J.P. Arsenault and Kato - the macaw parrot currently being fostered by Arsenault by means of the ‘New Beginnings Parrot Support Group’. (Peter McCully photo)

J.P. Arsenault and Kato - the macaw parrot currently being fostered by Arsenault by means of the ‘New Beginnings Parrot Support Group’. (Peter McCully photo)

Exotic bird support group aims to educate owners in Parksville Qualicum Beach region

‘You can want a bird but the bird has got to want you as well’

A group of exotic bird-lovers have banded together to offer support and education in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

J.P. Arsenault, who started the New Beginnings Parrot Support Group, an independent animal welfare group with no affiliations, currently has six birds at his residence on Bowlby Road in Errington. Four are his own and there are a pair of macaws being fostered. Since the organization began, he said they’ve helped approximately 250 birds find homes.

The group originally started in 2016 when a collection of like-minded individuals, also involved in a similar group based in Nanaimo, wanted to provide support for the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

“We were all involved in rescue and rehoming,” he said. “But also to support and get together and educate people and to help birds. And we would take in any birds that needed to try and find forever homes.”

According to Arsenault, there was a great need in the area to have such a support group, since a lot of area owners were not educated on how to care for them. He spoke of a woman he once knew that wanted to do right by her bird, but unfortunately, did everything wrong.

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“It wasn’t out of neglect, she just honestly didn’t know better and didn’t have anyone to ask questions to,” he said. “And just in the time dealing with her, she totally changed the bird’s diet.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group would hold monthly public workshops on how to make enrichments, often toys, for exotic birds without spending a lot of money.

“Store-bought toys can cost a lot of money for something that the birds just destroy… birds don’t care about fancy colours. They just care about how well it rips apart. And in reality, birds are very intelligent and need something to occupy their time with in captivity… I always tell people – especially about cockatoos – they’re like a two-and-a-half-yea- old child that never grows up, never leaves home and you give them a chainsaw to play with,” he said with a chuckle. “That pretty much sums up owning a parrot.”

When assessing a bird, Arsenault said the most important thing to consider is what the bird wants and who it is most comfortable with.

“You can want a bird, but the bird has got to want you as well – or it does not work out,” he said.

One of his own birds was rehomed several times before he took it in, since it wasn’t adapting well to other people, and he couldn’t deny her.

“I didn’t have much say in the matter,” he said, adding each bird will vary in their preferences of gender or age.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group would also often hold fundraising events, such as bottle drives, to help with the cost of fostering and sometimes medical care. The group is not an official registered charity. They do, however, work with the Night Owl Bird Hospital in Vancouver, Arsenault said, if a bird requires medical attention.

As COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, he said the group is looking forward to holding more workshops at the Parksville Community Park in the near future.

“We’re all anxious to get things going again and have our get-togethers.”

For inquiries about exotic bird care, or to donate, Arsenault can be reached at opus@shaw.ca.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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