Parrot painters set to earn their keep

Coombs’ World Parrot Refuge plan getting interest from around the world

Pepsi is given encouragement and inspiration for her artistic creation by Wendy Huntbatch (right) and assistant Aimee Pope.

Pepsi is given encouragement and inspiration for her artistic creation by Wendy Huntbatch (right) and assistant Aimee Pope.

Wendy Huntbatch simply didn’t know what to do. Her World Parrot Refuge in Coombs was pretty much surviving on lint and there didn’t seem to be any light on the financial horizon.

However, that was before Fang, Pepsi and a flock of fellow cockatoos took her under their wings and got together to lend a helping claw.

The parrots, she said, have begun expressing their creative side, with the resultant paintings put on sale to raise funds for the cash-strapped facility.

“We were desperate for money,” Huntbatch, the owner of the refuge, said. “We really didn’t know what to do.”

However, last Tuesday, inspiration struck either Huntbatch or the birds, depending on which tale you want to believe.

“I was chatting with a friend, who asked me what I was going to do,” she said. “I said, I don’t know, teach the parrots to paint or something. They teach elephants to paint, right?”

Huntbatch prefers a more magical version of events.

“This guy from A Channel asked where I came up with the idea and I said it was the parrots,” she said. “There’s a group of cockatoos that gather every morning and it’s like a union meeting. They talk about all sorts of things. I was crying, really upset and one of the parrots came to lick the tears off my face, which they will do, and I told them we had no money and I had no idea what we were gong to do and the next morning I heard them talking  about getting into selling art.”

Regardless of how the inspiration occurred, it clearly struck a chord, certainly with the birds.

“They have a blast,” Huntbatch said. “It’s something different and fun. We’re always laughing and singing while they do it and they’re just like little kids.”

Unlike many artists, the parrots, mainly cockatoos, don’t go for long, moody walks along the beach to get their inspiration.

“We give them one piece of canvass and finger paints and we dip a brush and give it to them,” Huntbatch said. “They throw it down or jump up and down on it or throw it at us. They also walk through the paint and onto the canvass. One way or another, the paint gets on the canvass.”

Interest in the program has been flooding in — as have the orders for the art.

“The first painting we sold was to a person in Australia,” Huntbatch said. “I don’t know how they heard about us over there.”

Other pieces have been sold as far away as Calgary, while others have gone to Chemainus and the Vancouver Island University campus in Nanaimo.

The paintings, each one unique, sell for $75 and, she added, make a perfect gift for someone who has everything.

“I had one lady who was buying something for a very wealthy friend in Arizona who has everything,” Huntbatch said. “Christmas was always a real problem for her, because she had no idea what to buy. Now she’s sure she has something that nobody else has.”

Huntbatch said she has noticed the female cockatoos appear to have the most talent for applying paint to canvass, but that isn’t necessarily always the case.

“The females seem to have a better aptitude for it than the males, but Fang did one and it’s already sold.”

With sales of the artwork picking up steam so quickly, Huntbatch is hoping she will be able to dry her eyes for good.

“We’re selling them both online and here at the refuge,” she said. “It’s going amazingly well.”

When asked to comment on the avian masterpiece it was working on Saturday, Pepsi a female cockatoo, was succinct.

“Hello!” she said.




Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Professional hockey goalie Connor LaCouvee of Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
Qualicum Beach goalie Connor LaCouvee joins AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners

Backstop returns to North America after stint in Slovakia

The intersection at Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue where a 12-year-old boy was struck by an oncoming vehicle early November while crossing at a marked crosswalk. (Mandy Moraes photo)
City staff members, school district officials to discuss high-traffic Parksville intersection

Young boy suffered broken leg after being hit in Despard/Moilliet crossing

An acre of the former ‘Bus Garage’ property has been sold to Naked Naturals Whole Foods Ltd. (Town of Qualicum Beach photo)
Qualicum Beach sells prime downtown property to Naked Naturals for $2.75M

Town to retain more than an acre of land for development of public amenities

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Another staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Nanaimo care home

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read