A couple had been clients at our veterinary practice for 10 years, and for 6 of those years we knew there was trouble brewing. They kept bringing in more and more different birds, many of them babies, and often made appointments they had to cancel at the last minute when they told us they couldn't catch the bird that needed to come in. We learned that they allowed all of their cockatiels and budgies (parakeets) to fly loose in their house, with nest boxes where they had chicks and more chicks and more chicks. We begged them to stop allowing the birds to breed, but they enjoyed seeing the young birds learn how to fly and follow their parents around the house.
When the wife's health deteriorated, she had to be moved to an assisted living facility. The husband was in poor health and no longer able to keep up with feeding and watering the birds, or changing the sheets that protected all the furniture. The adult children did the best they could to care for him and for the birds, and removed eggs from all the nest boxes as soon as they were laid. The man violently opposed letting even one of the birds go to a new home, and not even relatives or long time family friends could adopt one.
After he passed away, we were called in to take all of the birds. It took 90 minutes for five of us to capture 127 free flying birds and get them into carriers. Back at the rescue, we had rows of cages ready. Every bird was examined, given an ID number and medical record, and placed in a cage in the Rescue Room or in the hospital. We are still dealing with some of them that had beak deformities, tumors, chronic eye infections, and leg and foot issues. Many of them were transferred to other rescues, and 13 went to family and friends of the couple. Some are still here ready for new homes.
Why did this chicken cross the road? So she could find a rescue that would help her with her tumor! This girl, who we named Sierra, was probably dumped by someone who didn't want to pay for veterinary care for a bird with an obvious problem. She was wandering along 40 Highway, in danger of being hit by a car. One of our trusty volunteers jumped into her car and came to the rescue.
After treating her mite infestation and two hours of delicate surgery, Sierra was as good as new, and was back to laying eggs. She went home with someone who will be sure to bring her to us if she ever has a health problem again.
"WALTER LOST THE RACE"
Walter was a banded racing pigeon who was probably hit by a car in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City. He had multiple fractures in his left leg, along with a split toe and a cracked leg band that had to be cut off. His skin was torn open from his neck to his knee, and he had a hole in his crop where anything he ate or drank would have run out down his chest.
It took almost an hour to put him back together again with sutures and bandages, but within three weeks he was as good as new. Walter was just one of the 14 pigeons we took in this year. No other shelters or rescues in the area will take care of pigeons.
"THE CASE OF THE STRANGE SINUS SURGERY"
Hila the Timneh African Grey was no stranger to veterinarians. She had seen many different doctors in her 11 years because she was born with a very rare condition called choanal atresia, which is only seen once every five to ten years in our practice. Her sinuses didn't develop properly, so she could not breathe through her nose, and was prone to repeated infections. She had been through surgery as a baby, and multiple rounds of antibiotics, but had recurring severe infections. When her owners could no longer keep her, they knew that there weren't many places that could handle her special needs, and they searched until they found us.
She came to us with so much infection that one eye was swollen shut, and pus ran out of her nostrils. We did surgery several times, to drain and flush out the infection, and to drill holes through the bones in her sinuses to allow her to breathe properly. We did cultures to identify the three different infections she had, and treated her with several rounds of injectable antibiotics. After several months, Hila was finally able to go to a new home, where she has been doing well for over 6 months at this writing. Her bill at any other veterinary hospital would have been in the thousands of dollars.
"LOST AND FOUND"
He was brought to us when someone found him sitting on the ground in their yard. Did someone lose him accidentally, or did they decide they didn't want him any more? We advertised on Facebook, Craig's List, and even the Kansas City Star, but nobody ever claimed this gorgeous blue Indian Ringneck. We eventually named him Royal (for the baseball team), and after a few months he was adopted to a new home. This year we had 4 parakeets and 3 cockatiels that were found outside and never reclaimed, along with several white pigeons that were released at weddings or funerals. We wish people would call us if they have birds they don't want any more, since most of them that are turned loose probably die.
"THE CASE OF THE MELTING FACE"
This little Green Cheek Conure came in with tremendous swelling and inflammation of the skin over much of his head. The owner claimed he had washed the bird with Dawn dishwashing soap, and the swelling was a result of the soap. We know it must have been either a heat lamp injury or a chemical burn, because Dawn is the recommended soap for cleaning birds (but is only needed in rare circumstances and should not be used for routine baths) and does not cause this kind of reaction.
After multiple visits, surgeries, medications, and a long period of hospitalization, the owner tried to shove an employee out of the way and steal the bird from us without paying any of his bills. We had already discovered that he lied to other people and conned them out of money, and later learned that he had been sued dozens of times. This scumbag was the reason we started keeping our door locked, and installed security cameras. The cameras have already identified the person who stole money out of an employees purse (he had Alzheimer's so he didn't realize it was wrong), and caught a guy breaking into Dr. Burge's car (haha, nothing of value in there to steal!).
Now named Hachi, the little bird was placed in a new home, where a year after his injury he now has a very deformed beak that requires frequent trimming. He is otherwise a happy and healthy little man.
"THE BIRD BOX"
One day we saw a car pull into the parking lot when nobody was scheduled to be here. Brittani opened the door, and a woman shoved a cardboard box into her hands, saying "We found this bird", then the woman jumped back into the car and the driver sped away. They were literally in the parking lot for just over 30 seconds.
Opening the box, we found this beautiful female cockatiel, who we named Carmen. Her lower beak was broken and bloody, but following treatment it miraculously healed, and then she developed a sinus infection which we also treated. She is still here in our rescue, ready to meet a new family who won't shove her in a box and abandon her
"BOYD THE BOUNCING BUDGIE"
Our new record for a bird that has been in our rescue goes to Boyd the budgies. He first came to our rescue in February 2016 (from home #1), and was soon adopted into home #2. He was returned to us in December 2018, and was adopted for Christmas that year into home #3. He came back to us six months later when the kids lost interest, and his cage mate died. He is so beautiful that he was adopted six weeks later into home #4, but was returned within a couple of weeks when he didn't get along with the other budgie in the home.
In September he was adopted into home #5, having set a new record by being up for adoption 4 different times. Unfortunately, he is back boarding with us now after his owner lost their job and home, and we don't know when they will be able to get him back.
"THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT"
Green Cheek Conures think they are huge. We see more Green Cheeks with injuries inflicted by a larger parrot than all other species combined. Bubba here seemed to have some major feud with the African Grey Parrot in his home. Their first squabble resulted in a broken wing, which was never treated, so he was left unable to fully extend his wing and can't fly. Two months later, he tried to fight his much bigger housemate again, and this time lost 2/3 of his upper beak. The damage was so extensive that it will never grow back, but he was still able to eat, and needed trims for his lower beak so it wouldn't overgrow.
This year, he suffered a third loss when he again climbed onto the Grey's cage. This time his lower beak was torn off. He had to be hospitalized while we taught him how to eat tiny pellets made for finches. The owner decided that it would be best that he move to a new home that didn't have larger birds since he never learned to stay away from them. He now lives in a home with several other conure cousins, and nobody is allowed to get into fights.
CLICK THESE LINKS TO SEE MORE GREAT RESCUE STORIES FROM OTHER YEARS:
FIrst featured in our 2016 Top Ten Stories, for those who aren't familiar, here is the full story of "Vegas the Twisty Legs Grey":
In January 2016, a couple who rescues unwanted ducks and chickens had someone bring them a parrot they didn't want any more. The bird had obvious severe deformities of the legs, with the feet sticking out in different directions. All they were told was that the bird's name was Vegas, and that she was 7 to 10 years old. So Vegas came to Burge Bird Rescue, where they knew we would do anything she needed to have the best possible life.
We took X-rays, and determined that she had 3 old fractures in the legs, probably due to a poor diet fed to her parents when she was a chick. Following online consultations with avian vets all over the country, we found two doctors who were highly experienced with complex orthopedic surgeries in parrots, and were interested in helping the bird have a better life. While I do surgery on hundreds of birds every year, this is an extremely complicated situation that almost no vet would want to even attempt. Thanks to our many bird loving friends, we raised a little over $3000 to help cover the additional radiographs, CT scans, and potential surgeries.
Some have asked why we would want to do surgery on a bird that has been like this her whole life. First, she cannot stand on a flat surface. She stands on her ankles, making the skin very prone to pressure sores unless she is on a very soft padded blanket. Second, it is much more difficult for her to move around in a cage than a normal Grey, so she has a series of platforms and perches to make things a little easier. Third, the abnormal pressure on her ankle, knee, and hip joints means she will be much more likely to develop arthritis early in life. Will her surgery and rehab be painful? Yes, but just like a person getting a knee replacement, once the recovery period is over, life is going to be SO MUCH BETTER.
All through 2016, I repeatedly contacted the avian vet who travels the country (and the world) performing surgeries like this. I could never catch him anywhere within an 8 hour drive of Kansas City when he had time to see Vegas. By the start of 2017, I had already decided I would either have to travel to his office in Salt Lake City, or to San Francisco to consult with the other recommended doctor, but by then my mother's Alzheimer's had gotten much worse. I had to stay in town in order to manage her care because I didn't trust the caretakers to do everything she needed, and she had multiple trips to the emergency room following a pelvic fracture, broken collarbone, concussion, sprained wrist, and I was there for her every time. Until she died in May 2018, I never felt I could take time off to fly with Vegas to consult one of these veterinarians.
During 2018, our veterinary student extern (now Dr.) Holly Galusha found out she would be doing a 3 week externship at the avian specialty hospital in California in January 2019. This was a perfect opportunity for her to take the bird with her on the plane, and to be able to observe and assist with the diagnostics and surgery from start to finish. So I allowed someone to foster Vegas since it would be another 6 months before the surgery. We felt like there was no reason to rush and spend extra money to have me fly out when the legs had already been that way for about a decade. Unfortunately, when the time came for the surgery, the foster decided that they didn't want Vegas to have surgery, and thus began the Vegas War.
Since December 2018, we have sent certified letters, consulted with the police, gone to small claims court, and made 3 appearances in civil court. Yes, we had to sue the foster person to get our bird back. Burge Bird Rescue paid out $4000 in legal fees, and posted a $2000 bond (which we hope should eventually be refunded), but we finally have our bird back! The judge ruled in our favor in September, but the kidnapper still refused to return her, so we had to have 3 deputies from the sheriff's department go with a warrant in December.
In early January I will be flying to California with Vegas to be evaluated, and hopefully have at least one leg repaired so she can get around easier, and be less prone to arthritis and pressure sores. Yes, we spent $4000 to pay legal fees for a bird we raised $3000 for, but it was worth every penny. On top of that, we missed 4 opportunities this year to send Vegas to CA for no charge, or for a small charge under $100 to fly in the cabin with someone who was already going there. Now I will have to pay for 2 roundtrip flights for me to take her there, then return and pick her up a few weeks later.
And that my friends is the story of the first time I ever let anyone foster a bird from my rescue, and the last time I will ever let anyone foster a bird from my rescue.