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~ 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 tri-state area.

“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 Ouali.

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 cable TV.

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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