At Feathered Friends Forever, we are fortunate to have a handful of “weekend warriors” who dedicate their free time to helping the birds. Michael, our youngest weekend warrior, began volunteering at the rescue when he was 10 years old, alongside his parents and sister. Although Michael’s initial volunteer work was not by choice (his parents did not have a babysitter), he has since become an integral part of the rescue.
In the beginning, Michael’s volunteer duties consisted of cleaning cage grates and pans on the porch area of the rescue. When the porch was in need of renovating, Michael’s parents agreed to foster several birds until construction was complete. Having so many birds inside his home peaked Michael’s interest, but it was two bald Goffin’s Cockatoos named Pook and Chicken Butt that changed his life. Michael began spending all of his free time after school interacting with both birds and researching the species. Several months later, when renovations were complete, the birds were returned to the rescue – all except Pook and Chicken Butt, who Michael was allowed to adopt. Unfortunately, both birds were older and had been mistreated in the past. Chicken Butt passed away in 2016 and Pook in 2017, but that did not stop Michael’s dedication to the birds or the rescue.
By the age of 12, Michael had gained so much knowledge about parrots that he was asked to give his first tour to visitors at the rescue and soon became our main tour guide. Now at the age of 16, Michael has taken on additional duties at the rescue. On the weekend you will often see him assisting in construction projects, cleaning outdoor flights, and supervising new volunteers. Michael has also become one of the rescue’s main parrot handlers, allowing visitors a chance to see many of the birds from our flock up close.
Being so young, Michael offers a unique perspective on owning a parrot. “A parrot is unpredictable. No amount of research can encompass everything it takes to have a parrot in your life. People buy a bird expecting it to be a like a dog but a parrot is more like a small child. They don’t obey your commands. You can train them, but ultimately they do what they want.”
When asked what if anything could he do to further help the rescue, Michael quickly responded, “Educate people. Teach them that it’s not about owning a bird, it’s about the bird owning you because that’s the way it works. No amount of research can prepare you for that.”
Michael encourages anyone who is interested in adopting a parrot to take the time to volunteer first and wishes that more people would follow in his footsteps. “I hear so many people say they don’t have the time to volunteer. It’s not that they don’t have the time, they just don’t want to do it.”
Michael is currently owned by two parrots that he adopted from the rescue – Dancer, a Goffin’s Cockatoo (adopted in 2017) and Rambo, a Blue and Gold Macaw (adopted in 2019).