Exotic birds fall prey to foreclosure crisis

Fri Dec 5, 2008 9:57am EST
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By Elaine Porterfield

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Real estate agent Jeffrey Dolfinger was making a routine occupancy check on a foreclosed home near Poughkeepsie, New York, when he made a heart-wrenching discovery: two bedraggled cockatiels nearly starved to death.

"We had entered into this wreck of a house, opened the door, where there sat two cockatiels with about a six-inch-high pile of bird feces under them," Dolfinger said. "I'm not a bird person, but I knew a bird is not supposed to look this way."

Despite terrible bird allergies, Dolfinger gathered them up and brought them to a pet store specializing in birds. A woman at the store nursed them back to health.

The pair of cockatiels represents a little-known side of the foreclosure crisis: exotic birds abandoned or dropped at shelters because their owners cannot move into an apartment or a relative's home with the sometimes noisy creatures.

No group tracks such cases, but animal rescue groups say they're becoming inundated with calls from people who lost their houses desperately trying to find a new home for their macaw or cockatoo.

Adding to the problems of finding new homes is the life span of the birds, which can run from 20 years for a cockatiel to between 50 and 80 years for the larger birds.

"There are easily 8 to 10 calls a week here" because of foreclosure problems, said Judy Sawin, who with her husband runs Avian Retreat in Seattle, a sanctuary for abandoned or homeless exotic birds.

"Not only are people in unfortunate situations, but this is throwing birds into terrible situations."   Continued...

<p>Phoenix, a one year old cockatiel, sits on his perch in Cape Town January 22, 2002. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings</p>