Local & State
The Bellingham Herald

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Couple seeks to build safe place for exotic birds

FEATHERED FRIENDS: Betsy and Nate Lott show some of the birds that have been rescued or surrendered to their bird sanctuary, Mollywood Avian Sanctuary, at their Everson-area home. RACHEL E. BAYNE HERALD PHOTO


NORTH COUNTY: Many people don't understand the high costs of raising feathered pets.

Jim Donaldson, The Bellingham Herald

EVERSON - Each morning, Nate and Betsy Lott let some of their cockatoos and macaws stretch their wings on tree stands in the family living room, while others are allowed to roam from their cages in the family's garage.

"It's kind of a free-for-all, like Romper Room," Betsy Lott said of the play time in the two-car garage. "They're raiding each others' cages, playing with friends, tag teaming with each other to drive the volunteers crazy."

To help

Volunteers are needed to help clean cages and care for birds at Mollywood Avian Sanctuary, anytime from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. Experienced electricians, plumbers and construction workers also are needed for volunteer work. For details, visit www.mollywood.net or call 966-7490.

The Lotts have about 200 exotic cockatoos, cockatiels, parrots, parakeets and love birds at their Mollywood Avian Sanctuary south of Everson, and need more room.

They hope to build a larger indoor/outdoor aviary and eventually open an educational "bird park." Donors can sponsor a bird to help raise funds for the agency.

The couple moved here from California about a year ago - bringing along more than 130 birds they had collected there - and opened an avian rescue and adoption center. After mixed success with some well-meaning but unprepared bird lovers, they decided to turn their not-for-profit agency into a safe haven for exotic birds. Mollywood is named for the Moluccan cockatoo, a breed that the sanctuary specializes in.

The birds still check in, from owners who are no longer interested or able to handle the high-maintenance pets, but they won't check out.

"Most people don't understand what it takes to make these birds happy," said Lott, who has filled a two-car and three-car garage with cages and "flights," which allow birds to fly more freely.

"People try to raise them as small children, and they are not teaching them how to be birds. The people reach a breaking point and they seek help," she said.

Lott said some people seeking to adopt a bird simply did not understand the the costs of veterinary bills, cages, food, etc., which can run thousands of dollars a year for stressed-out birds that pick off their own feathers or mutilate themselves.

And the birds simply needed to be part of a flock, she said.

For example, Lott took in one bare-eyed cockatoo that was a "complete disturber of the peace," capable of evoking other, larger birds into screeching fits that would wake the dead, she said. After the owner received one too many noise complaints from the local police, the bird came to Lott.

Now, he's part of a group of seven birds that Lott dubbed "The Boys in the Hood," a pack of cockatoos that plays together, harasses volunteers and generally enjoys being birds.

"He's much happier as a bird in a flock, and being in a household environment, people can't always provide what they need," Lott said. "I mean, he's sweet and everything, but he can also be a real turd."

Though a 1992 import ban prevents exotic birds from being brought into the United States, resident breeders and the long lives of some breeds - macaws and cockatoos can live 60 to 100 years - have combined to create a glut on the market.

A visit last spring to the Dutch Parrot Refuge in Holland convinced the Lotts to get out of the adoption business and build a sanctuary. To that end, they are looking for donations and volunteers to convert a 32-x-48-foot pole building into two-story aviary with indoor and outdoor free-flight areas. Architectural plans call for cages on a south wall that open to outdoor flights of rolled welded wire, so that birds can come and go at will.

Lott is in the process of applying for grants and hopes to have the first aviary completed by March.

"Our long-term goal is to have a parrot education center and park where people can come and be able to see birds flying in 100-foot long aviaries, seeing these birds as they're supposed to be," Lott said.

The bird refuge also needs volunteers to help with duties ranging from cleaning cages and feeding birds to helping with socializing the birds.

Reach Jim Donaldson, Hometown editor, at jdonalds@bellingh.gannett.comor call 715-2288

Reprinted from Bellingham Herald - Thursday, December 12, 2002


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