My College Tuition Was Paid by a Bird Breeder

I try to play nice. To the best of my ability, I always try to see both sides of any story (although being human, at times I often fail miserably). When it comes to arguments or disagreements, I do my best to stick to facts, stay civil, and hear or read what the other side is saying. I feel like my communication and listening skills are often tested when browsing online reading various bird forums. Bird people can be vicious.

One of the most often argued subjects in the avian world is the ‘breeder vs rescue’ topic. The pro breeder crowd goes up against the pro rescue crowd, and both crowds are armed to the hilt and end up turning into an angry mob, with nothing settled and for all that effort, nothing changed. Both parties bring valid points to the table. The pro breeder crowd tends to focus the fact that 1) not all breeders are bad news 2) breeding has contributed to increasing captive population numbers of endangered species. The people in the pro rescue side of camp tend to focus on these facts: 1) there are bad breeders, and the bad ones are the ones that get the most media time 2) sanctuaries and rescues are getting more parrots on a daily basis.

Both sides are right. Not all breeders are bad breeders, just like not all rescues are good rescues. Frankly, I get sick of hearing two parties spew untrue ‘facts’ or biased opinions at one another, and then get angry, while the entire situation escalates into the online version of a screaming match, complete with all caps to get the point across. I have several opinions on the matter, which set me as close to Switzerland as one can be in this situation.

My flock consists of largely rescued birds, although I do have a couple of birds that I purchased as well. My personal belief on the matter is this: Not everyone is cut out to be a bird owner. For those that are ready for ‘parronthood’, not everyone can handle the emotional and physical baggage that generally comes with a secondhand bird. I support good breeders. I also support good rescues. Personally I will always advise people to consider a secondhand bird, but I won’t condemn them for not being able to handle it.

My rescue amazon Paco – RIP

What sparked the title of this post was that I received a letter in the mail the other day from the scholarship foundation that put me through college. Earlier I had been leafing through old photos and found the photo I had sent in along with my scholarship application. The application had requested that we include a photo of ourselves, and write an essay on what set the applicant apart from all the other applications. The photo I included had me with my rescued amazon on my shoulder – a wildcaught double yellow head, who was 40 years old at the time I adopted him. The other bird in the picture was my Higgins, a black headed caique that is still with me today. My application talked about why I was applying, about me, and about my birds.

I sent the application and photo into the foundation, and waited. A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from the founder, a doctor of medicine. We politely discussed my application, and one of the first questions he asked was about my birds. What type of bird was Higgins? How long had I owned Paco the amazon? I gladly launched into conversation about my birds and involvement in my local bird club. The doctor then surprised me by telling me about his birds. He had various pairs of birds, mainly macaws and amazons that he bred for pleasure. We chatted for awhile longer, and then hung up. About a month later, I found out I received the scholarship.

I would be a hypocrite to condemn breeders, when it was a breeder that helped put me through college. No, my college money did not directly come from the sale of baby birds, but it came from someone who was a bird lover. Like me, the doctor appreciated the beauty and intelligence of avians. Like other bird owners world wide, the doctor wished to share the beauty and love of birds with others. It all boils down to this: a love of birds. Good breeders and rescues aren’t in it for the money, they are in it for the love of the animal.

That is why you are reading this blog today: you love birds. I urge you, as a bird lover, to be open to hearing the other side of whatever story you are trying to learn be it breeder, rescue, avian nutrition… the list goes on. Whenever you find yourself butting heads with someone over a heated subject, stop and remember: they love birds too. Get back on common ground with that fact, and chatter about your birds, how much joy they bring you, and your passion to help others.

Above all else, we are in it for the birds!