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For the Birds 3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

Photo of Birds"This was a normal living room a year ago," Marc Johnson explains as he steps into a room now brimming with brightly-colored birds. A dozen red and green macaws make themselves comfortable atop their open wire enclosures or perched on the rope strung around the room like Christmas garland. There is a chorus of "hellos," and Floyd, a gregarious blue and gold macaw, shifts his weight from side to side, dancing with delight at Marc's arrival. Floyd should be glad to see Marc, who converted his own home into the headquarters of Foster Parrots Limited, a non-profit rescue and adoption service for mistreated and unwanted pet parrots like Floyd. Some 200 birds representing 44 different species - most of them large, all of them loud - now call Marc's New England farmhouse home.
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Parrot Problems

Marc cares for the birds full-time, aided by just one paid employee and a flock of up to 20 volunteers. "And at the end of the day," Marc says, "I never feel like I've done enough."

Photo of Marc and his bird Psycho
Marc and his staff take extraordinary care of "clients" like Psycho.  

Why does he do it all? Today, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates there are some 50 million pet birds in the United States, making them the second most-popular house pet behind cats and just ahead of dogs. Unlike cats and dogs, however, pet parrots can live up to 100 years and cannot easily be neutered or spayed.
These two facts mean parrot populations - especially when bred for profit - can mushroom out of control.

The Humane Society estimates there are some 50 million pet birds in the U.S., making them the second most-popular house pet behind cats and just ahead of dogs.

"Some of these birds have the intelligence level of 2 to 5-year-old children," he says stroking the nearest bird. "If you went to work for eight hours and left your child in a playpen you would wind up with a very maladjusted child."

While many pet parrots are well taken care of, a neglected bird reacts more dramatically than a less than pampered pooch. Without lots of attention and intellectual stimulation, neglected pet parrots can develop psychological problems uncannily similar to humans - aggression towards others or compulsive self-mutilation. Most of the once-beautiful birds in Marc's care have plucked themselves clean.

Phot of plucked bird with mate
Traumatized birds often pluck out their own feathers, or those of a mate.  

The result is a squawking, sometimes violent bird that unprepared pet owners are anxious to get rid of. Traditional animal-welfare organizations are not prepared to care for these intelligent, highly sensitive animals. And often these physically or emotionally damaged birds face many years of pain, isolation or homelessness.

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3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

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