Feed the Birds
 
I love you!” Popcorn, an Umbrella cockatoo, flirts with me through the cage, as he tags along. “Hello! I love you!” He puts such meaning into it, it’s easy to forget he’s not actually engaging me in a heartfelt plea of, “Take me home.” I would, but my cat would not approve.

  

The Gabriel Foundation is a local parrot aviary/adoption center outside Elizabeth. I’ve seen cute love birds (never more than an inch apart), colorful budgies, and sassy macaws (one greeted me upside-down). A little green and black guy named Zeke sat on my shoulder for a bit. He decided my finger wasn’t good enough.

Founder Julie Murad moved here a decade ago for “the space” to house a parrot sanctuary and adoption center. Given her first bird as a gift while living in the Middle East, she wanted to learn more about the exotic creatures and now educates others. She wants no bird owner to be unprepared. Parrots are a lifetime commitment; they may outlive their owners. Some parrots live to be 75 or more years old. “We have a special adoption program for our senior birds,” she says, “where we match them with people fifty years or older.” The pairing brings joy to both.

  

Not only does The Gabriel Foundation provide training and information to aspiring veterinarians (people come from all over the world to visit the aviary and learn), it also takes its adoption process seriously. You fill out an application, take a class, and have several visits with the bird. “Birds are like people,” Julie says with a twinkle in her eye, “some days, they are not in a good mood, and some days they are delighted to see you.”

Parrots are social. Some have pulled out their feathers. Over-preening can indicate boredom, and the foundation does what it can to stop it in birds who have not yet pulled out their feathers or damaged the follicles. It’s important for the larger birds to have fresh air, natural Vitamin D,  exercise, and lots to “do,” so the Foundation lets them out into their aviary when the weather is 45 degrees and higher. They love the Colorado sun. The birds can fly, play on specially created perches and with toys, and hang upside down. Visitors send them into a state of excited shrieking; they love attention.

  

“If you have a parrot,” Julie says, “like any creature, they want to be with you. Don’t stick them in a side room; let them see you, talk to them, and give them attention. Especially, give them a job to do. In captivity, birds don’t have to worry about surviving like their wild cousins do, but being a pet has drawbacks for the bird. Sometimes, pulling out their feathers gets them attention, and in their mind, any attention, even scolding, is better than none at all.”

 

The outreach program takes in parrots, feeds them, provides them with medical care, exercise, a social group, works with behavior, and finds them loving, prepared homes. “That’s my favorite part of what I do,” Julie says; “I love to pair the right bird with the right owner. I started this foundation because I asked myself, ‘what can I do to make birds’ lives better?’ The answer was to take care of them, and educate the public about them, so they are better prepared to give their parrot everything he or she needs to make both of them happy.”

  

Even if your lifestyle cannot accommodate a parrot, there are many ways for you to help. The Foundation is a non-profit, and needs financial / other donations. It provides for birds 24/7, every day of the year. Volunteers add to the improvements provided for the birds. You can help with the filing system, lead tours (they are open for tours by appointment on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays), make bird toys, clean cages, and fix meals. “Any donation is appreciated,” Julie says; “we have one couple who sends $10 a month, but over time, that is significant. If people could give us the amount they spend daily on coffee on a consistent basis, we would have the resources to help more birds.”

  

The Gabriel Foundation believes in all-natural care, so volunteers are trained to make the food–a mix of greens, vegetables, nuts, homemade sprouts, and fruit. (They need volunteers to help tend the gardens, and donations of extra produce.) The birds are fed twice a day. “It’s paradise for them,” says volunteer Judy Golightly; “in the morning, they have breakfast, then go outside until mid afternoon, and return to another buffet, and a clean cage!"

 

Whether you are interested in adopting a parrot, in learning more about them, or want to devote your time to a good cause, they will be happy to see you. Julie says she loves to work with parrots because “birds express things without words.” Well, maybe not Popcorn. He’s happy to tell the whole world that he loves you.

 

Gabriel Foundation Aviary & Adoption Center

39520 County Road 13    Elizabeth, CO 80107

303-629-5900 x 215 (VM)

 

thegabrielfoundation.org

  

Donate: pieces/whole boards of 2x4 pine or hardwood lumber, big branches from aspen, cottonwoods, willow, serviceberry, chokecherry, birch to make into perches, slice into discs for the birds, bundled newspapers, clean, old phone books, empty egg cartons or coffee cardboard paper trays, garden tools, used hand and bath towels, etc.

 

Volunteer orientation is the second Saturday of every month from 9am-12:30pm. Next one March 12. Next toy making day is March 19 at the Elizabeth location, 9:30am-3pm. If you have questions or would like to sign up for volunteer orientation, contact Judy Golightly, jgolightly@thegabrielfoundation.org or  call 720-326-4407.