Noelle is a plucker and a self-mutilator. We began our journey together on December 26, 2008. She was taken in a few weeks earlier through The Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary, where I serve as a Co-Director. As with most rescues, her history is very sketchy, but we do know that for an extended period of time in her former life, she was banished to live in an outdoor shed.
The sanctuary's avian vet did a comprehensive work-up on her. Besides a 2 cm hole in her chest, she was underweight, malnourished, and had an intestinal parasite (Giardia). For the first couple of weeks she was fostered by one of our volunteers, and she was allowing the hole in her chest to heal. Then the mutilation began again.
I made a 6 hr drive to Georgia to meet Noelle and her foster dad, to bring her home to Florida with me. Even though she was being treated and had been seen by the sanctuary's vet, it was important to me that my avian vet see her. Her records were faxed to his office and we had our first appointment that Monday (12/29). My avian vet believes that her life of abuse began as being captured in the wild, because the injuries to her toes are classic to those done by trappers. Trappers will maim a bird in this fashion, and then chain or glue them to a tree, so their cries attract other birds (for capture). Upon examination, several areas of scarring from previous mutilation were evident on her poor, tattered body.
Noelle was bandaged to protect the wound in her chest and while both my vet and I hoped to see new feather growth, we both knew it was doubtful because it was evident that this little girl had been abusing herself for a very long time. A couple of follow-up visits later, our suspicions were confirmed. Except for some down feathers on her rump, there is not one hint of new feather growth. Because avian skin is so thin and because of her long history of abuse Noelle’s skin is very traumatized. The bandages allowed the hole in her chest to heal, but otherwise irritated her skin, and speckled her with body with tiny lesions. After two weeks, the bandages were removed, and we discussed collaring her, which both of us preferred not to do unless absolutely necessary. Thanks to a friend of mine who had sent Noelle a sweater, my AV and I agreed to try Noelle in a “dress”, made from the sleeve of a sweatshirt. Even the softness of this fabric irritated her fragile skin.
In addition to dietary changes, a clean, healthy environment, open cage door policy and lots of enrichment, my vet is treating Noelle holistically. Adjustments will be made, if needed as time passes. Besides receiving pro-biotics in her water daily, along with The Missing Link, she is receiving a supplement made by my vet using Noni-extract, which is known for its medicinal purposes. Her skin is being treated with 100% Emu oil, and there is marked improvement. My vet also believes that it is a strong possibility that Noelle will never be able to come out of her dresses for any significant period of time. But for now, once a week, I remove her dress, bathe her, allow her to dry completely, and massage her with Emu oil and put a new dress on. Once her skin is blemish free, we will take the dresses off - watch, hope and yes, pray.
My other 5 cockatoos readily accepted Noelle into their flock and she instantly gravitated to my other female Moluccan, Echo. A friend of mine commented that she believes that the meeting between Noelle and Echo did more healing for Noelle than any human could in 50 years. I believe this to be true.
As for Noelle’s personality, she is a gem. For all she has been through in her life, she is calm, trusting, forgiving, active, funny and an inspiration to me everyday!
We have a long road ahead of us, and I am sure that it will be met with both trials and tribulations. Whatever lies ahead, where she is going is better than where she’s been, and we will rejoice in the progress that she makes. The latest series of dresses has caused some improvement in her skin quality and the hole has closed, for now!
I am honored that Noelle has been chosen as Mytoos current “poster bird”, but it also saddens me that any bird has had to endure the pain and suffering that she has in her life. She gives me a great sense of joy everyday as she hoops and hollers with the other birds, plays with toys, eats new foods, closes those soft eyes of hers as she receives a full head pet and loads my cheek up with kisses, or gobbles down her before bedtime warm oatmeal (spoon food) which contains all of her “meds”. I enjoy making dresses for her and am constantly brainstorming ways to improve them.
In addition to the daily joy she brings, she is also a painful reminder that this isn’t how she or any bird should be living their life. Noelle should not have been ripped from her homeland, maimed by trappers and endured a life in captivity, especially one of abuse, neglect and suffering. And Noelle is only one, of how many? I shudder to think. She is also a painful reminder of what captivity does to these birds, how cruel human-beings can be and why these birds need their God given right to remain in their native land, and live their lives as they were meant to, free with their own kind. Not pets in our home.