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County Resident Swoops In To Help Tropical Birds

WILTON, Conn. – As she talks about her lifelong affinity for tropical birds, you would expect Liz Riecker to mention that as a child one of her first pets was a parakeet and since then she has opened her home to macaws, African parrots and conures.

But you might be surprised to hear her express her wish that no one had ever captured that first exotic bird and sold it.

"They are wild animals and they should have been left in their native environment," said Riecker. "We now have an excess of these amazing creatures here and they truly need our help."

Riecker doles out that help daily at Wilton Parrot Rescue , an organization she started in January 2010 and runs out of her Old Belden Hill Road home. It houses and rehabilitates tropical birds until the creatures can be adopted.

The average exotic bird can live in five homes throughout its life, said Riecker. Birds require time and attention; they are loud and messy; and they need constant psychological stimulation, said Riecker. They also can live 70 to 80 years, she said.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about owning these (birds) as pets," said Riecker. "People really need to know what they're getting into." Unfortunately, she said, many people don't know the whole story.

For nearly a decade, Riecker helped rescue groups in New York. She was always the volunteer who agreed to bring a bird home and act as its foster owner. She would work with it one-on-one to better its socialization skills to improve its chance of being adopted.

"Birds that are not cared for properly or come to us aggressive need to be retrained," she said. Many birds bond with only one family member – they sort of act like that person's mate, said Riecker.

So, as with Jade, a 15-year-old double yellow headed Amazon in Riecker's care, when that person dies, the bird doesn't bond with the surviving spouse. And it usually ends up at the parrot rescue. It can take a minimum of three months and up to a year or longer to find the right owner for a bird, said Riecker.

The more time Riecker spent as a volunteer, the more she said she learned about the need for parrot rescue. "There are other organizations that focus on dogs, cats and rabbits, but I realized there was not one in Fairfield or Westchester focused on birds," said Riecker. "I'm the only formal parrot rescue in the state of Connecticut."

Wilton Parrot Rescue has found homes for 50 birds, she said. The organization does not have a website so most people find her through word-of-mouth and through listings on PetFinder.com , AdoptaPet.com , Craig's List and Facebook .

Riecker's adoption process involves filling out a detailed application, conducting a phone interview and requiring a minimum of three visits to the bird at the rescue. She is committed to keeping a bird at the rescue for as long as it takes to match it with an owner.

"It could take years before the right fit comes along," said Riecker. "But for every bird, eventually the right person comes along."

If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation, contact Wilton Parrot Rescue through its Facebook page .

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