~ IN THE NEWS ~
Margaret with Paco, an Orange Wing Amazon
named (left), and Chauncey, a Blue and Gold Macaw
A s a chorus of avian approval accompanied her, Margaret Ouali
stood at her stove last Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m making rice pudding for the guys since they like the rice pudding I make,
but I don’t put as much sugar in it,” said the 44-year-old Upper Darby resident.
Her “guys” are actually fine-feathered friends, 12 to be exact, five of whom are
waiting to be adopted.
They are among the more than 35 parrots that have been saved from dire
circumstances since April 2008 when Ouali founded Jojo the Grey Adoption and
Rescue for Birds. She noted that the Bailey Foundation in Upper Chichester also rescues parrots in the
“I did rescuing from 2002 ’til the end of 2007 for the Delco Bird Club,” said
Ouali, who is director of Jojo the Grey Adoption and Rescue.
A bird-lover since childhood when her dad would walk about the house with a
cockatiel on his shoulder, Ouali was struck by the need for another local bird
rescue organization in 2002 when she first set eyes on her African Grey parrot,
Jojo, at his previous residence.
Ouali said the more than 30-year-old parrot was in a cage with no toys. Blood
was spattered on the wall behind him from the calluses that had grown over the
wounds where his wings had been improperly clipped to the bone. She learned that
the bird had never been to a veterinarian and that children would kick his cage.
“He was afraid of people in general,” said Ouali.
Now Jojo calls his mistress “Margaret” and is more trusting of human beings
thanks to Ouali’s efforts and that of her husband, Ali, who has helped the
parrot lose his fear of men. The bird is also friendlier.
“Jojo has learned the names of all the birds that have come into the house, even
if he has not met the bird but has just heard the name,” said Ouali who
estimates Jojo’s vocabulary to be at more than 600 words.
A major part of the rescue organization’s mission is rehabilitation of birds
that are abused physically and mentally. Because parrots are as intelligent as
5-year-old children, said Ouali, they are scarred in the same way youngsters
would be when they are struck or called names for biting or other bad behavior.
“We have to teach them how to be held, loved and more sociable around other
birds and people,” said Ouali.
A certified avian specialist and aviculturist, she is often called by SPCA and
humane society workers in Delaware and Pennsylvania to assess the living
conditions of birds in cruelty cases.
“I look at the birds and say to myself, ‘This bird needs to gain weight or
smells like cigarettes — it’s really bad for parrots, the smoking bit — or their
colors are not what they should be,’” said Ouali.
She some times houses birds until their owners go to court. In April Ouali ended
up with 23 birds in her home after she arrived at a Delaware residence to
discover 14 parrots cohabiting with more than 50 other animals.
She prefers to limit the number of rescued birds in her home to six at a time so
they can be given the attention they need. Ouali has seven parrots of her own
including Jojo and is permanent caregiver to Chauncey, a rescued 18-year-old
blue and gold macaw born without eyes.
Ouali isolates rescued birds from her own birds until their good health can be
established by laboratory testing of blood she extracts from their talons. Some
require surgery or other veterinary care.
“When they’re tested, we move them around the house to the porch, living room or
dining room,” said Ouali.
Some rescued birds are malnourished and many are on all-seed diets that can lead
to fatty liver disease, said Ouali. She eliminates sunflower seeds from their
diets and feeds them pellets and human food.
“We get them on fruits and vegetables. I cook for them if I’m in the mood. I
make scrambled eggs for them and pancakes,” said Ouali. “For dinner it could be
pasta, it could be rice, it could be potatoes and also, more vegetables.”
A former restaurant manager, Ouali has been disabled for more than 10 years, so
the heavy lifting involved in caring for the birds is done by the organization’s
outreach coordinator and first vice president, Keith Flury.
“Raising a bird is like raising a child. The only difference is that one has
feathers and never grows up. (Birds) are always toddlers,” said the 52-year-old
Clifton Heights resident who has seven parrots of his own.
Second vice president Lin Hammersmith of the Havertown section of Haverford also
assists in the care of the rescued birds. About four other volunteers assist in
the organization’s outreach efforts staged at schools and community events.
“We try to educate people about the care and responsibility of birds,” said
Flury noted that adopting the rehabilitated birds from the non-profit rescue
organization is a bargain because it costs a fraction of what it would to buy
the high-priced parrots from pet stores. Donations are used for the care,
feeding and medical costs of rescued birds, said Ouali. The 4-H Veterinary
Science Club recently contributed $100 to the cause.
“Most parrots can live to 90 or 100. They can live as long as we can as long as
their health is good,” she noted.
As her two children were growing up, they assisted Ouali in caring for rescued
birds. Her daughter, Colleen Robinson of Upper Darby, is now the organization’s
secretary. Her other daughter, Ashley Ann Bhagwat of Philadelphia, has also
helped rescue birds.
Now, Ouali views her parrots as her children. In addition to feeding them
home-cooked meals, she keeps them on strict schedules, awakening them at 8:30
a.m. and putting them “to bed” by 7 p.m. in a room where they have their own
Last Tuesday night, as Ouali was covering cages, lowering the lights, and
telling her winged charges, “Night-night. Love You,” she received a sweet
reminder of why she rescues the exotic creatures.
For the first time, Lemon, an African Senegal parrot that had lived up to her
original name of Satan when she first came into Ouali’s care six weeks earlier,
replied: “Night-night, Mom-Mom.”
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