Fine feathered friends belong in the wild


July 19, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DEE THOMPSON of Savage is passionate about parrots - so much so that she is bringing about a half-dozen exquisite birds to the Savage library next week for a presentation.

But her mission won't be to persuade folks to flock to the pet shop to purchase a parrot. In fact, Thompson plans to do just the opposite. She is hoping to convince children, and their parents, that birds belong in the wild, not in the home.

Forget "Polly wants a cracker." Polly really wants to fly for miles every day, surrounded by avian creatures of her own ilk.

"There's nothing natural about a bird in a cage," said Thompson, 57, founder of Parrot Rescue Maryland. "They must be raised with other birds so they learn how to be a bird."

Thompson used to spend a lot of time in the skies herself - she was a flight attendant for 21 years before joining the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center as a caretaker working with endangered birds.

She started Parrot Rescue at her home in 1986, when she took in 15 needy exotic birds for care and rehabilitation. Her flock has since grown into a full-time - and overtime - endeavor.

She handles upward of 200 feathered clients each year and conducts educational outreach seminars throughout the region to enlighten people about the realities of bird care.

"People don't know what to expect from a bird," Thompson said. "People think the bird will sit there and be quiet and pretty."

Judging by the hundreds of castoffs she has cared for, what people come to learn firsthand about coping with a cockatiel or managing a macaw is less than pleasant.

For starters, birds are downright wild. "They won't act wild; they are wild," Thompson said. "We can't turn something that is truly wild into a domesticated pet."

Unlike exuberant puppies and mischievous kittens, birds do not settle down with age and acquiesce to the human lifestyle. In fact, they may become more unruly as they approach adolescence, Thompson said.

"We isolate them in these little cages where they can hardly flap their wings," she said. "If you put a bird in a cage and ignore it, you're going to have problems." These problems include excessive noisiness, self-mutilation and a host of other disorders.

Then there is the longevity issue. Thompson says that some species of parrots can live to be 35 years old. "People don't have the patience to care for something for decades," she said. "They outlive people's interest."

So who should own an exotic bird? "That's like saying, `Who needs an elephant?'" Thompson said. She advocates leaving the spectacular creatures where nature intended - in the wild.

"All cages are truly small when you consider that the bird is the master of the skies," she said.

Dee Thompson and some specially trained parrot pals will visit the Savage library Wednesday for two 30-minute children's programs called "Polly Wants a Cracker!" The first session, for children ages 2 and 3 with an adult, will begin at 1:30 p.m. The second session, for ages 4 and older, is to start at 2:30 p.m.

Information or registration: 410-880-5978.

Martial arts

Karate at Historic Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage comes to life every Tuesday evening, thanks to the karate lessons taught there by Severn resident Kevin McMurty.

People can still sign up for an eight-week course, which runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays.

Four instructors are on hand to teach two forms of martial arts: chanbara, which McMurty likens to sword fighting with spongy noodles ("It doesn't hurt," he says), and shotokan, which he says is the more "typical karate."

Lessons, open to adults and children ages 5 and older, are $45 for eight weeks; half-price for additional family members. Uniforms cost $26.

McMurty offers a three-day, overnight karate camp at Greenbelt State Park, beginning July 26.

Information: 410-969-4000.

(De)Parting words

It was something of an epiphany in May, when the odometer on my husband's Ford Escort registered 100,000 miles. The car is less than 4 years old, and those miles were racked up not through adventurous cross-country treks, but through Dave's 104-mile daily commute from Jessup to his job at Hood College in Frederick.

That long row of digits on the odometer practically screamed at us: It's time to move closer.

So what has kept us here, for seven years now? Mostly it's our neighbors and our friends - the very people I write about each week in this column.

This is my last Neighbors column. My next deadline is not for me to get a story typed up, but to get our household boxed up, for transport to Frederick.

Your new correspondent is Susan Harpster, who will write about all things southern Howard, beginning next week.

I will truly miss this neighborhood. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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