The following is a re-post of a message to Mickaboo volunteers written by Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue co-founder and CEO, Michelle Yesney. It has been published here with her gracious permission.
As you all know, Mickaboo is a rescue. That means we often take in birds that are injured, sick, maimed, and terrified. We take whatever measures are necessary to see that they receive the medical care they need, and our trained and compassionate volunteers help nurse them back to health.
But not all of the birds who come to us can be “cured”. Not all of them can recover fully.
Birds that have lost all or part of a wing, all or part of a leg or foot, or have had part of their beak torn off, cannot grow back the missing part. Birds that have plucked for a long time may have damaged the follicles such that their feathers cannot all grow back. Scar tissue can impede the full use of wings, legs, and regrowth of feathers.
These birds will never be able to behave or act exactly the way a “normal” healthy bird would act or move. Their lives will never be the same.
So why does Mickaboo rehabilitate these birds? Why do we spend time, money, and valuable volunteer resources on these damaged birds? Wouldn’t it be kinder to humanely euthanize them, “put them out of their misery”, since they can never be just like other birds?
People do ask me these questions, and it seems appropriate to give you all my answer – and to explain why you might want to consider fostering or adopting a “special needs” bird.
The first and most important thing to understand is that no matter how savage the injury or damage the bird may have sustained, no matter how severe the mutilation – birds don’t think of themselves as crippled or handicapped.
Once their pain can be controlled, the bird immediately begins to work through the actions and behavior changes necessary to resume its “normal” life. They never feel sorry for themselves.
Loss of a wing may be the most significant injury that can occur to a bird – the loss of flight.** A few years ago, I cared for a cockatiel after his surgery (for a wing amputation). He was clearly grieving; he didn’t move around very much and was silent and withdrawn. His surgical site healed, but he remained very quiet. Then spring arrived and with it, a lot more sunshine. It was almost as though he had been sleeping for weeks – he began singing and calling to the other birds, he was active and had to be moved to a much larger cage. He was probably the most musical – and joyous – cockatiel I have ever met – his name is Picabo.
Birds seem so fragile and delicate. When they survive a terrible injury or lose part of their body due to injury or illness, it is easy to assume they will die. But often they do not. They can be incredibly tough and amazingly resilient.
We take in birds that are so badly hurt, often compounded by bad care or neglect, that our experienced avian vets are horrified by their condition. But we try never to assume that an injury is fatal. So many of the birds that come to us with horrible damage do recover. Chacco the Galah (or rose-breasted cockatoo) came to us with horrible injuries, many of which had caused flesh on his wing and body to become necrotic (literally, it had died). The smell was horrible.
Take a look at him now on our web page (under Special Needs Birds). He lost a wing, but he is a beautiful, active bird who is learning to trust humans again.
Violet the budgie came to me with a huge hernia the size of her head attached to her vent. It has been repaired now and she is as active as any other budgie. She must never be allowed to lay eggs, but she likes to chitter at me in a soft voice, and is just as spunky as any budgie hen I’ve met.
We label birds “special needs” – but everyday the ones I know remind me that mostly they are just special.
And I am lucky to have them in my life.