For those of you who don’t know me yet, my name is Mel Vincent and I live in Melbourne, Australia. I’m a wildlife rescuer, vet student and animal trainer. I share my life with 8 FIDs (feathered children), a dog and cat.
I have been involved in wild animal rescue for as long as I can remember. As a child, I often had my latest rescue with me at school in order to keep up with orphaned animal feeding times.My parents tried very hard to curb my behaviour and turn me into a ‘real lady’ but gave up after an incident where I filled my brand new sewing basket with butterflies and spiders (I wanted to see how their mouthparts worked). Mum screamed when she found them. Oops. Fortunately for me, my father proved very handy at building enclosures to keep whatever animal I was caring for out of my sewing basket. Mum was eventually pacified, especially when I took to knitting (with the aid of a feathered friend). Mind you, I had to break my hip before she could get me to sit still for long enough!
When I left school, I jumped in to a university degree where I studied professional writing, psychology and history. I moved through a huge range of careers, one moment I’d be teaching ballet, the next I was working in retail management. I flicked between tutoring in English as a second language, or singing and playing in a band. I even ran my own jewelry design company. Basically I did anything that would support my ‘hobby’ of rescuing and training animals. In my spare time, I was attending every animal husbandry course I could find. I was also attending multiple animal behaviour training seminars and classes. My poor cattle dog was put through a LOT of different types of training.
It took a natural disaster to make me realize that I may have missed my professional calling. In finding myself dealing with animal bushfire victims, I realized that people were always going to know me as someone to call to help animals in need. I felt I had a responsibility to get the qualification to better be able to deal with that. The certificates and short courses were no longer enough for me. I joined several wildlife rescue organisations and completed their training courses but still not satisfied I turned back to university.
I am now halfway through a university degree in Animal & Veterinary Biosciences. I have become the type of nerd who enjoys reading medical journal articles as bedtime stories. The course that I’m doing can lead to being a vet, or a multitude of other animal-orientated careers. I absolutely love it. It’s amazing how much you can learn in a course like this and not just about animals. The course includes botany subjects (well let’s face it plants are what most animals eat) and a lot of human medicine too.
I accidentally became a bird person just before I started to seriously study animals. I say accidentally, because I didn’t choose to go out and buy a bird. I had grown up with them, but I hadn’t ever really appreciated them. My galah, Morgy, had her own ideas about my potential and decided to move in one day. She literally ran into my garage and bit anyone who tried to remove her. She had a leg band that told me she wasn’t wild and she was screaming “Hello Cocky” as if it was the world’s biggest insult. I spent over a year looking for her owner without success. If they had been looking for her – I would have found them. I have no doubt she was abandoned. I suspect this may have been due to her enjoyment in taking chunks off the nearest human. Apparently the more blood she drew, the happier she was.
So I found myself on the internet, somewhat cynically listening to Chet’s spiel about his cure for a biting bird. It was all very well for him to say it worked, but I had the queen of the vampire birds living with me. It’s not like I was uninformed on animal training. I’d attended enough courses. I’d even taught my dog to skateboard. Ok, I was still struggling to convince my cat that my bed is not the place to leave live snails – but overall I wasn’t bad at animal training.
Fortunately for me, Chet proved me wrong. With the aid of the birdtricks course, the queen of the vampire birds became a valued household member. Ok, she still seems to find it amusing to throw things on the ground in front of my mother (who is a neat freak), but the change in Morgy is quite amazing.
Before I really knew what hit me, I had become a bird person and the willing slave to a whole flock of birds. I enrolled in every bird course/subject I could find. I even fly interstate to parrot seminars. I’ve found myself working with my birds whenever I’m not studying them. Thanks to the trick training course, Morgy and her sidekick Merlin even go out to schools and events with me, to help train kids on what to do if they find injured wildlife and how to look after parrots. They have a whole routine worked out where they inform the children that they’re smarter than them, proceed to make me look ridiculous and give constructive information on how much they dislike vegetables (just like the children) but are supposed to eat them. Merlin drives his point home by throwing snow peas at the kids. It is possible that I have found the only legal way to throw vegetables at small, annoying children without being charged with assault!
I now have a permanent flock of 8. I live with 4 galahs, 2 rainbow lorikeets, a musk lorikeet and a male eclectus. Working in animal rescue, you can probably work out that they all have long sob stories associated with how they came to be with me permanently. They all have amazing personalities. My house is never quiet and my life is never boring. I’m quite sure if it ever becomes quiet and boring, I can rely on one or more of the FIDs to come up with sounds loud enough to convince a neighbour that I’m strangling a small child and need to urgently be reported to the police for child abuse. The complaint may not be entirely unfounded because if Pepi (my eclectus) doesn’t stop doing his best imitation of Justin Bieber (off-key), then the strangling noises may yet become more realistic. I’m not very successfully trying to convince him that two hours straight of “Baby Baby Ohhhhhh” is enough.
I look forward to sharing my blog posts with you all, because if there’s one thing I know about the guys at birdtricks – they’re contagious and attract some amazing people to the online world of parrot discussion.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.