Editor’s note: This is a monthly installment by the co-founder of SC-CARES that spotlights some of the more non-traditional animals undergoing rehabilitation at the shelter.
Here at SC-CARES we have more than 50 parrot residents of various species. In 2004 we were working with a wildlife group called WRI in Winston Salem, N.C. Many of the wildlife rehabilitators had taken in exotics that we received calls for and with no where to turn, these animals would be put down.
We had taken in a male umbrella cockatoo named Charlie from the president of WRI group. At the time Charlie was 12 years old and just as sweet as you can imagine. I trusted him so much that I would take him out and we would take naps together on the couch. In the beginning stages of SC-CARES we were living in North Carolina and thought that adopting these creatures out might be worth a try and Charlie was our first adoption.
Some friends of ours had expressed an interest in having Charlie live with them, so we gave it a shot. He was adopted out and moved to Vermont. Sadly, after less than a year of living with a parrot and the fact that Charlie bit the teenage boy of the home, we received a call that Charlie was returning to us. They could no longer deal with the noise and the mess and the bite was the last straw. Charlie was back with us again and had to adjust to all the changes he had been through. Parrots do not deal with change very well; even the slightest change in their lives such as relocating their cage to a different area can create dramatic effects on them.
Meanwhile, after five years of searching for the right place to open SC-CARES, we discovered the property we are now on in Georgetown and started the moving process with 36 animals we had already taken in.
We received a call two years after opening SC-CARES from our previous WRI president that she was downsizing to work with dog rescue and would we be able to take several parrots that she had rescued prior. At the time we had room so we said yes!
When she arrived with the birds she brought another umbrella cockatoo named Stormy. Stormy’s paperwork stated that she was an elder parrot at 62 years of age. We got them settled in and right away Stormy and Charlie became an item. It was as if they were long-lost friends; then the president realized that they were together previously at her house before we took Charlie.
What a reunion it must have been for them! So many years apart and yet they knew each other, remembered each other and were so happy to be together. Everyday here at SC-CARES the birds are out of their houses after they’re fed and there is never a day that goes by that Charlie and Stormy aren’t snuggled together during their time out. Their houses are side by side so they don’t feel alone when they have to go to bed each night. What sweet birds, what a romance – a now 67-year-old female and 16-year-old male. In love with each other every day!
The umbrella cockatoo should be flying free in Indonesia but due to poaching and loss of habitat the cockatoos are listed at the “endangered” level on the conservation status report. The exotic pet industry has bred and distributed thousands here in the U.S. that have been passed around from place to place.
Suffering from the stress, many have plucked themselves bald. Feather plucking is directly linked to stress for these animals. We’re fortunate that we were able to give Stormy some happiness to prevent further destruction of her body. Some parrots will actually continue to pull at themselves until they mutilate their flesh, which in a lot of cases could result in their death. Cockatoos can reach life spans of 60 to 80 years and they choose their mates for life, as seen with Stormy and Charlie.