Living In A Bird House

  • Article by: KELLI OHRTMAN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: October 25, 2007 - 12:56 PM

An owner of severe macaw learned the hard way to understand how to properly care for this demanding, intelligent, delicate creature that lives in her Minnetrista home.

When Kristen Fiske comes home from work, the animals in her house don't bark, purr or meow to greet her.

Instead, she says, "Everyone gets so excited; they're all screaming and talking. It's so much fun."

She has lived with birds since she was just a fledgling herself, but she got more serious about it six years ago when she brought home Kiwi, a severe macaw.

A lifetime commitment

Kiwi quickly taught her that living with a macaw changes a person's life like no parakeet can.

"It has been quite a learning experience," Fiske says.

It's taken six years of learning the hard way to understand how to properly care for the demanding, intelligent, delicate creature that lives in her Minnetrista home.

"In the wild, birds forage for food all day, they have a mate that they stay with almost all the time; they play in tree branches," Fiske says.

This is a tough scenario to recreate if you plan to keep a bird in a cage, especially if you expect it to sit quietly, look pretty and to occasionally talk to you. Birds make terrible pets for the vast majority of people.

When larger birds like macaws, cockatoos and amazons are frustrated or unhappy, they can scream loud enough to tear an eardrum. If their very specific and varied diets aren't met, their health can quickly fail. Unhappy or stressed birds will start to pick out their feathers, leaving big bald patches. Faced with these realizations of living with Kiwi, Fiske made a choice - a bird is forever (scores of birds end up in animal shelters after their owners realize the realities of caring for them). "Kiwi is so high maintenance, but she's my baby. I love her to death."

Fiske lives on the second floor of her house, while her flock (she really does refer to them as "her flock") gets the first level all to themselves. "This isn't my house, it's the birds' house."

In addition to catering to Kiwi's every need (a different toy every day, free flight in the house, an outdoor aviary and hours of attention every day) and caring for an aviary full of parakeets, Fiske has been rescuing birds on her own, adding misunderstood little ones to the bunch.

When her flock settled into a cohesive, happy bunch, with her rescued birds coming around nicely, Fiske says, "It came to the point where I wanted to bring another larger bird into my flock. I thought, 'I have the time, commitment and space for another bird.'"

Adding to the flock

Fiskee doesn't purchase birds from pet stores or breeders because so many of them end up unwanted in shelters. Instead, Fiske decided to adopt from a bird sanctuary where she could meet birds that had, for one reason or another, lost their homes or had never had one. She started making trips to Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services (MAARS),, a sanctuary for rescued birds. Fiske began just hanging out at the shelter, meeting birds and considering whether one might fit in to her flock at home. She didn't plan on a pair, but Calypso and Stubbie came as a set, however mismatched.

Both had been at the sanctuary for about four years, but arrived there from very different backgrounds. Calypso is a White-fronted Amazon, seven years old and was raised by a bird dealer. Stubbie, a Lesser Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, was probably caught in the wild (that's the best guess, anyway), and lived in a private home for fifteen years before she came to MAARS. Somewhere in her past, Stubbie lost a foot and started the habit of picking her feathers, but that didn't stop Calypso from falling in love. He wanted another bird to bond with and he picked Stubbie. The two come from different continents, and Stubbie is an older woman (she's around 25; Calypso is 7–8 years old), but they've become inseparable.

So Fiske took them both home.

She says, "After spending time with them, I realized they're a perfect match for my flock. And they're hilarious."

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