Marianna and I recently took a trip to Pigeon Forge Tennessee. While visiting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the beautiful Smokey Mountains, we had a chance to go to Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is unlike any zoo or bird park you have ever seen!
Parrot Mountain is a one of a kind experience for parrot lovers. It is the only major bird park I'm aware of that focuses primarily on parrots. They do have a nice collection of other birds as well, but their focus on parrots is quite unique.
A visit to the park starts with some exhibits of various bird species. Then it takes you through a walk through flight aviary. But most exciting of all is the parrot feeding area. They have probably a hundred parrots out on stands that you can see up close and feed. Buy a handful of seeds from the vending machine for a quarter and then you can be the parrots' favorite visitor!
We got to see up close and experience too many different species to count but just a few of the more exotic ones included Sun Conure, Blue Crowned Conure, Patagonian Conure, Alexandrine Parakeet, Great Billed Parrot, African Grey, Cape Parrot, Eclectus, Scarlet Macaw, Military Macaw, Hyacinth Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, and Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. Marianna had a field day getting to feed and hold the female Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. She recalled how we got to see them in the wild in Australia, but not anywhere near as close!
Some of the parrots on exhibit were brought a long time ago from the wild, others were bred at Parrot Mountain, and others were relinquished. The park acts as a complete facilitator of parrots in the region. They breed, sell, display, and accept rescued parrots. You can see the babies for sale in their nursery building.
Parrot Mountain is famous for offering to have your picture taken with close to a dozen birds. I was amazed not only how cooperative and patient their photo-parrots were but also how well they all got along with each other. The woman who brings them over for photos can be seen walking with a dozen parrots hanging off her chewed up shirt from every side. It was almost as though their beak was a carabiner hook for clipping onto her shirt. She was truly a parrot taxi!
They have a lorikeet feeding aviary where you can have lorikeets fly up to you and sip nectar. Parrot Mountain also houses the "garden of eden," a secluded Christian exhibit in the forest covered country side. They also have a small cafe (with parrot on the menu) and a gift shop with lots of parrot related merch. All around a must-see sight for any parrot lover visiting the Pigeon Forge area in Tennessee and even a reason in itself to head out there.
Here's a video of my visit to Parrot Mountain including an interview with the parks owner:
I visited the Gabriel Foundation outside of Denver recently. This is a spectacular parrot rescue that should serve as a role model not only for other rescues but even stores and private owners as well!
The Gabriel Foundation was started by Julie Weiss Murad over twenty years ago. The foundation is more than just a rescue. It is a parrot welfare center. They take in relinquished birds, they find homes and adopt out birds, they rescue abused birds in emergency need, and the provide lifelong sanctuary to birds that cannot be adopted to homes. But their efforts extend beyond the birds. They offer educational programs, assistance, and volunteer opportunities to people so that they could become better connected with their parrots.
I found several things extremely impressive during my brief two day visit to the Gabriel Foundation. The most noticeable thing is how incredibly clean everything is! The cages there are cleaner than those at any bird store, rescue, or even most private homes I have ever visited. And I know parrots well enough to tell you that it's not because the parrots aren't making a mess. It's the endless cleaning efforts of the staff that make this happen.
Every cage is filled with a multitude of perches and toys suitable to the parrot enclosed. Again, a better and more suitable effort than even many parrot owners in their home. The same holds for the feeding routine. They feed an extensive variety of foods on a twice daily schedule with proper portion sizing.
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that none of the parrots have their wings clipped! You cannot find a store or almost any other rescue where the birds don't have their mobility hindered for the convenience of the care takers. Yet, at the Gabriel Foundation, the birds are given the chance to be birds! Off the bat this ends up solving many of the problems that the birds may have been relinquished to the rescue for in the first place. Most parrot behavioral problems come as a side effect of wing clipping and the owner's misunderstanding of how to properly keep a bird.
One more thing that the birds at the Gabriel Foundation get that most other rescue, store, and even home pet birds don't is outside time with access to direct natural sunlight. This is as important for the birds' mental well-being as it is to their physical health. I am so impressed to encounter such a large scale organization that really gets it. The Grabriel Foundation is doing things right. They are not taking any shortcuts. They are providing the birds in their care with the kind of care the bird's should really be receiving in a home. Things are almost too good to be true and begs the question, why even adopt a parrot from the Gabriel Foundation if they have it so good there?
Well, according to Julie, the parrots are better off in a home because of the greater human contact. These parrots were domestically bred and raised in homes with people. Although they might have a grand time in aviaries with other parrots of their species, ultimately, they are more comfortable in the human environment in which they were brought up. The Gabriel Foundation simply offers those birds the best possible interim solution until they can find the right home. This also frees up a space at the foundation so that another parrot in need could have the opportunity to make it through the system as well.
By setting the standards so high and so right at the Foundation, it makes it a bit challenging for adopters to meet those kind of standards. The good news is that they are not without help. The foundation goes through great lengths to educate and assist adopters as much as they require so that they could continue the wonderful legacy that the Foundation had started.
I have to say that most times I visit a parrot store or rescue, I end up leaving with a painful feeling in my gut. I get quite upset at the dark, dirty, insufficient perch, insufficient toy, clipped, and ignorant conditions that I come across. Frankly, I tend to avoid visiting stores and rescues to shield myself from the distress that they cause me over the treatment of the birds. Coming to the Gabriel, I had heard good things, but didn't really know what to expect. Incredibly, it was the exact opposite of the typical experience. I would like to encourage any parrot owners, bird store owner, breeder, or rescue staff/volunteer visiting the Denver area to pay the Gabriel Foundation a visit and learn about how good parrot care and parrots themselves can be.
Ginger's Parrots Rescue is following a similar model but on a smaller scale and specifically focused on Senegal Parrots and Cockatiels in the Phoenix area.
Here's a video tour of a portion of my visit to the Gabriel Foundation:
Kili, Truman, and I had an awesome time traveling around Texas for our recent book signing tour. It all started with an 11 hour non-stop flight from Linden, NJ to San Marcos, TX. The flight was initially supposed to take 10 hours but due to headwinds and barely sufficient fuel, I had to slow down to stretch things a little. The reason for going to San Marcos was to take advantage of a special $1/gallon fuel promotion they were running that month.
While in San Marcos, the birds and I took advantage of the time and car rental to go see downtown San Antonio. The parrots remembered the Alamo and strolled down canal ways of San Antonio.
We met the Vintage Mooney Pilots group at San Marcos airport for lunch. The birds showed off some tricks and flying. The more fascinating aspect of this encounter was that I had the birds flying around a conference room enclosed by glass windows on all sides. Despite the amount of potentially crashable surfaces, the birds never hit anything and new exactly what they were doing. I wish I had a picture to share because for a bird that does not grasp the concept of glass, this room could have been a death trap. Kili & Truman understand perfectly.
After gassing up for $88 in San Marcos, we flew onward to Phoenix. We went on a Sunday morning group parrot outing at Joe's and then visited the Arizona Exotic Bird Rescue for a book signing event. I stayed the week with Ginger and worked on a secret project (that you'll have to wait a bit to find out about) and helped out at the rescue. I took care of the morning routine with the parrots by changing food, water, and papers. It's not hard but when there are that many birds, it can take quite a while. Luckily, there's always a bird around who's willing to come along and help out.
Learning that Ginger never gets out for a vacation, I dragged her out and made her forget about the birds for a day. I took her up to Las Vegas which was just a two hour flight in my plane. We walked around the strip and joked about how many parrot themed things we could spot. After gambling away the rescue's veterinary fund (just kidding), we flew back to Phoenix.
As close as Ginger has ever been to New York, New York. But in Las Vegas.
When the week ended I bid Ginger goodbye and returned to Texas with the trained parrot duo for some more weekend book signings. We did a performance for the Tree Top Bird Center in Dallas and then another event for the Fort Worth Bird Club the following day. The birds performed very well and in fact I had to fly them for more treats after each to satisfy their desire to show off, exercise, and get treats. Many books were sold and signed and the events were not only a success but a pleasure as well. Kili & Truman are big showoffs and love a crowd.
Between events, the birds went all over Dallas and Fort Worth with me. They visited Downtown Dallas and paid homage to JFK (this is the place where Kennedy was assassinated), they paid a lot of attention to frequently passing trains, they saw fish at an aquarium, and they showed off to restaurant patrons at the west end. In Fort Worth, they visited the downtown area and the Stock Yards. The birds had lunch with me outside and watched the famous cow drive. Truman was really intrigued and said he wanted to be a cowbird or at least a cowparrot.
Truman playing dead by the book repository building
Here's the trip summary video with Kili & Truman touring San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth: