Sunday, August 29, 2010

Presidents and Parrots

Voting parrot


recently read this poem by Mary Oliver:


Percy Two

 I have a little dog who likes to nap with me.

He climbs on my body and puts his face in my neck.

He is sweeter than soap.

He is more wonderful than a diamond necklace,

which can't even bark.

I would like to take him to Kashmir and the Ukraine,

and Jerusalem and Palestine and Iraq and Darfur,

that the sorrowing thousands might see his laughing mouth.

I would like to take him to Washington, right into

the oval office

where Donald Rumsfeld would crawl out of the president's


and kneel down on the carpet, and romp like a boy

 For once, for a moment, a rational man.



that's an idea worth sharing - what might we bright to the influential and the
sorrowing multitudes so that they may gain reason, or perhaps better said, let
go of reason and let love and joy in?  I
think that I would bring a parrot to the oval office.


wouldn't be the first.


presidents have owned parrots.


Lyndon B.
Johnson had lovebirds, John Kennedy had parakeets, Theodore Roosevelt and James
Madison had macaws, William McKinley had 
Yellow-headed Mexican Parrot that could whistle "Yankee
Doodle" and Andrew Jackson had some unknown species of parrot named Pol.
His pet parrot was removed from his funeral because the bird was swearing.

Obama and parrot[6] 


parrot that I would offer to our head of state would be bettered mannered than
this, but hopefully not too politically correct.  In this prestigious office the bird would bow
down his head, raising his neck feathers in which President Obama would
promptly bury his nose and inhale sacredness.  
Then he would reaffirm his faith that there is nothing sweeter than life
itself, or more beautiful than this bird, himself, others, republicans,
democrats, Muslims, or talk show hosts.  He
might secretly see himself as President Parrot, no more, and no less.  Then he would wing himself to Afghanistan,
Yemen, Bolivia, Argentina, or Venezuela  and offer liberation by now bowing down his head and
kneeling on the carpet to the beauty within and the beauty without.  Such is my hope here in the dog days of

Las del uni 258
President Hugo Chavez of Venezueala 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Welfare from A Bird's Eye View

Nancy Burke Loving a Hundred Year Old Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot


I have
recently returned from several weeks of being among bird people, attending a
bird veterinarian conference (the
Association of Avian Veterinarians), a bird
owner/breeder conference (
American Federation of Aviculture), an avian
veterinary clinics (
Bird and Exotic Pet Wellness Center) and pet bird owners of
flocks. There was a time when I could not have spent enjoyable time amongst
them, for I thought they were "wrong" for keeping wild birds in
captivity.  Through the deep work of
Nonviolent Communication that I translate into
Compassionate Conservation, I am
learning to see that these people are not wrong, nor am I.   Life
flows through them just as it does me, striving to bring appreciation, beauty,
companionship, and nurturing to their lives. 
They love birds, I love birds. They care for birds, I care for
birds.  They choose to do so by keeping
birds in cages in their homes, or treating captive birds in their clinics,
while I choose to work with wild parrots in Latin America.  Our strategies differ, but we are interdependent
with one another, not separate, but worthy and lovely.  We share life.  Because I appreciate our common humanity and
might empathize with them, I can be among them,  and even more important to me, love them for who they are
and keep my heart open to the beauty that is their lives.  
does not mean that I do not mourn their strategies. Indeed, after several weeks
of being among captive birds and hearing of their hard lives in captivity, I am
ready for a break.  My heart hurts to
witness such suffering. 

Striving to
relate through common needs also doesn't mean that I don't tell others what is
going on in my heart.  Indeed there were
many such discussions.  In that sharing,
my aching heart does find relief, for at the level of universal needs, of
mattering and seeing that other species matter, we were able to connect.  By seeing our discomfort as being at the
level of strategy, and not at the level of universal needs, we find ways to empathize
with one another, support one another, and hopefully  help one another see that we matter so that
we can work together in ways that reflect the needs of all beings.

This is my
dream and my prayer for we who share our lives with birds, especially this year
as we work together to develop guidelines for birds under the
Animal Welfare
.  I strongly believe that we need all
of us at the table, so that we might nourish birds, ourselves, and the world we
share with them with our creative, loving, synergy.  May this be so.



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American Federation of Aviculture Convention: The Magic of People and Parrots



On Saturday I gave a
presentation at the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) Symposium in St.
Petersburg, Florida (my spouse and I call it St. Parrotsburg because of all the
naturalized parrots flying around).  Some
20 years ago I was a regular attendee at these conventions when I was more
active as a veterinarian of captive birds. 
I returned to be with these aviculturists because I need them, and so
the people and parrots of the world.  The
goal for my paper, "Wild Psittacine 
Chick and Nest Assessment: A Green Paper" was to convey my
conviction that we need every one at the table to help solve the complex and
often overwhelming problems confronting us in avian conservation, especially in
Central America.  From my view point,
everyone is on the conservation team for parrots.  If you work towards the well being of
yourself, others, and birds - no matter where you are - you are contributing to
the well being of the planet and all communities of mixed species.  We are one planet and we share one
health.  The audience at AFA gave me many
wonderful and clear suggestions, and already I believe I can share this
information with those with whom I work more closely with on my various
conservation teams.  Imagine what we
might accomplish if more people become involved?

I ask you, therefore, if you
would be a participatory member of this team. 
One thing you can do is read this paper, and contribute to it.  I have it posted as a google document
at:  You can make comments, edits, additions, and
deletions directly there, or email me with your changes. If you have trouble accessing the document in google, email me and I will send you a copy of the paper.

 Please do distribute
this document to others so that together we can build the kind of world we wish
to live in.


 In gratitude,


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

AAV Welfare Symposium Helps to Liberate Wings

Images (5)

This week I am attending the Association of Avian
Veterinarians Welfare Symposium.  The
range of people present gathering in one room trying to learn and listen to one
another was the broadest I have ever seen in one room.  We had avian welfare activists, staff
veterinarians for Petco and Petsmart. 
USDA and Canada welfare regulatory veterinarians, sanctuary parrot
owners, advocates of poultry well being, conservationists, private practice
veterinarians, and one minister (me). The name of the entire conference was
“Waves of Wisdom” and it is clear from what was shared in that room that there
is gathering wisdom and power, and the wave towards human and avian liberation
is there for any who wish to ride upon. 
Here are some of the comments I heard that make up the gathering wisdom
literature  of those concerned with the
well being of all life (with my accompanying commentary).



Terry  Whitting , (Manitoba
Agriculture, Chief Veterinarian): It is easier to believe than to talk about
things.   He was referring to the complexity
of avian welfare .When people are confronted with complex difficult topics,
they shift into belief language and avoid communication with other humans.  It is this belief language then that keeps us
from communicating at the level of values, authenticity, and interconnecting empathy.
He went on to say that though we do some good work with the human –animal bond;
it does not count as a relational ethic.  If anything, it detracts from the real work we
need to be doing of compassionate care. 
He concluded that we need skillful communication and I can whole
heartedly echo – boy howdy!  Hence my
presentation two days later on compassionate communication at this same

Julie Murad, Director of Gabriel Foundation, a parrot
sanctuary, said in her presentation that we need a more compassionate society.
Again, I echo, boy howdy!  But how do we
get there?

One way I see is how we all came into that one room.  Somehow we are gaining a common language of
beauty, and this interconnecting gestalt ties us to one another and raises the
level of trust so that we find a way to still the chatter that says you are
wrong or you are different, and open our hearts to the beauty and dignity not
just of the birds we love, but of one another.

 Do you believe that I am over stating the evolution of these
people involved in avian welfare?  Let me
give you an example.  At the AAV Avian
Welfare Committee Jan Hooemeijer said that the social event kicking off the AAV
meeting held at Sea World was morally inadequate. As veterinarians interested
in the welfare of animals we should not be supporting activities that diminish
the well being of others.  Those in the room
were asked if they agreed. The hands raised immediately and enthusiastically. There
was no discussion, no argument - just a consensus to do the right thing for
those whose inherent worth has been diminished and disempowered  by the human species.  Yet is seems that is we who have been
disempowered over the long millennia because we do not see how our own lives
weave into the interconnected web of life. 
This is changing.  Seeing and
sharing the beauty and worth of whales, parrots, and chickens is finally
bringing us into our power, which liberates us as it liberates others.

Starling stretching wing
Raising  Wings and Hands Together for Avian Welfare (Starling near AAV San Diego Hotel) 


Hands and Wings
Raised in Solidarity in San Diego