-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.
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.
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.