Meet Mel’s flock and See Why Rescuers Often Suffer From Multiple Bird Syndrome

The second you get known simultaneously for helping animals in need and as a parrot owner, you’d be amazed at just how many calls you get to help an abused parrot, or just a parrot who needs re-homing. It is incredibly difficult to say no to the sob stories. In the last twelve months, I personally have dealt with just under 30 non-wild native parrots that needed re-homing or help finding their lost owner. Fortunately, in most of those cases, the owners were looking for them.

Needless to say, my flock of eight consists mostly of sob stories that I couldn’t say no to. I’m lucky that I have a life that allows me to be around them fairly constantly because it is an incredible amount of work to keep that many FIDs (feathered children) happy.

Morgy (a bit on the heavy side) 

I’ve mentioned before that the first bird that I took on was an abandoned galah (rose breasted cockatoo) named Morgy. She literally decided to move in to my garage, taking chunks off anyone that tried to remove her. She was nightmare at first, but training fixed that. Morgy’s only problem is a tendency to be very lazy. She likes her food, she likes her sleep and the only exercise she is interested in, is throwing things at the cat.

This has led to a weight problem. Which has led to a diet and exercise program that isn’t proving to be that popular with her. She isn’t that patient with having to work for her food and has broken more than one so-called “bullet proof” foraging toy as a result.

Merlin displaying his wings

Merlin was the second bird that I took on. He is also a galah, but he is from the khuli subspecies. I bought Merlin from a pet store after I found him in shock, with bleeding wings after an incorrect wing clip. Think dirty water, seed-only diet, cowering on the bottom of his small cage which was on the floor. I wouldn’t normally buy from a dodgy pet store but if I had just lodged a complaint, I’m pretty sure they’d have hit him over the head with a brick. It made more sense to get him out and straight to a vet. I then drove the storeowners crazy by plying them with the evidence of subsequent vet bills. It did make a difference.

In the meantime, it has taken years to get his wings working, but Merlin is now fully flighted. He’s an odd bird. He talks on cue, but he makes everything sound as fake as possible. He says “Ha ha” instead of actually laughing. He says “brrrr brrrr” instead of actually imitating a ringtone. His main issue though? He loves nothing more than to remove the bolts that hold his aviary together. I’ve come home in the past to find he has removed a whole wall. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was a screwdriver in a past life.


Cocky Boy - will work for peanuts

Cocky Boy, was the next galah to join my flock. Cocky Boy outlived his previous owners and was inherited by a teenage girl. He is over 60 years old. He came to me through another wildlife rescuer’s intervention. Cocky Boy was in a rusty cage with no perches, behind his owner’s house. They had put him there because he was so aggressive. There were no perches because he was mostly crippled. He’d inflicted some pretty serious injuries on the children who lived there, biting through to bone. He regularly screamed: “GET ME A PEANUT!!!!” – so peanuts became his diet. The owner gave him to me, in the hope that he’d be happier around other birds. She said he was nice years ago, but no one had been able to get near him since his owner died.

Osteoarthritis has crippled him. He still can’t fly and he can’t move his legs properly. Before you all send me hate mail for not euthanizing a suffering bird – you’d be surprised how well you can treat arthritis in a bird. He is on regular medication and with a corrective diet, he has recovered enough to have an excellent quality of life. He lives in a specially designed cage with ramps and platforms to help him move from perch to perch. He is the cuddliest bird in my flock, although he still hates children. Initially, he was in love with me but then he met my mother. She is his ‘preferred mate’; I am the ‘tolerated food and entertainment source’. Meanwhile, he still hasn’t learned to say “please”.

Pepi marking his card

The next bird to come along was my male eclectus, Pepi. Pepi was not a rescue. My mother and ex-fiance purchased Pepi from a breeder as a gift for me because I was inconsolable at the death of another male eclectus called Mac. It was not a good way to get a bird. Pepi was beautiful, he ran his tongue lightly over my face when he first met me, but that didn’t last. From day one we had issues. On some level, I think I resented that he wasn’t Mac. Pepi seemed to sense that and took chunks off me if I tried to go near him. Similarly, Pepi seemed to resent that I wasn’t the breeder. He’d sit on his perch and chant: “Coming home soon!” over and over again. I rang the breeder because I couldn’t quite believe they’d get rid of him if they knew how much he seemed to love them. “Coming home soon” was what the breeder’s wife said to calm Pepi when he was calling her husband continuously (who was at work). Neither she nor her husband wanted Pepi back. I couldn’t quite believe that someone could be so indifferent about a bird that was clearly pining for them.

I wasn’t prepared for Pepi’s intelligence. I recorded him saying over a hundred phrases in that first week. He’d watch me approach for training and say “Make my day” followed by an evil laugh, then he’d lunge and try to bite. It took time and patience. Now, no one would guess we started off with serious issues. I can’t imagine life without him. Admittedly, I’d prefer it if he sang in tune or at least hadn’t listened to the neighbours’ kids screaming Justin Bieber lyrics at him over the fence. That said, there’s nothing quite like sitting down to cuddle a bird who desperately wants to stick spat-up corn up your nose. 

Lori, 3 seconds before she got her head stuck down the side of the couch

At the same time that Pepi and I were getting to know each other, another bird joined my flock. Remembering that I had graduated high school as ‘most likely to become a crazy cat woman’, a high school colleague had looked me up on facebook hoping I hadn’t changed. She was looking for help with a young rainbow lorikeet. Friends of hers wanted to re-home a tame lorikeet. They thought they were looking after her well, but she was in a really bad way. She was extremely sick.

Lori required strict quarantine while she underwent treatment for psittacosis, so it was a few months before she met my other birds. The vet thought she was a weird mutation/hybrid lorikeet because she had bright blue stripes across her back but that turned out to be due to malnutrition. Lori did recover, but it took two years for her to become a normal looking rainbow lorikeet. She is extraordinarily affectionate but has a weird obsession with teeth. You can’t talk when she is on your shoulder because she’ll take any chance she can get to climb into your mouth and tap your teeth.

Dori (about to follow Lori to find out what is down the side of the couch)

Dori was the next one to join my flock. She was found on the side of a busy intersection being attacked by a group of ravens within metres of an Indian ringneck who was also being attacked. She was an un-weaned chick and the IRN was an adult with clipped wings. It appears the birds were unwanted pets that were thrown out of a car window. Someone with parrots adopted the IRN, while the rainbow lorikeet was brought to me for help. Dori was in a pretty bad way, there was a serious impact indentation in her beak, her tail feathers had all been ripped out (leaving a bloody mess) and she was badly dehydrated.

I was able to stabilize her and got her to an avian vet, who hospitalized her. A few days later she had passed her disease screening tests and was free to go home. The problem was she would require crop feeding and at least 6 months of supportive care. To my relief, Lori took over mothering duties. There was one heart stopping second where Lori decided that Dori needed a bath and threw her head first in their water bowl – but both survived the incident. Dori has grown up to be very placid (for a lorikeet) and she follows Lori absolutely everywhere. Which is sometimes unfortunate because Lori’s curiosity gets them into all sorts of trouble!

Nemo (Her eyes have just turned red this breeding season)

I thought 3 galahs in a flock was enough, but Nemo proved me wrong. Nemo was a lost/abandoned pet that wasn’t coping in the wild and was drawn to my guys, or more specifically to their food bowls. I first saw her on top of Cocky Boy’s cage saying “Hello!” over and over again while staring at his food bowl. She flew off when I approached.

This was repeated for several days until I finally found her unconscious in my neighbour’s cat’s mouth. It still shocks me that I was able to stabilize and treat Nemo, but I’m afraid I will forever be the evil human with the syringe. While I was unsuccessfully chasing up leads on possible owners, Merlin and Nemo had fallen madly in love, ditching Morgy in the process. I couldn’t bring myself to break their hearts by re-homing Nemo. I tried keeping Merlin, Nemo and Morgy together but they had other ideas. Morgy seems much happier on her own.

Otto - only sits still for food 

Otto is the final and newest member of my flock. Otto is a male musk lorikeet. He is a re-home not a rescue. The difference is that he came from decent owners. They purchased him from a pet store and were basically given the wrong information. They took him to an avian vet, who corrected his diet and ran the appropriate disease screening tests. His results were good. The problem was that Otto had some severe behavioral issues. He seemed to attack for no reason and when he attacked there was no way of stopping him – he seemed to take the view that it was fight until death. Despite being so small, he inflicted some very nasty injuries. He needed a lot of work and someone who could give him a lot of time. He demanded to be centre of attention. I had to agree that a different species of bird would better suit the lifestyle of these bird owners.

I found I bonded with the little psychopath the second I saw him. Otto is hyper and a handful but we’re making great progress and getting to know each other. Otto likes long branches with flowers on them. He dislikes tissues and human toes. Apparently it is necessary for him to get to and press each computer key that I press when I type. This conveniently means that Otto is responsible for all spelling errors in my posts. Considering I average 60wpm he is either about to collapse from exhaustion or have a complete meltdown. I’m thinking I should stop typing before I find out which?

Needless to say, it’s not hard to see how I ended up with MBS! That said, I don’t have any plans to add to my flock in the near future.

Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.

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