On A Wing and A Prayer
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy are a pair of Cockatoos that have lived together like an old married couple for the past 50 years. They were used by a commercial bird breeder for more than 30 years and then discarded when they were no longer useful. That’s when the pair came to the attention of Under My Wing Avian Refuge.
The non-profit bird sanctuary based in New Jersey rescued Ann and Andy along with five other exotic birds. All of them showed signs of neglect. One Amazon named Herbie was in particularly bad shape and could barely stand. The breeder had allowed the bird’s nails to overgrow and curl into his feet.
All seven birds returned to Under My Wing with the organization’s founder, Paula Ashfield. They joined the 130 other rescued exotic birds at the sanctuary where it was assumed they would safely spend the rest of their lives.
But in late Fall, 2009 Ashfield’s world suddenly fell apart when she received word that Under My Wing Avian Refuge was no longer welcome in the New Jersey town she had called home for many years. She and her husband were at a loss about what to do for the birds that they fondly call “the kids.”
“We had to make sure there is always a sanctuary for the kids,” Ashfield said.
Under My Wing is the only no-kill exotic bird rescue organization in the area. They serve New Jersey, upstate New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They rescue and rehabilitate birds that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. The group is called upon by animal rescue groups, animal control and law enforcement agencies whenever a bird is in trouble. Ashfield has even testified in court cases on behalf of the birds she has rescued.
So on a wing and a prayer the Ashfields’ began a search that eventually led them to the animal friendly city of Wantage, New Jersey and a foreclosed home on 10 ½ acres. Over the past several weeks Under My Wing has been getting ready for “the kids” to arrive in their new home.
Ashfield said it has taken the combined help from electricians, plumbers and carpenters to repair the rundown home on the property and turn it into a safe haven for the birds. In addition, Under My Wing had to install a water heater, alarm system and additional plumbing to filter well water for the birds to drink and bathe.
One by one finally “the kids” arrived at their new home in a rented van. Paula reported that all of the 130 plus birds are doing well. Only a Cockatiel named Tommy had a slight accident after the move when he flew into a window.
All in all Paula is excited about the prospects of the new sanctuary. “The bigger space will allow us to do what we want.”
The larger facility will let Under My Wing expand their humane education program for children. Paula is adamant this is the only way to stop the abuse and neglect of exotic birds. The group’s humane program teaches kids about the special needs of exotic birds and gives them a hands-on experience with them.
The other major goal is to have the organization approved by FEMA so Under My Wing can accept exotic birds that are displaced after a federal emergency or natural disaster.
Like most small animal rescue groups, Under My Wing works on a very tight budget with a handful of dedicated volunteers. Their relocation has used up most of their funds.
Here is a wish list of things this very deserving group could use to make their transition go smoother:
- New perches for every cage
- Chewable toys and hanging ropes for the birds
- Volunteers to get the sanctuary organized and the grounds in shape
- Materials to build outdoor aviaries
- Donations to purchase bird food, vitamins and other supplies
- A van to transport the birds
Under My Wing Avian Refuge