The variety of birds on this earth is truly amazing with almost 10,000 unique species. My depth of bird knowledge is very limited and I honestly only know a handful: robin, blue jay, crow, parrot, cardinal, turkey, and big bird. I was interested in reading something other than Teddy Roosevelt killing birds, so I picked up The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin. This lady freaking loves birds!!! She has over 250 and runs a sanctuary/breeding operation for birds that are endangered. Parrots, as I learned, have the intelligence of a 3 year old and the subsequent personality; they love attention, can speak short phrases, dance, and have screaming tantrums. The obsession Michele has for birds is extremely respectable and I commend her mission of conserving bird species. Birds have personalities and they can feel emotions just like humans. Sadly, people buy birds as pets and they don’t understand the investment needed to care for them (certain parrot species can live up to 50 years). Life happens and bird owners die, their houses gets foreclosed, or they marry a bird hater. This creates the sad situation of the bird being transferred between many homes throughout its life. Thankfully, there are people like Michele who have the heart and patience for these neglected creatures.
A large portion of the exotic birds in the US were originally wild and taken from their habitat to fill the cage of some fat-old lady who wants a “Pretty Bird.” The mass removal of birds from their habitat reduced several species’ numbers to endangered levels. Miraculously, legislation was passed in 1993 to limit the importation of certain birds. This legislation helped, but people still purchase exotic birds in the US that are bred in unhealthy and inhumane conditions. As humans, we grow attached to animals and this is hard wired into our evolutionary make up. They become our friends and we treat them many times as if they were our children. I think this quote by Irving Townsend sums up our feelings for pets; “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.” Any pet, whether it is a dog, a potbelly pig, or a bird should not be purchased unless the owner can take full responsibility for the animal throughout its life. An animal should not be purchased without deep thought and time to contemplate the personal sacrifices. Before you buy that parrot, you better be prepared for it to call you “ASSHOLE” every morning until you are an old man (this is exactly what Michelle’s parrot calls her husband). The responsibility of a life, whether it is an animal or human, is the greatest responsibility a person can take on. Make sure you know the breeder, the animal’s upbringings, yourself, your family, your intentions, your realistic future dwellings, your finances, and your level of patience before buying any type of pet. If done responsibly, the bond you form with a pet will make you less selfish and more understanding of the fragility of life-allowing you to better appreciate your own existence.
To learn more about Michele and her bird sanctuary visit http://www.pandemoniumaviaries.org/