Local & State
The Bellingham Herald
June 29, 2004

Couple's bird sanctuary a labor of love

CONNECTION: Betsy Lott cuddles Beeba, one of 46 Moluccan cockatoos she has at Mollywood avian sanctuary in Everson. Lott has about 270 birds that she, her family and volunteers care for. Beeba plucks her own feathers out. PHILIP A. DWYER HERALD PHOTO

Linda Kendall Scott, for the Bellingham Herald

Betsy Lott and her husband, Nate, spend nearly $20,000 a year feeding the 270 cockatoos, parrots and other hookbilled birds at their Everson bird sanctuary, Mollywood - and that's not chicken feed.

It costs as much as $20,000 a year for veterinary care, as much as $1,000 a month for cages, and several hundred more each month for incidentals like toys, perches and building materials for aviaries.

The Lotts have mainly supported the birds out of their own pockets, but now depend more on donations because Nate's job ended last December.

Question: How did you end up with so many birds?

A: We started out in California taking in a few neighborhood pets whose owners tired of them. Over time, we took in parrots that had outlived their owners or become unsuitable as pets. We are known all over the country for specialized work with cockatoos. Now birds are shipped in from as far away as the East Coast, and sometimes we or friends drive to Oregon or California to pick them up.

Q: Mollywood. How did you come up with that name?

A: We were looking for something that was catchy. One night on TV we heard the song "Hooray for Hollywood." The Moluccan cockatoo is commonly referred to as a molly, and when we happened to hear that theme song, that's when it clicked.

Q: Do you adopt birds out to private owners?

A: We are a pure sanctuary - no breeding, no selling. We gave up doing adoptions because a growing number of people seemed to assume that adoption meant a free bird. There is no such thing as a free bird. Even if you get the bird free, you're still responsible to provide a large cage, lots of toys, proper nutrition and veterinarian care.

Q: Caring for all those birds must be a 24/7 job - and a noisy one. How do you do it without going crazy?

A: (Laughing) We're already nuts or we probably never would have gotten this far into the effort. We do try to get away once or twice a month for a night out. We have a fantastic group of folks who come out every Monday night to help collect dishes, cover birds and shut down the birds for the night.

Q: Do you ever take a vacation?

A: We don't have enough volunteer help yet to allow us to vacation. Ideally, I would like to see more volunteers who could do the day work and free me up to work more on getting donations and, eventually, grants.

Q: It sounds like you're in this for the long haul. What keeps you involved?

A: Every time someone calls or e-mails us with a problem bird, we just know we can help and that pulls some imaginary string in us. It's almost like we have a calling, knowing that even if we are only helping one bird, we are making a difference.

Q: How can people help?

A: Call 966-7490 or check out our Web sites, or for information about the sanctuary and how to donate time, money or materials. People also can call to schedule a visit.

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