Nov 112012

-Written by Judith Lavoie.

One artist is blind, another is epileptic, and they all paint with their feet and tails.

Geriatric and chronically ill parrots at the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs are creating artwork for cards, which are then sold to raise money for a parrot palliative-care unit.

“In the last couple of years, we have become the go-to place for senior citizen parrots,” said refuge president Wendy Huntbatch, who is caring for almost 900 birds.

Some are blind, some suffer from arthritis and some don’t seem to be quite as sharp as they used to be.

“Some of them just want to sleep and watch Littlest Hobo on TV,” Huntbatch said. “Their minds seem to wander.”

That makes it difficult for older or sick birds living in flocks where friends or relatives try to persuade them to take part in parrot activities, Huntbatch said.

The answer is a 111-square-metre trailer with electricity, plumbing and a steel lining.

The renovations to create the geriatric parrot centre will cost about $15,000, and Huntbatch is hoping the cards, sold in the gift shop and online, will help.

The artists include a macaw called Hello, who is more than 60 years old and blind because of a vitamin deficiency; Bailey, a 20-year-old umbrella cockatoo who had a foot amputated after catching it in a toy; JR, an Amazon parrot caught in the wild 38 years ago and treated for epilepsy for the past 36; and Lago, a 22-yearold Moluccan cockatoo with bone and lung cancer.

Huntbatch started providing the parrots with finger paints last year. Some throw paint at the canvas, others like the sweeping effect of tail feathers and some enjoy using their feet.

Money raised through the cards, which cost $5 each, will go directly to the palliative unit, but Huntbatch is also struggling to raise money for the refuge’s day-to-day operations.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to make the next payroll. It’s really tight.”

The refuge is the only one in Canada and takes birds from across the country.

“We have received a large number of birds this year that are not financially supported. Many are coming in from rescue organizations that cannot find homes for them and cannot afford to keep them,” Huntbatch said.

Even though all fruit and vegetables are donated by Save-on-Foods, it costs $1,339 a day to run the refuge.

In addition to volunteers, there are 18 paid staff.

“There are 295 water dishes to be washed and refilled, 505 seed and nut dishes and trays to be cleaned and refilled, 236 fresh fruit dishes and trays to be filled every single day – and that’s just a small part of the enormous amount of work it takes,” Huntbatch said.

To purchase your own set of Parrot Painting cards, click here.

Article originally published November 7 in the Times Colonist here.

Nov 112012

From Wendy: “Bruce Williams of CTV2 did another fantastic tv slot for us. He is a great man and always does his best to help all animals – and he loves coming here. He even purchased a set of cards to start the ball rolling!”

If you are interested in purchasing your own set of cards, just click here.

Apr 222012

The refuge recently had the team from Global News visit. They write:

Parrots are among the most intelligent birds in the world. As a pet, there is something undeniably remarkable about them. But the woman with the largest collection in Canada says they shouldn’t be in North America—and they belong in the wild.

Wendy Huntbatch is the owner of the world parrot refuge on the east coast of Vancouver Island–A home to over 800 unwanted, abandoned or abused parrots in North America.

Wendy says these birds belong in the wild–and she’s hoping her message is strong enough it’ll put her out of the parrot rescue business.

You can also view some photos they took here.

Dec 052011

“Every painting will be different. They are so imaginative,” Wendy Huntbatch said enthusiastically after the first art trial. “I think the cockatoos are going to be the best artists.”

The paintings, on stretched canvas, will be sold at the Parrot Refuge or online and each one will be personally signed, with a footprint, by the bird artist.

Each unique parrot painting is $75, plus shipping. Shipping will be added to your order when the painting is shipped. Our cart is secure, so your information is safe.


For more information, please contact Wendy at .

Aug 312011

Recently, Wendy was invited to be a guest on the Vancouver radio show about animal rights called “Animal Voices”.

The host, Alison Cole, wanted to learn more about parrots and enthusiastically spoke to Wendy about the refuge, parrots, and parrot conservation. A lovely article was posted on the Animal Voices website as well, which you may read here.

You can listen to the broadcast here. This is the entire hour-long show; Wendy comes on about 32 minutes in.

Mar 202010

Wendy writes: “I just got back at 11am today (13 March 2010) from a very long drive to Calgary. The ‘parrot bus’ came back with 16 hitchhikers. Grey Bird is an African Grey in first class condition. Owned and loved by a really nice man who needs to tend to himself now that his years are adding up. He took on Grey Bird’s care after his brother died. There is also a beautiful 9 year-old Blue Fronted Amazon, who speaks only Dutch, whose family has gone back to Holland. Those are the good stories.

Wendy with Dusty

Wendy with Dusty

There is an M2 named Dusty – who is apparently noisy and hates women! I must have been wearing male hormones since I met him because he loves me. He was wearing an actual frisbee around his neck for 2 years. It had steel screws in it and weighed a ton. Now he is a happy bird since it has gone. His wings have been trimmed within centimetres of the skin. The owner was trying to breed him and when it didn’t work he began advertising the female for sale. I tried to get her too but without success.

Then there is Buddy, the Lesser Sulfur, who is in fact an Eleanora without a tail or wings. She was given by the Edmonton Humane Society as they felt that she needed a Home For Life. Loud, yes – funny, yes – on the way here she chewed through two carriers and jumped onto my shoulder to screech hello! She will settle in just fine.



Luki, a Goffins cockatoo (well that says it all doesn’t it!) is so excited and has already signed up as a member of the Goffini Mafia and has lots of other members visiting already.

The other eleven birds came from a breeder. We all cried rivers. A pair of Greenwinged Macaws – wild-caught 46 years ago – who love their new compound. A pair of terrified wild-caught Umbrella cockatoos in really poor shape – they are still hiding in a cage that is also hidden from the world to give them privacy. A pair of Eclectus – we can’t tell what subspecies they are as they don’t have feathers. A single male Eclectus who was obviously someone’s pet once – now, instead of that beautiful green colour, his remaining feathers are black – and his beak has very little colour and is hugely overgrown. His eyes were so empty and sad when I picked him up. Even in one day there is a true difference and he has even started to say things.

Surrendered Eclectus

Surrendered Eclectus

There is another Umbrella male – an ex-pet also – in really poor shape, but he loves it when you pet his head. There is also a huge Double Yellowheaded Amazon who looks as though he walked here from the Amazon and didn’t stop for a bath. He is fat, but not well-fed – clearly his nutritional needs have not been met. Finally a pair of what I believe are Peach Fronted Conures. I will be able to see better when the swelling goes down around their eyes and some of their feathers grow back. All of the breeder birds are suffering from extreme vitamin A deficiency – and I believe the Eclectus male has fatty liver disease. I have given them all vitamin shots and trimmed some of the longest nails I have seen.

Volunteers Jonathan and Gloria with Wendy

Volunteers Jonathan and Gloria with Wendy

Two days later: I will try to get some pictures of the birds – who incidentally look so much better already. Only Grey Bird came with a partial sponsorship. All of the other 15 birds are our responsibility. We desperately need to get sponsors for them. – Wendy

If you can help, please visit our donation page and tell us who you would like to help. Even a monthly donation of $10 “For the Birds”, will make a big difference in the long-term care of these birds. Virtual Adoptions are $21 per month for a half sponsorship, or $42 per month for a full sponsorship. Thank you!

Mar 202010

The World Parrot Refuge recently featured in an article by Cori Ferguson in the online Samaritan Magazine.

Wendy recently undertook a personal rescue mission to Calgary to give 16 surrendered parrots a new home for life at the Refuge. The story was covered by the Calgary Herald.

Wendy rescuing parrots from Calgary. Photo by Leah Hennel, courtesy of the Calgary Herald.

Wendy rescuing parrots from Calgary. Photo by Leah Hennel, courtesy of the Calgary Herald.

One of our supporters, Danielle Cawthorne, wrote this great letter in response to the following news item, No grant money for adult arts and sports groups, which dismissed the needs of the parrots because they are not indigenous to Canada. As most of our readers know, these birds didn’t ask to be brought here or born here to be kept as pets, but now they are here, we need to care for them.

Hi Sean,

Just wanted to clarify something about animal shelters. Animals don’t have to be indigenous to require shelter. Many animals are in shelters because of irresponsible breeding, cruelty, and abandonment. House cats and dogs make up the bulk of the population in most shelters and they aren’t indigenous to BC. Shelters offer a haven for animals from every continent.

The “parrot recovery society” you refer to is the World Parrot Refuge.

The World Parrot Refuge houses about 700 parrots, most of them are former pets who were abandoned by their owners. They are extremely high maintenance pets, and a cage in a home designed for humans will almost always make make a parrot physically and emotionally ill. The symptoms of emotional illness in a parrot include screaming, self mutilation, and aggression. Eventually most people give up on them and they end up either being shuffled from home to home all their lives, or they end up in shelters. Yet breeders keep breeding them and pet stores keep selling them.

A government that makes no attempt to keep parrots out of the pet trade has a moral obligation to support the shelters in which the victims of this trade eventually come to live.

The loss of that $100,000 has severely restricted the WPR’s ability to care for the animals in their shelter. I urge you to visit the shelter and see first hand what their challenges are. It would make a very good story and would give your readers a more balanced perspective on this issue.

Here’s the address and contact information.

Danielle Cawthorne

Mar 172009

Funding and sustainability issues plague the Refuge:

The Province: Nanaimo parrot refuge seeks funds by end of March to keep operating

The World Parrot Refuge, based near Nanaimo, desperately needs funds by the end of March to continue caring for its flock of 700 birds.

Refuge co-founder Wendy Huntbatch said the economic turmoil is only partly to blame for the centre’s dire financial position.

Huntbatch said parrot owners are surrendering their pets more often — more than 15 birds have arrived since January — and visitors have dwindled. Heavy snowfall also forced the centre’s closure during what would normally be a busy time.

Victoria’s Times Colonist: Financial woes put Island parrot refuge in jeopardy

Huntbatch, a lifelong animal welfare advocate, said she can’t accept a worst-case scenario if the centre runs out of money. It has provided a home for life for parrots since it first opened on Vancouver Island with 400 birds in 2004.

“I have no idea what would happen. I haven’t faced it yet,” said Huntbatch. “We simply cannot shut down. You just suddenly get to a point where it’s like, ‘Oh my God, [money] is not there.’

It costs about $300,000 each year to operate the massive facility that allows the parrots to fly in large enclosures designed to emulate natural surroundings. Care for each parrot costs about $500 but medical bills can drive that cost up.” Flood of surrendered birds, lack of funds threatens Island refuge

The World Parrot Refuge has room to house the unusually steady stream of extra birds that arrive each week, but not the money to pay for their care.

The Coombs sanctuary desperately needs funds by the end of March to continue caring for the flock of 700 birds. The B.C. Gaming Commission provides money but that endowment dropped about $15,000 this year in an economic downturn that refuge co-founder Wendy Huntbatch believes is to blame for the centre’s woes.

Parrot owners are surrendering their pets more often — more than 15 birds have arrived since January — and visitors have dwindled, and donations with them.

In the Media!

 Posted by at 3:37 pm  No Responses »
Aug 092007

We’ve been so fortunate to have the Refuge featured prominently in the media recently. Our founder, Wendy Huntbatch, appeared on television on CTV Canada AM this morning to discuss the problems associated with keeping intelligent, long-lived parrots as pets, and the work we do at the Refuge to care for these birds who, through no fault of their own, can no longer live with their human flock and have nowhere else to go. The CTV Canada AM feature, with a link to a video of the interview, may be found here.

Last week, the Refuge also featured in a wonderful article in the Life section of the Globe and Mail newspaper. You may read Cinda Chavich’s article online here.

These features have been terrific for raising the profile of the plight of our parrots, but there is still so much to be done to secure the future. Please visit the help us page to see if there’s anything you can do to help the beautiful birds of the World Parrot Refuge. Together, we are making a difference.