FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Premieres Wednesday, November 13th at 7:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1.
- Owners and rescuers of the popular bird talk about the ups and downs of caring
for these colorful characters and the impact of “Baretta” -
Talk to enough owners of parrots about their experiences raising an African gray
or yellow-naped Amazon and, while their stories may differ, there seems to be a consensus that
not everyone is cut out for the task. Unlike dogs and cats, parrots have not been domesticated —
they are still wild. This can have consequences, often unforeseen, for the continued care of
parrots by their owners.
Unpredictable behavior or ear-shattering squawks, for example, can result in frustrated
owners trying to find new homes for their highly intelligent birds, turning to already overcrowded
shelters and sanctuaries for help, or in some cases, abandoning their pets.
From the wilds of Costa Rica to the suburbs of our own country, Nature explores
the difficulties of raising parrots, why some breeders and owners become rescuers, and conservation
efforts in the wild when Parrot Confidential
airs Wednesday, November 13th at 7:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1. After the broadcast,
the episode will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.
Parrots can reach the age of 80 to 90 years old, outliving many of their owners.
Their intense need to form what for them is a mate bond with their human caregivers can lead to
problems if the parameters of that close relationship change. The extended absence of a family
member or the addition of a child to the household can tip the balance. Boston area residents Liz
and Russ Hartman experienced first-hand how Basil, their yellow-naped Amazon, reacted after Russ
returned from a long business trip. Basil had plucked all of the feathers off his chest, something
he had never done before. “It was devastating to us because we didn’t know what was going on,” Russ
explained. “We later determined he was so angry that he was willing to go through the pain of
pulling his own feathers out. I think he was making a point. You have to be there for them. They
are social animals.”
Jamie McLeod of the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary and a former breeder agrees that
parrots are “not just part of your life: they become your life.” McLeod says the average person
keeps a bird two to four years, which creates a lot of unwanted parrots. “People come in,” McLeod
continues, “and they’ll say, ‘I want a bird that talks, that’s quiet and that doesn’t bite,’ and
that species has not yet been discovered.”
Some breeders, like Phoebe and Harry Linden, felt that if they bred parrots, not
as many would be taken from the wild. They started the Santa Barbara Bird Farm around the time
of the debut of the TV series “Baretta,” which featured actor Robert Blake and his medium
sulfur-crested cockatoo, which seemed like a cool pet. Demand increased overnight, but it wasn’t
long before the Lindens heard about the subsequent rescues or surrenders of parrots to sanctuaries.
That led to their decision to stop breeding parrots, care for the ones they had, and take back
any bird they raised who needs a home.
Although Marc Johnson hadn’t planned to be a bird rescuer, once he purchased a
blue and gold macaw to keep in his pottery studio, he kept getting asked if he would take in
other people’s parrots. He and his wife, Karen Windsor, had to transform an abandoned chicken
farm in Hope Valley, R.I., into a permanent sanctuary for unwanted parrots after the number of
birds in their home grew to 300. They founded Foster Parrots, Ltd., which provides life-long
care to over 500 displaced, captive birds with the help of a small staff and a squad of dedicated
There are no sanctuaries for parrots in Michigan, so Marie Charon-Crowley takes
unwanted birds into her home and cares for them as best she can. They are fed and watered three
to four times a day, their cages cleaned; they need to be nurtured, not ignored. But being
overlooked and damaged emotionally is what happened to Dolly, a Moluccan cockatoo, until Lavanya
Michel adopted her when she was three years old. Lavanya and Dolly are inseparable, but human
carers need regular breaks to see friends and run errands. That’s when Dolly happily greets gift
shop visitors at the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary in the care of Lavanya’s friend Jamie McLeod.
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for
PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Parrot Confidential is a production
of THIRTEEN Productions, LLC and ArgoFilms in association with WNET.
Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated
in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural
world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime
series on public television.
Nature has won almost 700 honors from the television industry,
the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 11 Emmys and
three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the
Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the
Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Recently, the International
Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with
its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.
the award-winning web companion to Nature, features streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews,
teacher’s guides and more.
Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the
Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen
M. D’Agostino Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public
In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media
provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality
arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces
and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to
Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural
offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created
such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators
that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s
unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the
multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting
with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream
PBS content for free.
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