Bird Rescue

During the month of April, I got to participate a wonderful and enriching experience as a volunteer in the Belize Bird Rescue. Every Monday or Tuesday I hopped on a bus early in the morning, enjoyed a scenic ride through beautiful Cayo, then met my hostess, Nikki Buxton, at the bus station, where she took me to the scenic green Bird Rescue (and bed and breakfast) she ran with her partner, Jerry Larder. Most weeks ran from Monday to Thursday morning, with me leaving in the afternoon, taking a bus back to Belize City. Most of the work I did was in the morning, starting at seven and going until eight, or nine. Not that it was hard to wake up, what with the birds squawking and singing as soon as the sun came up.
Most of what I did was helping with food prep – putting freshly made corn and beans into the baskets, along with things like vegetables, orange wedges, coconut, and every now and then even some specially-made cake for the birds. Once food prep was done, I would help change the birds’ food and water, going around to the different enclosures and putting in the fresh food, clean water, and taking the old trays and scraps back to the kitchen for rat food, or put them in some of the outside feeders. My least favorite birds to feed were the Yellow-Headed Parrots, since they tried to bite my fingers when I was feeding them. Not fun! The birds on the balcony – a Red-lored Parrot, another Yellow-head, and a Cockatoo, were a bit easier.
There was one incident during the first week where the Yellow-Head got upset when I started sweeping the balcony floor, but other than that, it was smooth sailing. Some of the other birds I helped feed were the Keel-Billed Toucans and Aracaris. Their food was different from the parrots – things like papaya, noni, and watermelon. It was a little strange, being so near the national bird of Belize, and seeing its beautiful plumage of black, yellow, and green so close. Truly a breathtaking experience.
Caring for the nursery birds was another job I did almost every morning. I would wheel the more sickly parrots out of the nursery, then change their food and water. During the first and third weeks, there were a bunch of chicks kept inside the guest house, as food for the owls and other raptors. During this time, I would wheel the chicks outside during the morning, and change their food and water. Letting the woodpecker out for the day came next. Paloma, the Pileated Woodpecker, was a ‘soft-release’ bird-we would let her out of her enclosure during the day, and during the evening put her back inside.
While most of my work was the same most days, I got to do various other tasks on different days, and even got a new duty every week! Feeding the mealworms and beetles cabbage was one of my first jobs, and later on picking up oranges from the ground, in order to feed the birds. Ironically though, my favorite job was not one related to the birds, but feeding and watering the rats and mice. Oscar and I would give the rodents moldy bread and fruit peels, and once or twice even cleaning out their containers. The rats and mice were so cute I always looked forward to caring for them-especially the babies! Almost a pity they were just kept there as owl food.
Another one of my favorite tasks was helping in the transfer of parrots from one enclosure to another. I only got to do this twice, but both times were vastly different-the first time I actually got to handle a net, so that I could capture the birds myself, and place them inside carriers. The second time, when we were moving Scarlet Macaws, my job was to record the parrots’ I.D. number and weight as they were read to me. This particular case I liked more, because the enclosure we were moving the parrots from was big and really nice, and I got a nice show as the macaws flew overhead, a flash of red across the air. Not the first time I’d gotten to go inside with the parrots-I’d done that before with some of the other parrots during feeding time, but certainly the most fun I’d had doing so.
In spite of the sticky, gross heat and sometimes long hours, I enjoyed this experience, and the tasks I got to do at the Belize Bird Rescue. Whether it was helping to weigh baby owls, cleaning the bird baths, or even just collecting food trays in the afternoon, I always found ways to keep myself busy. Not to mention, it was nice sleeping in a different bed for at least a few nights every week, be it the Hummingbird Room in the Guest House, or the volunteer house where my fellow workers, Barbara and Michel, were also staying. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get more time to work there; since the season was picking up, more volunteers were coming in. There was no longer any room for me, and while I was disappointed, I had had a wonderful time at the Bird Rescue. I hope that I can find an opportunity like this again soon, I could certainly use the experience!

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