It was a rather unconventional moving day for some: a flotilla of volunteers transported 113 exotic birds from a home in Maple Ridge to a warehouse in Vancouver on Saturday.
The old garment factory is the new home for most of the cockatoos, macaws and other birds being cared for by the Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary, which took in 584 birds after the closure of the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs.
Another 50 birds are being housed in a former SPCA building in Nanaimo, but the plan is to move those birds to Vancouver in early 2017, said Jan Robson, a spokeswoman for Greyhaven.
The lease was set to expire Dec. 1 but has been extended until the end of February.
“It's killing us looking after various locations,” Robson said.
About 300 birds have been adopted and Greyhaven hopes to find homes for the remaining 280 birds in the next 10 months, at which point the lease on the warehouse ends.
“We're hopeful that in 10 months we’ll be down to a small enough number of birds that we can downsize to a very small space,” Robson said.
Robson said many of the remaining birds are larger, which are more difficult to adopt.
“The bigger ones are a heck of a lot noisier,” said Robson, as one of her five cockatoos squawked in the background. The noise level tends to eliminate those who live in rental buildings like apartments and condos, she said.
Prospective owners are vetted to make sure the home is suitable for a particular bird.
Greyhaven, a Surrey-based non-profit organization, has been able to rent the large Vancouver factory at a quarter of market value by paying the landlord a combination of cash and charitable tax receipts.
However the organization still faces a $180,000 vet bill, the cost of treating many birds with severe health problems or injuries. The conditions at the Coombs sanctuary were unsanitary and many of the birds were ill, underweight, mutilated, or suffering from broken beaks, missing toes or broken wings. A few birds were too ill to be saved.
“A lot of birds have really bounced back,” Robson said.
Vancouver veterinarian Anne McDonald is paying for a veterinary technician to be based in the warehouse, so birds that need treatment don’t have to be transported to the vet.
Greyhaven is also looking for volunteers to help care for the birds and clean cages.
She said the move to Vancouver will likely allow access to a larger volunteer pool compared to Maple Ridge.
The Coombs refuge closed in August following the death of its 70-year-old founder, Wendy Huntbatch, last February. Huntbatch opposed the trafficking of exotic birds and keeping them as pets, but took in birds no longer wanted by their owners.
Anyone interested in adopting a bird, volunteering or donating can find information at Greyhaven website greyhaven.bc.ca or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreyhavenBirds.