Twenty years ago, Mike Hutchison was teaching freshman history, history of the Vietnam War, and twentieth-century world history at Muscatine High School. Around this time, his wife was given a canary. What seems to be a benign detail in the story was actually the catalyst for the organization that is now known as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. “My wife was given a canary, and then some friends of ours were over for dinner,” Hutchinson explains. “They asked if would take their pet parrot. My wife and I talked about it and we took in that bird.” That initial act turned into sheltering more birds. The rescue began as a business in the Hutchison home and as the need grew, so did their facility. “We built a dedicated facility on our property. And currently, we house 63 birds. We have had as many as 88 birds.”
Birds come to Iowa Parrot Rescue for many reasons. Neglected and abused birds have found sanctuary in the Hutchison’s care. But the most common reason is that these birds have a long lifespan. “The oldest documented parrot in captivity was 116 years. Most of the birds come to us because they are outliving their owners or their owner is having to move into a facility and they can no longer care for the animal,” Hutchinson says.
Last week, the DJ and T foundation awarded the Iowa Parrot Rescue a $50,000 grant to upgrade their facility. TV host Bob Barker is the founder of the foundation, and the grant will allow for updating the kitchen with new, commercial, stainless steel work surfaces and a new air conditioning unit. Facility upgrades will also include the installation of solar panels that will maintain the environmentally friendly mission of the rescue. “Hopefully, the solar electricity can reduce and potentially eliminate one of our biggest expenses,” Hutchinson says.
“We have deliberately kept our population down, as overcrowding can be extremely stressful for the birds.” According to Hutchinson, birds of paradise have the mental capacity of a toddler. “I had a parrot that would lie,” he remembers. “He would sit on my shoulder and bite my ear. I would ask him if he bit me, and he would say the dog did it.”
The Iowa Parrot rescue has successfully placed over 1,000 birds into homes. “Ultimately our goal is to find a permanent home for all of our birds. But we also have to make sure we have room should the birds that have been adopted need to come back,” says Hutchison. “The adoption process takes some time. The candidate needs to come see us and meet the animal. We then do a home visit to make sure it is a good environment for the bird. An animal never leaves our facility unless it is a good fit.”
Readers can learn more about the organization by visiting www.iowaparrotrescue.org. To begin the adoption process, call 563-506-5479.