Between Christmas and New Year's I took a trip to Arizona. In the process I had a chance to visit the Oasis Sanctuary. The Oasis is a life-care facility for rehomed parrots and other birds. Although many of the parrots that end up there have plucking or behavioral issues, some are perfectly normal and were simply retired to the sanctuary by deceased or incapacitated owners.
Located on what used to be a Pecan orchard, the Oasis has a seemingly endless supply of natural perches and chewing supplies for the parrots. All of the surrounding trees harbor ravens but their calls are entirely drowned out by the unceasing screaming of busy parrots. The facility has several aviaries and many individual cages as well. Virtually all of the parrots are paired with a mate of the same species or sometimes a buddy of a different one.
Jean Gauthier gave us a personal tour of the sanctuary. She showed us the many aviaries and cages. Amazingly she remembers the names of hundreds of specific parrots and can name them off as she sees them. Jean has clearly made some friends amongst the retired parrots because any aviary we would walk into, some parrot would immediately fly over to Jean to hang out with her.
Most of the parrots that arrive at the Sanctuary are unfortunately clipped and often plucked. They cannot immediately be integrated into the large open aviaries so instead they are held in smaller indoor cages to regrown their feathers and adapt to other parrots. They are taught to break their dependence on human attention and instead to seek it out from one another. Once the parrots are flighted and self sufficient, they are moved to large aviaries with others of their species.
The Oasis has some fantastic aviaries housing hundreds of parrots each. Cockatiels and Budgerigars share an aviary with a few quail, a pigeon, and a grackle. Next door is an aviary with Ring-Necked Parakeets. Another aviary exclusively serves Monk Parakeets. It is a unique structure in that it is actually made of two aviaries and a fly through bridge which links the two. As we walked into one of the sub-aviaries, all of the wild caught Monk Parakeets zoomed out and over the bridge with only the tame ones remaining. The Oasis receives many confiscated or ferral caught Monk Parakeets.
The male Cockatoo aviary is off limits due to major aggression, however, one playful 'too came up to the bars to make everyone laugh. In the Lory aviary lives the sweetest parrot in all the Sanctuary named Ophelia. She is a Black Lory with a bad leg. Despite the injury she limps around and flies effortlessly. Ophelia flew right over to Jean and was eager to be handled by everyone.
Another aviary is dedicated to African Greys. It is a tall box aviary with four Pecan trees outlining the corners. These are original trees from the orchard but have dried out over time. An endless chatter of mumbled words and whistles roams this aviary full of Greys. However, the most impressive aviary of all is the Macaw aviary. About the size of a warehouse, the Macaw aviary is justified by the heft of the parrots which reside in it. The doorway is guarded by two vicious Blue and Yellow macaws. They test if your will is strong enough to enter the dwelling of the great Macaws. If you can get by them, you are free to tour the aviary. Discarded shells of walnuts and almonds line the floor of the building.
A major problem for the sanctuary is mice. Unfortunately for the sanctuary, mice love the same grains that parrots do. And parrots make no effort to keep their mess contained off the floor. While mouse holes are apparent in all the aviaries, they are most prominent in the Macaw aviary. Devoid of predation, the mice fearlessly and lazily walk around on the aviary floor ignoring strangers and birds. The Oasis cannot come up with an effective way for extracting the rodents without potentially harming the parrots.
Next we toured the rows of wire cages used for parrots that could not live in the aviaries. Jean effortlessly called off the species and names of all the parrots as we walked down the rows of cages. We came upon the few Poicephalus parrots of the aviary and the only Senegal Parrot. A male and female Red Bellied parrot neighbored the lone Senegal Parrot. This Senegal parrot has the orangest eyes I had ever seen on a Senegal. I'm not sure if it's just because all Senegal Parrots are so sweet or because I have a way with Senegals, but this one just came over and melted away from attention and scratches through the cage bars.
Finally we visited the hospital building. While there is no vet on the Sanctuary premises, the staff has the expertise to administer medications and provide basic care to ill birds. Some of the parrots in the hospital ward were there temporarily while others were terminal. A handsome military macaw with cancer greeted us as we came inside. A cockatoo had so much heavy metal poisoning in his previous home that he had to be kept in a stainless steel cage (no doubt the most expensive cage in all the sanctuary).
The Oasis Sanctuary depends on volunteers, funding, and support from the parrot owners community. They can use parrot toys, food, supplies, but most convenient is straight cash. You can sponsor a specific parrot or make a cash donation no matter how small or large. However, there is one thing money can't buy: volunteer labor (at least not when you're in the middle of the Arizona desert). They can really use your help. So if you live in the area or would like to take a parrot related vacation, consider volunteering for a few weeks at the sanctuary. Please visit the-oasis.org for more information about the Oasis Sanctuary and please consider giving a donation to this Sanctuary or helping out a parrot rescue near you. Go ahead and visit a rescue or sanctuary some time. You will find it to be quite an eye opening yet enjoyable experience.