Interview: Jen Budrock-Flaherty of No Feather Left Behind

Hello everyone!

Tonight, I have guest post for you guys from one of my friends who runs the rescue, No Feather Left Behind!
Please Consider donating to the rescue if possible — all information to do so is below!

~*~

564913_441303509214074_2011071974_n Name: Jen Budrock-Flahery

25946_532061356839039_1471051362_nOrganization: No Feather Left Behind

nofeatherleftbehind@gmail.com | 561-703-3194 | Operating in South Florida | Veternarian: Bako’s Bird Clinic [954.427.0777 — call about the NFLB Account for Donations] | nofeatherleftbehind.org | facebook.com/nofeatherleftbehind

If you see animals not being cared for properly, speak up. A small act of kindness can make a big difference.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your personal flock?

A: Since I was a kid, we’d always have animals in our home – from guinea pigs, pigeons, pigs, dogs, cats, quail…

I loved and remember them all.

In high school, I would buy all the one-eyed fish from the local Pet Supermarket. I couldn’t bear them getting picked-on to death by the normals. The special fish got along just fine and lived for a good while. That change when the “normal” fish my friend bought for me from Walmart gave them all ick. I tried to treat the tank to no avail. Walmart has no business selling animals. I really miss them. You wouldn’t think fish would have personalities, but they honestly they did.

My folks help with fostering on occasion. They always pitch a mild fit when I bring one home, until they get to know the bird, or hear it’s story. They’re mood changes real quick and turns into that of a welcoming party.

I didn’t really get into parrots until Elly, the Dusky Conure came into my life. She came from PetCo back in 2003, before I knew about rescue birds, bird mills, and that whole hot mess.

Elly

Elly

Typical of a young bird, she was dancing and being all cute; wanting to come out to get attention and affection. They gave me a form to sign that I honestly didn’t properly read, rung me up, and that was that. (Granted, I would never take in an animal I wouldn’t give a good life to.) She gave me a few good years of lovey, funny antics… however, I moved out of my parents’ home, and I decided it was best she stayed there. After the baby-phase wore off, she stopped cuddling me, and became obsessed with my Dad. Now she is like his little, green guard-bird. There’s no separating those two. This taught me a valuable lesson to teach others: just because you have a bird from a young age, it doesn’t mean it’s going to bond to you like that forever. Birds mature, get hormonal, and you need to do your best to work with them and find what makes them happy. It could take years, but it’s not impossible.

Clifford

Clifford

Then came Clifford from the South FL Wildlife Center. He was a splay-legged, young, cherry-headed conure. He was my baby. I took him everywhere. He was well-behaved and everyone loved him. To make a long, heart-wrenching story short, out of the blue, he started to have seizures. I rushed him to the emergency clinic, where we would get the dreaded phone call…his passing tore into me like nothing ever has before. Why wasn’t I there to hold him as he passed. Did he think I abandoned him? I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t leave my bed, I sat there for days, crying. It’s how I imagine loosing your child would feel like. In his memory, to combat the sorrow, I started to volunteer at the place that saved him, that didn’t give up on him, that showed me proper rescue protocol – home inspections, adoption forms, and wellness exams.

(By the way, I could write a book about each bird. Actually, once I start talking about birds, it’s tough for me to shut up… So I’ll try not to ramble too much. It’s called PASSION! You need it in rescue to sustain you from all the stress and the depressing “I used to have a bird but…” stories…)

Let’s continue with Mikey. He was left at Broward Avian & Exotic Vet Clinic’s door step with a broken wing. They asked me if I wanted to take him during a trip with Elly. This is right after Clifford’s passing. I said no at first, but I showed my mom a picture of him and we couldn’t resist.

Mikey

Mikey

He’s still like glue to me. I kid you not, if I’m sobbing or sad, he we waddle over anything and anyone, to get to me, and give me a kissy. His whole demenor will change, like he’s on a mission to cheer me up. You can think I’m crazy or I looking too far into it, but I have a witness. When I first moved in with my husband, Mikey was afraid of him (he hates strangers). I was having an emotional moment, he walked over my oh-so-scary husband, got to me, stuck his face in my face, and gave a big kiss and stared at me like “Are you ok? Do you need another one?”

The compassion I see in these birds is the reason why I rescue. Anything that loving deserves to be given the same love. This love isn’t exclusive to birds, but I ended up taking a shine to them.

Pako was a Mitred Conure. He was another amazing bird. He loved strangers, loved my family, was a total ham. Toys? Toys are for birds, Pako is people. Pako taught me that a bird’s age doesn’t matter, all birds are individuals, and are capable of developing strong bond to humans. Also, stupid things will offend them, like nail polish, and glittery glasses. He also taught me the importance of wellness exams. I got him from someone who put an ad online… His test came back positive for Aspergillious, a fungal infection of his air sacs.We treated him for years,

Pako

Pako

almost did surgery, but the new medication he was put on started working, and the vet decided against it which was fine at the time… Eventually his immune system just gave up and he passed in an incubator at Dr. Backos’ office. It was as though Pako waited until after my folks visited, then I visited him right after work… then that night he said good night. I’m glad we showed him that we didn’t abandon him…(I’m getting all emotional again…) I’m glad he doesn’t have to endure the medications and the incubator box. Despite these unpleasantries, he still loved us. He still wanted to be involved. He never held a grudge. Pako was well loved by many. People drew fan-art of him to cheer me up.

Then there was Georgie. (Oh, Georgie-boy. I’ll talk more about Georgie in another question. He was a very special Scarlet-Fronted Conure)

Next up is Louie the elderly, yellow-crowned amazon. There was this crazy woman known for flipping birds, though I didn’t know it at the time. She let me stop by to see her birds since we made friends at a bird event. I ended up begging her to let me get him vetted. I did. He needed eye drops and a ton of gunk was flushed out of his nose. In order give him his necessary continued care, I begged her to let me keep him. She agreed and she’s still on craigslist taking in animals, not vetting them, bouncing them all over

Louie

Louie

the country to breeders and brokers, in trade to get another one…Louie taught me to be more cautious about where birds go, why birds shouldn’t be free, or traded. Dr. Grant would flush his nose for me once a month. She helped me greatly with the misfit birds I’d bring to her. Louie was a gentle boy. He would put his beak next to my nose and go to sleep. He would climb to the top of the cage and start flapping his wings and I’d cheer him on “Goooo Louie! Louie Lou!” He’d stop and take in the encouragement and would get back to it. At a certain point, you could tell he wasn’t enjoying life anymore and there wasn’t much to be done medically… So after cuddling him for hours, we had to say good-bye to him. We were there for him in his end. I was grateful I could help give him a good last few years. I take a shine to senior amazons. My dream is to have a sanctuary for the special needs and elderly parrots to live out the rest of their days in joy and comfort.

Birds can be like Pandora’s Box. Everyone needs to take that into account when they take one into their home. Love them for better or for worse. They become family.” ~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

mikey and piko

Mikey and Piko

Piko came after Pako passed. She’s a clownish Finsch’s Conure. She’s like glue to me and is best friends with Mikey. Mikey took her under her wing immediately. Pako used to shun Mikey. Elly would preen Mikey, but Mikey likes to hold hands. He likes to hold Elly’s food with his foot and just stand there. Elly would flip out, Mikey was stand there confused to the source of her offense. Piko has embraced Mikey’s desire to hold hands. Piko reminds me much of Clifford. She came to us from SFWCC too. Was a young feral conure left in the wall, starving. Only had one feather on her butt. SFWCC rehabbed her and let me take her home.

Chickadee

Chickadee

There’s Chickadee the senior, blind, lovebird that wants nothing more in life than to cuddle in your hand.

Cody is a splay legged red factor peach faced lovebird that people adore due to his cuddliness and his colors. He is No Feather Left Behind’s birdy ambassador. You can’t just not smile upon seeing Cody in his Cody-bed. My friend made him that bed and gave it to

Buddha Bird, Cody

Buddha Bird, Cody

me at my wedding in June. It’s perfect to exchange him into other hands without him having the need to get comfortable again.

miss cockatiel

Miss Cockatiel

Miss Cockatiel used to love my dad and hiss/hate me. She started to have health problems, diarrhea that wasn’t going away. It was something like birdy-diabetes. My folks aren’t good with giving meds, so I took her into my flock. To my surprise, she loves me now. She’ll bow her head for scritches, she’ll step up. Whatever the actual reason is, she’s another bird that changed. Went from hating to loving. Birds can be like Pandora’s Box. Everyone needs to take that into account when they take one into their home. Love them for better or for worse. They become family. If you don’t consider them family, you probably shouldn’t get/have one.

I have a small collection of handicapped and bullied finches. They all get along swimmingly, even the 3 blind, albino finches that my friends donated. The bullied finches took parenting duties in the beginning when they were young, now they get along fine. They even let you pet them and love on them.

mr kakapo

Mr. Kakapo

There’s Mr. Kakapo, which, along with Chickadee came from Birds of Paradise Sanctuary. He’s a green lineolated parakeet. (AKA a linnie.) He laughs, says “Hey Weezer” (Weezer being his original name) “What are you doing” “A what? A what?” and a bunch of other entertaining noises. He and Pako are who fully converted my husband into a bird lover. Mr. Kakapo got a hurt toe and he mourned for weeks. Don’t mess with ‘Po.

Sushi

Sushi

Sushi is a teal linnie that came to us and has a chronic poopy problem. We’ve taken many tests, but nothing has come up yet. It is on and off. She’s a shy girl, every once in awhile you’ll hear her make giggling noises. She’s not as flamboyant as my other birds, but we make sure she’s happy and comfortable.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you face as a Parront? (Or, bird parent?)
A: Time and Money pose a big challenge. I’m trying to give them enough attention, making sure they’re happy, well-fed, safe, clean, healthy. I wish I could stay home and tend to their needs all day. They are wild animals with a strong need for companionship. They have the ability to fly, yet they’re stuck with us. I’m trying to make up for their loss with my love and income.

Q: What is your funniest bird-related story?
A: Georgie’s story is a funny one. He was a very very special bird. Very endearing, very… unique. I loved his antics. When he was adopted from South FL Wildlife Center, it was important for me to take his wife with him. His wife was yard wreath. Georgie would tell it off, wrestle it, preen it, snuggle it, and at night, he would put his head through the center and go to sleep. He looked like a derpy lion. Then he cheated on his wife with Elly, the dusky conure. They were great friends. When Elly would talk to Mikey, Georgie would lecture them both and wouldn’t stop until Elly was by his side. I actually have a video of it.

George and EllyGeorgie was a funny bird. He passed away from a bad seizure that he would not recover fully from. However, he left his legacy: Georgie would say “Oh, Shut Up!” in succession around sundown. Mikey inevitably learned it, which later on, Piko would learn. I now have 2 birds telling each other to shut up.

Q: What is your scariest bird-related story?
A: It would have to be the time Mikey flew out into the night, and how much of a miracle it was that I got him back.

I was overloading myself with rescue stuff and I really wanted time with Mikey, so I brought him with me to pick up some kittens for NPLB around 11pm – This family wasn’t taken good care of them, so we took the back, I went to Tamarac to give them to Jacquelyn.

Mikey II

Mikey

Well, somehow Mikey got spooked and flew into the night. He WAS clipped, but not enough; the feathers had grown back. It was dark, so he made no noise. We did eventually find him in a tree down the street, so we got a pool net and tried to catch him… NOPE, THAT’S when he really flew, high into the sky. I couldn’t even see the direction he flew… I was devastated. It was my fault. My screw up that my buddy flew away. I was a total wreck.

We headed back into the area the next morning when the sun came up. My dad came along with me, and we took Elly with us to try to call out to him since they were friends. I walked around the entire block with her. Some people were walking together, and I asked if they had seen a blue headed green bird, they said no. I said to myself “maybe he wants to be free.” Right as I got back to the car, I heard something. I ran down the street and I heard him. He was in the opposite direction of the path he took off in. I heard a squawk and an Oh Shut Up –

I flipped out. He was through this dude’s yard, fence, and in the golf course, in a palm tree. I didn’t mean to trespass, but I needed my bird. He was high up, I couldn’t climb to reach him. My dad went to get a ladder from Jacq’s mom’s house.

Turns out, the neighbor of the guy who I trespassed on, knew Lee, Jacq’s mom, so he let Dad come through his yard with the ladder. Right when we got it to the tree, little Mikey took off…AGAIN. Across the golf course was a huge forest patch, and I thought I saw him go in there. I tried to look for him, but the little ass didn’t make a sound. It made it really difficult to locate anything.

Mikey VAgain, I said to myself “Maybe he really wants to be free.”

Lee’s friend said that he was off that day and wouldn’t mind if Elly stayed with him up in his tiki hut to try to keep Mikey in the area. So I left and came back with Mikey’s cage and toys and food. At one point in this adventure, I crossed a log that was over a ditch or something full of tall grass and spiders. I was climbing things, calling to Mikey, Golf staff asking what I was doing. I begged them not to kick me out, I was just trying to get Mikey back. I think they understood.

I went back and forth a few times and before I knew it, it was sundown. I was crying, I was going to have to make posters and hope for the best, and what if Mikey just flew off again? I prayed to God, “Remember when you helped me find that Guinea Pig when I was a child, and I said I’d love you forever, can you do that for me one more time?”Mikey IV

So my last trip that day, sun setting, was to go get Elly bird. At that point, it looked like it rained in the area. Someone on FB said “they can’t fly if they’re wet,” which is true. Well! Not only was Mikey wet, but he was offended and screaming for me. He was way down left of where I thought he first flew in in the first place. I took Elly and climbed that damn tree like a monkey and lost my sandals in the process. I wiggled the branch, and he fluttered next to Elly, and I scooped his stupid butt up and ran like I won the olympics! Frickin’ bird! And that’s Mikey’s Miracle.

I promised the vets who gave him to me that I’d have him for his entire life, and despite THAT whole ordeal, I still have him.

Q:What is your opinion on Conservation projects and efforts globally? Which ones do you follow more closely?

A: There was a speaker at a local bird event discussing how some conservation groups are pro-city parrots, whilst another believes funding is better spent saving them in the wild. I feel they are both valid missions and I choose to stick to the middle ground. All birds matter! I’d prefer to see wild parrots in their natural habitat, but I also want to see laws made to protect the parrots flourishing in the states. Humans wiped-out the Carolina Parakeet because fashion-driven dolts wanted their feathers for hats – egrets almost met the same fate. Let these guys fill the void and work to embrace them. I would love for eco-tourism to take the place financially of the bird trade in their native habitat.

Thinking selflessly, would you rather have a parrot locked in a cage or would you rather see them flying free in their natural habitat? In the states, for a proper cockatoo set-up, you might as well fly out to Australia and make some memories! The price of the bird, the cage, the food, the vetting… I think it equates. Educational programs need to be taken to locals. Show them the value of keeping them in the wild both economically and environmentally.

Audubon is an organization I’m fond of. Fly Free, Born Free USA, I adore the Kakapo Recovery Program because KAKAPOS! If readers have no idea what I’m talking about, I highly recommend them to do an internet search. I didn’t even know they existed until a few years ago and their plight is heart-breaking! The pet trade, hunting, and invasive species (all human related) caused their decline. It’s a relief that the Kakapo Recovery Program exists to give them the assistance they need. I’m started to learn more about Keas as well, also from New Zealand.

Q:What is your opinion and perspective on the captive breeding of pet birds in the United States?

A: There’s a few types of breeding going on in the US. I primarily speak against breeding for the pet industry. Breeding solely for profit/for the pet trade is something I stand firmly against. Similar to the problems we are seeing with dogs and cats, parrots are also subject to. The main differences with dogs and cats as compared to parrots – parrots are not domesticated, they are wild animals, and they can live as long as we do in many instances (depends on the species). There also aren’t as many shelters that will even take in birds, instead they find their way to brokers, breeders, flippers, pet stores, and individuals who don’t know the first things about the complexities of parrot ownership.

The only way for this cycle to stop is at the beginning; unfortunately, money still trumps the well-being of these animals.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

Consider that home that purchased a bird bred for profit. They could’ve been a good home for a rescued bird that already has a need. Rescue birds were once a cute, needy, baby birds that inevitably became mature birds with mature needs. When said home can no longer meet these needs, they get rid of the bird. If lucky enough, it will find it’s way into a loving home or rescue instead of forever being bounced around from home to home or getting into the hands of the types I just named. The only way for this cycle to stop is at the beginning; unfortunately, money still trumps the well-being of these animals. Personally, I have to worry about “Should I make this car payment, or can I pay to get this poor, neglected bird proper vet care?” I’m stressed and weary cleaning up the mess consciously made by breeders. There is breeding to replenish birds in their native habitats/conservation. I’m not opposed to it — my hopes are that there’s also education taking place as to discourage these birds from being subject to poaching.

Q: Before “No Feather Left Behind,” was established, in what ways were you involved with birds and the aviculture community?
A: As I’ve mentioned earlier, Clifford lead me to South FL Wildlife Center. I learned a great deal from volunteering there. My duties were answering phones for the hospital admissions office after work. With every question I asked, to better answer callers, I learned something new. They taught me how important it is to keep wild animals wild. I would also do injured animal pick-ups in the Boca-Fort Lauderdale area. Peacocks, coopers hawk, osprey, pelicans, gannets… If they were too hurt to heal, at least I knew they wouldn’t further suffer upon humanely putting them to sleep. If they could be rehabilitated, amazing! That is a great feeling.

Q: What is the mission statement for “No Feather Left Behind,” and how did it get started?
A: Our mission is to find quality homes for relinquished birds, get care for those with health issues and special needs, and spread education about the proper care of these “tiny-people with feathers,” in honor of any abandoned, neglected, abused bird.

bird rescueThere were two mentors/friends in particular who worked at SFWC, Michelle and Jacquelyn. Michelle was the one who taught by example as adoptions co-ordinator. Jacquelyn was volunteer co-ordinator at the time ran her own rescue No Paw Left Behind.

Dealing with the crazy lady who relinquished Louie was also pretty fundamental in the start of NFLB. Due to this, Jacquelyn saw a need to help birds and she extended No Paw Left Behind into bird territory through NFLB. NPLB specializes in dogs and cats, but there’s been gerbils, guinea pigs… We both feel all animals deserve love.

I encourage those who care and share this passion to go forth and try to establish or join a rescue if means allow.

Q: Can you describe your location and set up for No Feather Left Behind? How is it managed?
A: We operate through foster homes and networking through other rescues. I drive daily from Boca to Fort Lauderdale, so if there’s an bird in need, I can go pick him up on the way home. If I’m ever unable, I’ll call on Bird Lovers Club to help out, and they’re always willing. They’re an amazing group.

As for management – it’s a team effort. Birds are put online via petfinder.com, shared on facebook, and through word of mouth. We get a lot of help from our Vet’s office, Backos Bird Clinic.

My family has been a great help and have been converted to Bird People, as is my husband. Recently, we’ve had adopters helping out to find homes for birds and offering to foster.

Q: Can you share the story of your most rewarding rescue?
A: Georgie I’ve mentioned him through out this interview, because of those reasons, because he was so afraid, so rough, and became something happy and beautiful, he gave me lots of happy memories.

Q: What was the most dramatic way you had a bird come to be in your shelter?
A: After work, I remember there was a call to pick up a few birds from Hillsboro Peer for Wildlife Center. A gannet, a tern, and a pelican. There were 2 gannets, one chewing on my hand, through my glove, as I was trying to get the other in my carrier. There were two terns, one I had to hold, the other I had to put in a box. The pelican was not contained. I had to go out to the shore, scoop him up and put him in the carrier. It was obvious he wasn’t feeling good. Probably ate fish hooks, which is sad and typical of shorebirds. My whole little Yaris hatchback was full of shorebirds but I got them all!

I’m trying my best, please be nice to me! I don’t want to fight. I just want to help birds. The happy side of things is that I meet genuine people who sincerely care, that DO go the extra mile for a needy bird… People like that keep me sane.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of managing a rescue?
A: Subjecting myself to horror stories. People feel the need to tell me how they once had a bird and it met a horrible demise.

I have actual nightmares of walking into a hoarder’s house, with occasional addition of zombies or some other apocalyptic scenario. When I wake up, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

And the stress! There’s so much stress. I work full time, Monday through Friday as a graphic designer because I don’t make money from rescuing birds… I’m actually more inclined to spend money to help them… I’m running around doing a million things and you misstep and someone makes you into the worst person in the world over something silly. I’m trying my best, please be nice to me! I don’t want to fight. I just want to help birds. The happy side of things is that I meet genuine people who sincerely care, that DO go the extra mile for a needy bird… People like that keep me sane.Birdy snuggles

Q: In a perfect world, there would be enough Parronts for all the captive parrots in the world. Can you describe your ideal situation for the birds in your care right now?
A: To simply put it, I wish for the birds in my care to find homes where they’ll be appreciated and loved just as a child should be treated. Anyone who’s shared their home with a parrot knows how similar they can be to toddlers. Yeah, they can be troublesome, but you still love them, you still want to do what’s best for them, and it makes your heart happy when they’re happy.

Q: What is one important piece of literature or media a prospective Parront should peruse? Why?
A: I am ever so grateful to PBS for creating a well-rounded documentary, “Parrot Confidential” which is free online and something I actually purchased to play at future events. I cried a few times, but man, it spoke the truth. Anyone and everyone interested in animal rescue and birds in general should watch it.

For the mission to educate the public about the needs of companion birds, I recommend: http://www.forparrots.com/ and http://www.avianwelfare.org/index.htm. HSUS did a nice piece about bird rescue called “No Fly Zone”

A Parrot’s Bill of Rights by Steward A. Metz, M.D. is circling the internet. I also hand those out a photoshopped version at adoption events. Top 10 Bird killers is another flier I hand out. What better way to save birds than to teach honestly about what can harm them?

Q: In your opinion, what are the Pros and Cons of volunteering for a bird shelter?
A: NFLB isn’t a shelter (yet), it’s a network of foster homes, but it sprouted forth from experience in one. I highly recommend people get involved, but it DOES take a certain type of person. One needs to be committed, cautious, patient, willing to learn, willing to take orders, granted that they’re ethical and for the benefit of the shelter. Also a strong heart because not all animals meet a pleasant fate. This list of requirements might come off as a little difficult for some, especially since many volunteers work in Elly IIaddition to volunteering, but I ask to consider the rewards. Yes, they could be doing something else, but when you see an animal thrive, for that moment, you forget all the bad. Your heart is filled with so much joy.

Q: What is the most needed donation, besides time and money, to keep your bird rescue up and running?
A: Toys, food, transports, fosters, kindness, event organizers, and participants. If my fosters are happy, I know of other organizations that can use any surplus.

Q: If you could share some personal wisdom with prospective Parronts, what would it be?
A: Read, learn, educate yourself before and after you get a bird. Be patient. Be accepting, not forceful. Watch mannerisms. NEVER punish a bird with neglect, violence, or screaming. Focus on positive re-enforcement techniques like ones found on goodbirdinc.com

Georgie used to be afraid of hands. I covered them with a blanket one day, he hopped right on. It took him 3 years to get him to step-up onto my finger, but he did! Don’t give up on a bird. Birds are like tiny feathered people. Learn their likes and dislikes.

Never give a bird away for free or to just anybody.Wanted

DON’T rely on children for the upkeep of a bird or any pet, they loose interest. Adopting a pet is a family affair and it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure that pet is healthy, happy, clean, and fed.

I’ve heard stories about kids starving animals to death and the parents just shrug. That is NOT OK. That is CRUEL. All animals deserve respect.

Be sure to take your bird(s) for their yearly wellness exam; they don’t typically show signs of illness until it’s too late.

Before feeding your bird new things, check online to see if it’s safe. Heck, just read my Bird Care section and fliers on nofeatherleftbehind.org – Lots of goodies I’ve collected over the years. Check out cityparrots.org for important bird news, avianwelfare.org for ways you can help birds.

If you see animals not being cared for properly, speak up.

A small act of kindness can make a big difference.

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