help the charity and recently started volunteering for Birdline. I often take Rani to Birdline events with me, (when she can be persuaded to wear her harness). The other volunteers find it funny when she sits on top of my headed, like a fascinator. Rani’s name means Queen and this little diva certainly rules my heart and home. I look forward to helping many other parrots find their own chance of a second forever home.

If you would like to share your Birdline story, please email it to [email protected]