What does a woman who is facing an empty nest and who has studied biology, nursing and accounting do with the rest of her life? Why, she lets her life go to the birds –literally. She establishes a parrot rescue.
As strange as it may sound initially, the story behind this life transition is both logical and inspiring.
Vicki Lynn LeClaire, known as “Miss Vicki,” is a generous, warm and inviting woman. She shares a traditional two-story Fayette County country home with her husband Jim and her daughter Madison, a homeschooled senior. Jared, their son, is a senior at the University of West Georgia.
What is not apparent on the outside is that this family home is also a haven for 60 rescued and abandoned parrots. Inside, beautiful, spirited birds peer from their large, clean cages to welcome visitors. Exotic, colorful birds like Fernando, the Spanish-speaking double yellow headed Amazon, are eager to entertain. Bert and Ernie, a bonded pair of brilliant Blue-fronted Amazons, are content simply living with each other. The very vocal ChaCha, a Sun Conure, the second loudest species of bird on earth, makes sure you know she’s there.
But let’s back up and learn why Miss Vicki, who had moved nine times in 18 years because of her husband’s job, decided that rescuing birds would be her life’s passion.
“When we were finally done relocating I told my husband I wanted to do something for me. It was my turn,” she explains, continuing, “I always knew I wanted to do something with animals and that I wanted to give back to society.”
But — why birds? Miss Vicki answers with a smile. “I bought a cockatiel for my daughter when she was younger and that started it all. I found Tang fascinating, but I knew nothing about having a bird. While researching how to care for it, I was shocked to learn that so many of these beautiful birds needed homes and that there are not enough rescues. I knew this would be my new mission.”
She explains that exotic birds have a long life span, often living 20 to 80 years. They frequently outlive their owners, leaving no one to care for them. In addition, many people who purchase birds don’t realize that it is a lifelong commitment, nor do they understand the complexities of owning a bird.
“Frequently,” Vicki explains further as we walk past Angel, a beautiful white Moluccan Cockatoo, “young birds are often bo
ught impulsively from breeders or a pet store. Initially, they are nice quiet companions. As they mature, they become vocal, even disturbingly noisy. Some may develop personality issues and become destructive, making it difficult to live with the bird.”
Knowing that a bird rescue was her new-found mission, she and her husband purchased their home in 2007 with the haven in mind. “But before I could establish a rescue I had to do a lot of research,” Vicki remembers. “I really didn’t know where to begin. I used Facebook to find people with similar interests in birds. I met many helpful, motivating and kind people and I talked to people currently operating rescues. When I met a woman with 25 years of bird rescue experience who was willing to help me, I knew it was meant to be.”
This Karma-like belief is part of Miss Vicki’s Western Buddhist manner of calm and peaceful living. “I envision my life as a pathway and each choice I make sends me in a different direction. I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my journey,” she explains.
The Parrot Village, funded initially with Miss Vicki’s own money, officially opened in 2010 and currently has a five-member Board of Directors and about 20 dedicated volunteers. It is incorporated and has a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation.
While walking amid the myriad colors of brilliant feathers, gazing eyes and constant parrot chatter, Miss Vicki explains the concept of the Parrot Rescue. “This shelter is for abandoned birds, birds in need of medical or behavioral rehabilitation, and for birds of families who can no longer care for the companion they love.”
Most of the birds in the rescue are available for adoption and along with that adoption is help for the new owner. “We educate the owner, stand with him throughout the life of the bird; answering questions, offering advice, and helping with behavior problems if we can.”
Educating people, who may or may not be bird owners, is an
essential part of the Village’s mission. An Open House is held the first Saturday of each month so the public can view the striking birds and learn more about the purpose and mission of the rescue.
“The public needs to be aware of their plight,” Vicki emphasizes. “We need to stop the breeders from breeding these birds and selling them in pet stores and at breeders’ fairs. We need to stop people from impulsively buying a bird with no plan for its care for the next 20 to 80 years. These exotic birds are not meant to live in captivity.”
Rescuing these beautiful flights of nature is paramount to the mission and its volunteers. All are working hard to solicit donations, gain support and educate the public. “We operate 100% on donations,” Miss Vicki says, “and we try to be as self-sustaining as we can be.”
The haven’s upcoming plan is to construct an aviary so the birds can be outdoors. “Nothing is healthier for a parrot than to be outside breathing fresh air, getting a natural shower, taking flight and soaking in the sunlight,” Miss Vicki notes. “The birds need to be able to fly.”
Not only will the birds take wing in this new aviary, but Miss Vicki’s spirits will soar as another important vision is realized on her inspiring life’s journey.
Miss Vicki’s Parrot Rescue
110 Virginia Place, Fayetteville, GA
Phone calls are discouraged because of the noise level.
Open House: the first Saturday of each month, noon to 4 p.m.
Did You Know?
- Exotic birds are not domesticated animals.
- Birds are facing an epidemic of overpopulation and homelessness.
- Caring for a bird is a life-long responsibility.
- Birds are often excluded from laws regulating the care and treatment of animals.
- Breeding facilities are warehouses in which birds are held in barren cages for breeding and mass production purposes.
- There are more than 100 avian rescue and sanctuary facilities in the U.S. Most are filled to capacity.