VANCOUVER — Jan and Bob had a “love connection” the first time they met, but most days she wishes he would fly the coop.
“A lot of people can’t handle Bob, he will bite them,” Jan Robson says as Bob nuzzles into her chest.
“I can pretty much flip him upside down, do anything, and he won’t bite me. That’s not because I’m fabulous with parrots. That’s because Bob and I have something.”
Bob is a peach-coloured moluccan cockatoo, and along with 94 other parrots including macaws and amazons, he’s awaiting adoption at the Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary. It opened in a warehouse on the east side of Vancouver in July 2016.
Almost 600 parrots were rescued from the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs, B.C., on Vancouver Island after the death of a woman who operated the facility. Bob and his buddies are among those still waiting for forever homes, as are about 30 other birds kept at a house south of the city, in Tsawwassen.
A lease for Bob and the gang’s current abode, in a building that’s up for development, has been extended several times and is set to expire on Feb. 28 so Robson is hoping that every bird, even her favourite, will tug on someone’s heartstrings.
Bob’s canoodling with Robson, spokeswoman for the sanctuary, isn’t going over well with his mates, who protest loudly from their cages, their wood-block mobiles and paper-plate toys are no match for the strokes and smiles he’s getting from a human.
“Hi there!” says Gwenevere, a cat-calling cockatoo who repeatedly twirls herself upside down in her cage as Bob laps up all the attention.
A plastic tarp separates the cockatoos, which are prone to dander, from the macaws and amazons being chatted up by volunteers as a cacophony of parrots takes over, with green-winged macaws named Simon and Garfunkel leading the pack.
Medical records weren’t available for most of the rescued birds so Robson doesn’t know their ages. She says parrots are known to live for up to 80 years, meaning commitment phobics need not apply to adopt them.
Anyone who thinks a parrot’s main purpose is to entertain them with human chatter should consider another type of pet, Robson says, adding staff have discouraged some of the birds when they start up with their “potty mouths.”
People who value their furniture should also think twice about bringing a parrot into their home because the birds with strong beaks are known to peck away at mouldings, Robson says, describing them as “destructive,” not to mention noisy.
“Moluccan cockatoos have been measured as being as loud as jet engines,” Robson says, adding Bob is “exquisitely loud” when he’s not gazing into her eyes.
While parrots are “attention junkies” that squawk endlessly if they don’t get their fill of love, Robson says they’re also smart and have “joy packed into their little bodies.”
Once an adoption application has been vetted, a phone interview and a home visit would follow, she says, adding people need to know what they’re getting into instead of passing a parrot off to someone else if they can’t handle it.
“On average, these guys will be in seven different homes in their lifetime. And for a creature that bonds really, really closely with its family, that’s abusive.”
Erika Condon, 20, a volunteer at the sanctuary, adopted a parrot named Elton a year and a half ago and renamed him Lincoln.
Condon would miss his charms after not seeing him for a week so she decided to take him home to Langley, B.C., where he has mostly kept quiet between cuddles, she says, adding Lincoln may be an older bird.
As for Robson, she once had such a fear of birds that she’d cross the street to avoid a pigeon.
When her partner moved in with two birds, she laid down the law and told him: “I don’t clean their cages, I don’t go near them, you don’t have them out when I’m home.”
A maroon-bellied conure named Basil and Clancey the budgie took the opportunity to escape from their cages when Robson was alone with them. She locked herself in the bathroom, her heart pounding “100 miles and hour.”
The birds eventually won her over and now, 26 years later, Robson shares her home with six parrots.
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Camille Bains, The Canadian Press