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Home > News & Events > Other Announcements > Some Birds Get What They Want & What They Need

Some Birds Get What They Want & What They Need

How MAARS Changes the Lives of Birds Like Bobby

by Jamie McCarthy, Volunteer Director

On the Saturday before Christmas 2007, a pet carrier was left in front of the door to The Landing some time during the middle of the night, after closing and lights-out at 10:00 p.m. Inside the carrier was a small Cockatoo.

Regular morning shifts at The Landing do not begin until 10:00 a.m. on the weekends and Minnesota temperatures in late December can be brutally cold. However, on that particular morning, a Senior Staff member discovered the carrier at 6:00 a.m. The outdoor temperature had hovered above freezing throughout the previous night and early morning, and the wind chill factor remained mild. The abandoned bird only survived due to a series of unusual events of fortunate coincidence or, perhaps, the fate and destiny of one soul who ended up exactly where he belonged.

Inside The Landing Quarantine Room, where it was warm and secure, dismayed and concerned Staff cautiously opened the carrier door and were greeted by a scruffy, dirty, cold — and very nervous — male Citron Cockatoo. He apprehensively exited the carrier, and then willingly moved into a clean enclosure with appropriate and ample perches and toys. Within a few minutes, he accepted food and water, and eagerly indulged himself. For several hours he remained on high alert with his crest up, suspicious of every sound and movement. He exhibited typical behaviors indicating chronic anxiety: over-preening, scratching at his feathers, and repetitious head-shaking, bobbing, and pacing. He continually raised his foot and said, "Hi Baby!" We weren't sure whether "Baby" was his name or a term of endearment he knew from his past, but all the Staff recognized that he was doing his best to connect with everyone, while also calming himself at the same time.

MAARS Staff named this abandoned Citron Cockatoo Bobby because it sounded similar enough to "Baby" that they thought it might provide a sense of comfort and familiarity. Whenever a bird arrives at the shelter, MAARS Staff make every effort to put the bird at ease, minimize stress and make him or her feel safe and welcome. MAARS Staff routinely observe and report on the health, behaviors, likes, dislikes, and preferences of each individual. In this case MAARS Staff provided Bobby with an abundance of preening and shredding toys to keep him active and to direct his anxiety in a positive manner.

We soon learned that Bobby is an unusual bird who is especially smart and adept at gaining attention with his clever tricks and antics. It also became obvious to MAARS Staff that Bobby had either suffered or witnessed some form of verbal or physical abuse that had profoundly affected him. He was alternately aggressive and fearful around female Staff and visitors; he appeared to have a strong preference for men, seemed to like children, and was most comfortable in the presence of both.

A male volunteer with extensive training in working with humans and other animals who have suffered some form of trauma took a special interest in helping Bobby acclimate to his new home and learn to trust those caring for him. Over the months that Bobby was at The Landing and regularly spent time with his new human friend and "therapist," he became increasingly calmer and more adventurous — often strutting around the floor on his own or cautiously interacting with other birds from a safe distance. Unfortunately, Bobby did not find a special avian friend at The Landing, although he was encouraged and had plenty of opportunities to do so.

After many months, Bobby had become less fearful and aggressive around women and, eventually, even warmed up to some of the female Staff, although he remained somewhat wary of them and was unable — or unwilling — to form trusting bonds with most women. We knew that the ideal home for Bobby would include a male guardian and primary caregiver.

In November, after multiple visits, Bobby went home with an adopter named Bob. Bob (the human) had been immediately drawn to Bobby (the Cockatoo) and Bobby was more relaxed and playful around Bob than we'd previously seen him with anyone else. During Bob's visits Bobby would dance, laugh, and vocalize, and also sat with him quietly, relaxed and at ease. We knew the time was right for Bobby to head home with Bob when during one of Bob's visits it was clear that Bobby had bonded with Bob and was extremely excited to see him and spend as much time as possible with him.

We anticipated that Bobby might exhibit some behavioral regression during the transition into a new environment due to the stress that accompanies such major changes and, as with all placements, MAARS Staff has been available to support and assist both Bob and Bobby throughout the first critical months after placement. Bob has kept in close contact with MAARS Placement Counselors and Staff and continues to report that their mutual adjustment period is going "better than expected."


Join MAARS in Helping Birds Like Bobby!

Such success stories are the reason MAARS Staff are exceptionally dedicated to the organization's work and are able to continue year after year, despite witnessing so much suffering, tragedy, and trauma. Birds like Bobby who demonstrate courage, resiliency, and the willingness to forgive and trust, provide us with great hope and priceless rewards.

To show your support for the work MAARS does to help birds like Bobby, make a donation and become a MAARS Supporting Flock Member today!


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