As a child, Candi Willey was in constant search of animals in need of aid. Stray dogs and cats, shoeboxes brimming with infant squirrels, and birds with popsicle sticks tied to their wings regularly took up residence in the Willey household. Candi’s parents were no doubt thrilled by this.
One never stops loving animals. As an adult Candi decided to take home an African grey – a parrot which makes up for its relatively drab plumage, notwithstanding its brilliant red tail feathers – with startling intelligence. One famous African grey named Alex was supposed to have the intelligence of a five-year-old human, which is to say he was smarter than a lot of adult humans.
Candi got her African grey from a pet shop, but soon afterward discovered the Center for Avian Adoption, Rescue, and Education (mercifully abbreviated as CAARE). She began attending the rescue’s meetings, helped their mission to foster and rehome exotic companion parrots, and facilitated CAARE’s growth from a foster home operation into a centralized location based in Fargo, North Dakota. Now as vice president of CAARE, Candi and her fellow volunteers look after dozens of colorful, squawking parrots at any given moment.
“The parrots we care for might come from any number of different circumstances,” said Candi. “Sometimes their former owners had to move and couldn’t take them along, or bought them not knowing how difficult they can be to keep in a home setting. Such companion parrots may have been bred in captivity, but they are still wild at heart – cockatoos and macaws are extremely noisy and might give you a painful chomp from time to time. Some of these parrots can live for well over 50 years, which means they often outlast their original caretakers.
“CAARE also takes in and attempts to locate owners of escapees, even of the non-parrot variety. Right now we’re housing a roller pigeon who we finally traced back to his owner. Although roller pigeons rarely fly more than ten miles from home, this little guy managed to make it all the way to Fargo from Yankton, South Dakota – some 320 miles!
“Every species of bird has its own mannerisms. Tame cockatoos want to be snuggled all the time. They may have the loudest screams, but also the sweetest voices. We just adopted out an umbrella cockatoo named Sydney who likes to sing ‘la la la la’ while doing a little dance. Blue-and-gold macaws are generally clowns, swinging upside down and imitating laughter all day. The green-winged macaw is generally a gentle giant. That’s the one you think of when you picture a parrot sitting on a pirate’s shoulder, and they really do bond very closely with their caretakers.
“African greys are the best talkers. They can learn up to a thousand words and sounds, and can even speak in sentences that are surprisingly in context. I cared for one named Buddy in my home. When leaving for work I would tell him ‘It’s time to go to work and make some mah-ney!’ Even though Buddy lives in a new home, if he hears the jingle of keys or when it’s around four o’clock, the time I normally left for work, he still repeats that phrase. If he sees the family dog going out to do his duty, Buddy chirps up with ‘Hey, c’mon, let’s go potty!’
“Every now and then Buddy will treat people around him to a distinctive whistling tune. It wasn’t until he had been in my home for quite some time that I realized what he was singing – the theme song from Ed, Edd n Eddy, a cartoon which stopped running on TV years before I had met him.
“For all the birds I’ve cared for, I’ve never met two with the same personality. They are all so different. I believe in my heart that they definitely have souls.”
These sweet and sensitive birds need homes! When you adopt from CAARE, you don’t just get the thrill of bringing a feisty new friend into your life. The volunteers are familiar with their charges’ personalities, and will tell you more about what you’re signing up for before you take home a particular seed-cracking pal. CAARE also provides ongoing support as you learn how best to accommodate your new friend. And if you find out that a parrot isn’t really your cup of tea after rooming with one for a while, CAARE will take it back and refund your adoption fee within 30 days.
You can learn more about CAARE and see all their adoptable parrots at caare.net.
By David Scheller