“I Never Believed I Would Have Seen This In My Lifetime” by Bob Kaegi

“I Never Believed I Would Have Seen This In My Lifetime”

A View Of The Bird World Today

We have all heard the phrase “I would have never believed I would have seen this in my lifetime”, well here we go again. My Grandfather and I watched Apollo 11 land, and the first man walk on the moon. It was the first time I remember hearing that statement from him or anyone. “I never believed I would have seen this in my lifetime”. Over and over we have seen things we never thought we’d have seen in our lifetime, some good, some not so good.  We are at a pinnacle in the bird world for someone who’s in his 50’s who could have never dreamed the horror I would witness, especially in my lifetime. For my grandfather it was the passing of the last Passenger Pigeon. For me it is the horror of birds taken out of a rescue because conditions were so bad.

It’s been almost 30 years that I first got Bird Bit in the literal term, and fell head over heels, and felt bad for a little Orange Wing Amazon that I knew absolutely nothing about.  His cage was disgusting, filled with feces, and was caged all the time. Now let me back up just a bit. This little bird was in a friend’s pet shop, and I was working there part time to be able offset the cost of my hobby of tropical fish tanks and the breeding of Tropical Fish. I would go into the office, eat my lunch, which was where the bird was located. This little guy would beg for a potato chip, or a cracker, whatever I had.  I was told by the owner of the shop, don’t let him out, and don’t mess with him he’s a biter. So all of those of you who really know me, know that if you tell me not to do something, well you know. After about a week of getting to know him and developing a relationship, I got caught by the owner, eating my lunch, with the little guy sitting on my shoulder, sharing my sandwich. He came in saw this and started laughing, and asked me how I was going to get him back in the cage, I responded “easy”, I put a cracker in his food bowl, off he went into the cage. It was at that point I asked Jack why he wasn’t being sold. He said the owner had to make a choice between the bird, and the boyfriend (Yeah I know what you all are thinking). He was in on consignment, he was very mean and lunged at everybody, and he was perplexed on how to sell a mean attacking bird. So I asked for how much, he said $600.00 which half would be his. He told me give me $300.00 he’s yours. Well I walked out the door at the end of the evening with Bird, cage, and supplies in tow. Again I knew nothing, I called a friend who was my K-9 vet and asked about a bird vet, he gave me a name, and I made an appointment the next day. I went to him, took the bird in, had him checked out, and asked about proper feeding, care, and etc. Next thing I know I no longer am working part-time in the pet store, but working in the vet clinic, learning everything I can about these magnificent creatures. Let me also tell you I had volunteered at the zoo, and the local raptor rehab group. I had grown up with a grandfather who was a wildlife rehabber, before the term was in the dictionary I believe. One by one the aquariums were sold, and the bird had taken over my life, I built him a huge play stand, and playground. Within the next few weeks I had taken in what was believed to be a 50-year-old Blue fronted Amazon.  And so it began, I had started on my way to becoming a crazy bird person.

My story isn’t much different from many others, except I had started a Bird Recovery Rescue Team. Any escaped pet bird that would fly off, we went after. After being with a fire department, and using a lot of the skills I learned between that, and the military putting a team together to do recovery.  As a team we were very good, a 98% recovery rate was nothing to sneeze at. Well who would have thought in the mid 80’s early 90’s that we would be rescuing birds. Remember we were a “Recovery Group”. Some of the birds we were doing a recovery on were reported not by those who owned them, but by those who spotted them. So those we got, and couldn’t find the owners we adopted out. This back then was not hard to do. Again most of them were wild caught. But we still had no problem adopting them out, and we were doing it the right way, we were checking out the home, educating adoptive families, and being there after the fact. This was not the plan for the group, but it went that way without us realizing it.

CITIES kicked in, now imports dropped to nil, and captive breeding was on the real upswing making it easier to get handfed babies. We did not hear too often of breeders who ran mills with minimum care to their breeder pairs, and I knew of many back in the day “Good Breeders”. Now remember this is before the real “Al Gore Internet invention”. (Pardon me for the jab). The Bird Community then was small, but many.  Even then news in the bird world traveled fast. Bird Talk, American Cage Bird Magazine covered the avian news pretty well. Then we did not fathom the need for a lot of Rescue Groups, and certainly none that would be considered to be full to the point they had to say “no”. I would have again never dreamed that one day I would have to worry about the “after I’m gone scenario” for my birds.

Well here we are 2012, on a weekly basis our backyards are being inundated with raids on this rescue, or that sanctuary. Bird Mills being raided. Just in the past year here in Ohio, we’ve had the infamous Doug Ratcliff Troy Ohio Bird case which is still ongoing being played out through the court system. And now less than a week ago the Wings Over The Rainbow a so-called rescue less than a county away from Troy Ohio.

What in all of this in the community can we learn? How do we police ourselves? What does it take to not seem so nosey to our neighbors? (Meaning other rescues). Without some kind of government interference. State regulation is not really an answer. There are some certified rescues and sanctuaries that exist, however most of them no sooner than they open are bursting at the seams.

What is the answer to all these questions? I don’t know, nor did it ever seem possible in my lifetime that it ever would have come to this. I do know that if we as “The Bird Community” don’t start making changes to what we have created, and we all know man does create his own monsters, sometimes with good intentions, but that only goes so far. We will be doomed to not only put these creatures into not only extinction in the wild, but in captivity as well. Now wouldn’t that be a shame?

We need to start helping one another, we need to police each other, and first and foremost we need to network with one another in an egoless “I’m better than you” effort. Sometimes that’s difficult to do, but if we don’t we will not have anything left to rescue.

Why am I writing this? I will tell you someday I will not be here. My Birds are the one thing I live for. I worry about their future, just as much as any parent worries about the future of their children. I want to know that when I leave this earth, I will leave them in the best possible hands without the fear that they will be treated badly, left to starve, left unloved, left to live in the prison of a cage without the human contact that I gave them. I know as we all do, for those of us who really love our birds we are the only ones that will care for them the way we do.

But then again I hope that I am wrong there as well. So let us all change the effect of the statement In my lifetime, to a positive goal for not only us, but for the future of the birds we hold so dear to our hearts. For it’s their lifetime we must concern ourselves about. We are here for such a short time, but we still have the ability to change things for the better, forever.

Bob Kaegi

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