We got a call about a breeding flock of budgies that needed to be rehomed after the owner passed away. Every year there is at least one case with over 2 dozen birds, sometimes it is even more than 100, so we prepared a whole section of our rescue room with clean cages to hold as many birds as there might be. We were unable to take pictures while we were there, but imagine 12 birds in a cage meant for 2, and cockroaches crawling everywhere. As were were catching and loading birds into carriers, we learned that the owner had died 8 years earlier, but the budgies had been allowed to keep breeding instead of pulling the nest boxes and avoiding the overpopulation crisis. The total count for this mission ended up being 70. We were able to transfer many of them to other rescues around the midwest.
We have extracted some birds from some unusual predicaments before, and you never know what tools will be most useful. This might be the only time in history when a back scratcher saved two lives! We got a call that a store was about to have their fire sprinkler system repaired, but they had seen a bird flying in and out of the open pipe, and they could hear babies chirping inside. We grabbed everything we could think of, including a shop vac with a net inside of the tube in case we had to suck the chicks out using the long flexible hose. It turned out the back scratcher was the perfect tool to pull the nesting material out a bit at a time, until the two sparrow chicks came out with the last of it. We named them Smokey and Sparky, and they went home with our friend who takes in dozens of baby starlings, pigeons, and sparrows every year (these are nonnative species that can't go to the wildlife rehab facilities). They eventually learned how to eat on their own and were released, and they are enjoying the good life in Johnson County with plenty of bird feeders and bird baths to visit.
"DYED DOVES THAT DIED"
You don't always know everything about a person no matter what questions you might ask them. After filling out an application and interacting with our adoption staff several times, someone was allowed to adopt multiple doves from our rescue program. Seven doves crammed into a tiny cage had recently been surrendered to us, and it was awesome that they would have a big flight cage to live in. It seemed like this adopter had a great setup, knew about doves and their care, and was sincerely interested in helping these homeless birds have a better life. Several months later, we received a concerned phone call from an anonymous source who reported that the birds did not have the care we thought they were going to have. Four birds were removed from the home, but only two of them were part of the seven we had sent home with them. Three white doves had been dyed with food coloring, which would not completely wash off, and one fancy pigeon came in with them, but with sinking hearts, we realized that five of our birds had probably died in what we thought was a good home. It is impossible to know who is mentally ill, a hoarder, or an abuser, because some of those people are very good at hiding it. Our hearts break for the birds that were lost. (Before anyone judges us and says we don't do a good job of screening applicants, please come here and try doing this job, and find out how many people get mad because they were turned away. You have no idea how hard it is to evaluate potential adopters who will say anything to get an animal.)
"PIGEON PALACE POPULATION"
Our three tarp covered 12 by 12 foot pigeon cages are too full, but we are about to have a new structure built on the back patio so there will be more room and better shelter from the rain and snow. Very few people seem to be interested in adopting pigeons, but the birds just keep coming in because no other rescues in the area will take them. One of the birds in need this year was Brian, a wild pigeon who apparently ate a big meal at Subway, then flew into their window at such a high speed that his crop exploded like a water balloon! Fortunately, we were able to do surgery and fix him up like new, and he now lives with the other wild pigeons who are allowed to fly loose every day. They return and put themselves to bed in their shed every night. They know where the free food is!
Scarlet Macaw Pepper and 3 other parrots had been living in their basement room for decades. Mice had discovered the constant supply of food, and were boldly running up and down the cage bars, across the perches, and into the seed and water bowls. When the health of the owners declined so that they could no longer provide even basic care, we were called to come get them. It was a 5 hour drive each way, but one we didn't hesitate to make.
Pepper's cage had been locked with a chain after he broke the latch, and it obviously hadn't been opened in many years. Since we couldn't get it open with tools, he had to be caught by reaching through the dish door and carefully extracting him via the small opening. He also had the tallest "poop mountain" we had ever seen, between 2 and 3 feet high, under his favorite spot to perch.
"THE CASE OF THE UNDELIVERED EGGS"
Nobody knows how old Lola the Blue and Gold Macaw is, or how many homes she has been through. We took her in as a transfer from another rescue because of her medical needs. In addition to a big swollen belly, she also had an old eyelid injury, her right wing doesn't fully extend, and she had an enlarged blocked preen gland. Blood tests showed she was in relatively good health, and radiographs (X-rays) revealed that she had not just one full-sized but partially collapsed egg, she also had a huge amount of scrambled egg material in her uterus. We did surgery and cleaned out her massive uterus, gave her a hormone implant, and she immediately started gaining weight and becoming more active. We didn't remove her uterus because it was enormous with multiple enlarged blood vessels, and we felt that it would be safer to leave it. If she has more reproductive problems we may have to do the hysterectomy later, but she is nine months out and still doing great. Now we just need to find the right home for her.
"AGAINST ALL ODDS"
A kind person called us after she found a cockatiel in her yard that had been attacked and injured by her dog. She rushed him in, and we started him immediately on antibiotics to prevent infection. Fortunately, he only lost most of the feathers on one wing, and was raw and sore for several days, but no broken bones or internal injuries. Nobody ever claimed him, as is the case with almost all of the birds that are found flying loose. He was a lucky bird, who not only survived being turned loose outside by someone who didn't want him any more, but he also made it through a dog attack. We named him Orville after one of the Wright brothers. He is waiting for a new home with someone who will love him.
"THREE PROBLEMS IN ONE"
A local dog rescue group called us because four fancy pigeons had decided to make a home under the roof of their patio. It wasn't just about the mess their droppings made, they were concerned that these birds would not be able to survive in the wild. Their fancy colors made them more visible to predators, and these were birds that had been raised in a loft, with food, water, and shelter provided for their entire lives. We enclosed the entire patio area with netting material and after a few trips managed to catch all four birds. Later, we learned that a local pigeon hobbyist had passed away, and his wife released the birds and closed off their loft, leaving them to fend for themselves. So these poor birds had three problems: an owner who failed to plan for their care; someone who released them into the wild when they didn't know how to find food and water on their own; and the fact that very few people want to adopt pigeons. They are beautiful, gentle birds, and deserve to be treated better.
"THE BIRDS AND THE BEES AND THE BUNNIES"
We usually only work with birds, I mean the name Burge Bird Rescue should be a clue. But one day while scrolling through Facebook posts, we saw a plea for help with a large number of rabbits that were breeding out of control, and only a few rescues were offering to take two or five or ten. After meeting with the overwhelmed owners, who had adopted two adorable baby bunnies 2.5 years earlier, not realizing that they were opposite sexes, and the fact that they were brother and sister would not stop them from doing what nature intended them to do. They were trying their best to separate males from females to stop the accidental breeding, but litters were being born every week. We came up with a plan, and started putting out the call for help to every small animal rescue group and veterinarians who worked with rabbits.
Long story short: 161 total rabbits, 61 transported to our office temporarily then delivered to rescues in other states, 50 captured and loaded by our team to send to an out of state rescue, 9 we transported to and from St. Louis to be spayed and neutered and returned to the owners (5 were already fixed), and 35 were taken in by local rescues in the Kansas City area. We provided 100 doses of RHDV vaccine to protect all the local bunnies from this deadly virus, hundreds of dollars worth of food, and thousands of dollars were donated to some of the rescues that took in the most rabbits. It was by far our most expensive rescue operation in our history, and we are glad we were able to find so many rescue and veterinary friends to help us help these sweet buns.
CLICK THESE LINKS TO SEE MORE GREAT RESCUE STORIES FROM OTHER YEARS:
When animal control calls with a bird (or a flock of birds) in need, we always say yes. Most dog and cat shelters are not equipped to provide the care that a bird needs. When an African Grey Parrot named Mario came in, we immediately thought that we knew this bird. Sure enough, he had been a patient of our veterinary practice for many years. The elderly owner had passed away, but had failed to tell any of his out of state family members what to do with his bird if something happened to him, so they just called animal control to take him. Unfortunately, they didn't take his cage or toys or food, so it was an abrupt change for Mario to come to an unfamiliar place and have nothing familiar.
Another long time client of ours boarded her two African Greys with us for an undetermined amount of time, saying she was having some health issues. When a couple of months went by and we couldn't reach her, we discovered she had died, and told her family that she had surrendered the birds to our rescue. They had not been signed over to us, and it took several phone calls to relatives before we could explain that legally they were not our birds, and they needed to give us at least a verbal consent to surrender them. Again, their cages, toys, and food at home had all been discarded.
This should be a wake up call to anyone who has not created written instructions for what to do about your pets if you can no longer care for them. Just a simple note given to several family members or friends would be enough in most cases, or if you have a will, make sure your pets are included.
"BONUS STORY #11: "
A wonderful rescue friend of ours took in a chicken that had been observed falling out of a truck that was transporting hundreds of birds to a slaughter house. The poor girl had a broken leg, a broken wing, and a huge open wound where the skin had been torn open along the side of her body and thigh. Along with pain medication and antibiotics, we splinted her leg and wing, and closed up the flesh, but the wound was in the way of the bandage, and we had to remove and replace the leg splint a few days later. Then more of the skin died, causing an even larger open wound. By this time the leg bones were feeling pretty solid, so we removed the splint. We were barely able to pull the skin together to close it, leaving her looking like Frankenstein with a jagged, irregular line of stitches.
Just a few weeks after her escape from death, Liberty got to go outside for the first time in her life and enjoy sunshine and grass and bugs to eat. We are so happy that we were able to help this doomed creature find a new life. While she is not one of our rescue birds, we were able to provide her care at a big discount thanks to donations from our friends. (Note: the first photos show chickens jammed together in a truck heading for slaughter, but it was not the truck Liberty fell out of.)
Would you like to donate to help the 461 birds & rabbits we rescued in 2022?