My dedication to the cause of unwanted companion birds began many years ago when I adopted my first bird, Bobo, a green Budgerigar. It was shortly after that, when I brought home an abandoned Umbrella Cockatoo named Gilligan, that my journey into the world of captive bred companion birds had truly begun. For the next 20 years, I was not only to share my life and home with this amazing bird, but I was to learn the difficulties a captive bred companion bird faces. Gilligan had many challenges, not the least of which was a tendency to self-mutilate despite being given the best veterinary care, love, and companionship possible. In March of 2014, after a lengthy illness, I lost my beloved bird. Despite a tremendous fight on his part, and twice weekly vet visits for laser treatments,the years of mutilation had taken its toll. The weight loss from the illness and the buildup of scar tissue around his organs were all just too much for him.
I had thought he was going to pull through; in fact, just a week before he died he was acting like his old cheerful self. Yet almost as if he knew the end was near, the day before he died he took a stroll around the shelter walking over to various volunteers and offering a friendly hello. But it was, in fact, his final goodbye. By morning he was gone.
I'll be honest. After he died I wasn't sure I could continue my work with unwanted birds. It has in fact, taken me this long to even have the ability to write about it. Bobo introduced me into the world of unwanted birds, but Gilligan was the reason I became so involved. The months after he died were truly difficult ones, as countless individuals stopped by to visit with him and the other birds. Each time I had to explain that Gilligan was gone. However, the work provided me with a sense of peace and fulfillment. If there is one thing I know for sure, it's there is never a shortage of cleaning to do when you run a rescue. As time went on, the pain lessened and my resolve to make a difference returned.
I thought I would have Gilligan for the rest of my life. I was wrong. However, he is just one of thousands and thousands of captive bred birds that have needed new homes since breeding and selling exotic birds became part of the pet industry. Since parrots (should) live for many years, more and more shelters are needed to house the growing number of unwanted birds. As I look to the future, I know that helping unwanted birds will always be a part of the future, and so Gilligan will always be a part of my life as well. This video was shot by one of my most dedicated volunteers in October of 2013, about a month before he became ill. Farewell, dear friend.