They help us and we help them; benefits go in both directions. The two organisations I’m writing about are the Parrot Society UK and the World Parrot Trust. Both the Parrot Society and the World Parrot Trust help companion Parrot owners to improve their birds’ lives and both organisations are committed to Parrot conservation in the wild.
Credit: World Parrot Trust
How the Parrot Society Began
After the ravages of the Second World War, money was scarce and hobbies were only just recovering. As things improved, it became clear a need existed for means of contact amongst UK Parrot fanciers, so just over 50 years ago the late Norman Cooper formed the Parrot Society in Bedford.
200 members joined, and the first magazine with Norman Cooper as editor came out in January 1967. (My own collection of PS magazines didn’t start until 30 years later when Artha Grey joined our family and became our first Parrot).
Single membership was 25 shillings and joint 30 shillings. The patron was the Duke of Bedford. Most of his comprehensive collection were enabled to free fly round his estate Bedford Abbey. (No longer in print but findable via the internet, his 1954 book - Parrots and Parrot Like Birds - has enthralled me since I found a second-hand copy 20 years ago.)
Although many members are involved with captive breeding, the Society is imbued with a desire to help conservation and as a registered charity gives substantial grants for various projects. It lives up to its original mission statement "to encourage the study and conservation of Parrot-like birds in freedom".
The membership of the Parrot Society is well under 10,000. I cannot understand why most pet owners don’t join up. Subscriptions aren’t heavy (£22 P.A.; telephone and email advice from the Society’s secretary, Les Rance, and his staff, freely given and the monthly magazine (600 published in 50 years) always has informative articles (I write some myself!)
Credit: Scarlet Macaws © Steve Milpacher
The Society has been asked to take part in government advisory boards where it has a strong influence. Ordinary members are listened to by the council so you can put your views to a wider audience. Not yet convinced? Take a look at their website.
Last year at Chester Zoo the Parrot Society celebrated their golden anniversary in the company of a hundred or so members and friends.
For the last 15 years, Les Rance has been full time secretary, taking over from David Coombs. The Parrot Society Office is situated in Berkhamsted, convenient for Les as he lives with his splendid collection of Parakeets and Parrots just outside town.
Les Rance and the other council members are justly proud of the PS achievements. I asked Les why the numbers of PS members have declined. He gave several reasons. People have smaller gardens and less large aviaries.
Another reason he adduces is the rise of the internet with so much information being given out gratis or even for money. We both agreed that although there are some benefits, there are disadvantages online for the unwary or naïve.
Credit: World Parrot Trust
One of the great advantages of membership must be the adverts - both free and classified every month that fill the back pages of the monthly magazine. Although these adverts are not vetted, the sellers are members and bad practice is rare.
Not so with many Parrot buying and selling on the Internet. Some of it is frankly dishonest. I got caught by answering an online ad for an Alexandrine hen. The seller brought her to my aviary. She was a hybrid Alexandrine/Ringneck.
And worse still, I know someone on a public website who offers permanent homes for Parrots that need them. He takes them in and resells them. Les warns that dishonest practices are hard to prevent but buying and selling under the aegis of a reputable organization provides some sureity even if it's not 100%.
Another benefit you gain from membership is their advice service, although as registered charity their advice is also given to non-members who phone them.
Les reminded me when I spoke to him about this blog that years ago I rang him constantly asking for advice. Maybe. Time has passed and now Parrot owners ring and ask me for advice. Les says they answer around 1500 queries a year. ‘It has to be a good question if we don’t know the answer.’
The Parrot Society is also consulted when government is considering bird legislation. That is another cogent reason that we hobby owners need to make our voice heard.
The PS began more of a breeders’ club. The magazine contains a good mixture of articles about pet Parrot keeping, breeding and species description as well as news of conservation efforts both their own and other organisations.
Although few ordinary members attend the annual AGM, if you contact the Parrot Society with queries or suggestions, you can be sure of a prompt and courteous response.
The Society supports various conservation projects in different areas both at home and abroad. One that particularly caught my eye was described at the Chester celebrations. In Australia, a decade long effort to wrap sheets of tin around trees with active nests to prevent predators like snakes and lizards climbing the trunks and stealing the eggs.
The Society’s present chairperson, Alan Jones, a retired vet, has published accounts of his travels in South America to see birds. In these accounts, he describes projects and how they are working out.
The problems of preserving or repairing degraded habitats are not simple but progress does occur. I’m pleased that although I’ve have only once travelled to see conservation in situ, I can be a part of others endeavours through my interest and as much money as I can spare.
If every Parrot owner would devote 1% of what they spend on their hobby to conservation and sanctuaries, it would ease the chronic shortage of cash that weakens conservation efforts.
Another organisation that I support and warmly recommend is the World Parrot Trust. Younger than the PS, it was started by Mike Reynolds. Originally, he and his family lived in London with their Parrots.
Credit: World Parrot Trust
Mike Reynolds relocated the family and Parrots to Hayle in Cornwall where they started a bird park in 1973. This became Paradise Park, a noted tourist attraction.
The plight of wild birds and the extinction of species became a deep concern for Mike and his family. Their focus on conservation sharpened and in 1989 the World Parrot Trust was formed. It now has over 2000 members in 22 countries.
Mike died in 2007 but Paradise Park continues to be a family run affair. The headquarters of the World Parrot Trust remain in Hayle. The Park now houses some mammals as well. I had my first sight, in a well-furnished enclosure, of our rare red squirrel. These squirrels, it is hoped will be released eventually into Cornwall. Threatened otters and red pandas are also bred at the Park.
A visit to Paradise Park provides a gentle, entertaining day out for animal and bird lovers. It also educates in an accessible manner for every age. David Woolcock, who has been there since he was 11, is now the curator. His workshops and lectures both at the Trust and elsewhere are enriching for Parrot owners of any level of expertise.
Conservation efforts have borne fruit. The chough, extinct in the UK, has been re-established in Cornwall and Jersey with birds who were captive bred at Paradise Park. The birds are living and breeding in both locations in a collaborative project with Jersey Zoo.
Members of the World Parrot Trust as well as knowing that they are supporting good projects are sent a glossy quarterly magazine which contains informative articles about conservation projects and also articles about pet Parrots.
The World Parrot Trust maintains a highly informative website. The forum Ask an Expert for answering bird queries has world famous experts like Steve Martin, Susan Freidman, EB Cravens and others of similar expertise. These experts answer queries in great detail.
Parrots themselves are a flocking species, that’s why I think we Parrot owners should also gather together with like-minded people. If any readers are at Think Parrots in June this year we can meet up at the stands of both these organisations.