TRAVERSE CITY — Visit a local animal shelter and it’s a good bet a dog or cat there can find a new home. Visit Tara and Jake Hurlin and chances are that new family pet will be a parrot.
The Traverse City couple have owned exotic birds for years, but after purchasing a home of their own in July, they were able to dedicate space to start Hurlin’s Hospitality and Parrot Rescue with the goal of locating homes for parrots that have been neglected or abandoned. The Hurlins also offer a boarding service to parrot owners as a means to fund their project.
Tara Hurlin owns five parrots she has taken in herself and said she placed many others in adoptive homes.
“I’ve always had a fascination with parrots since I was a little kid,” she said. “I recall making brightly colored costumes as a child to pretend I was a Macaw.”
Hurlin said only a few people in northern Michigan are aware of the new rescue operation, and her networking is mostly done online.
“I just drove to Columbus, Ohio, to get Toby, a bright green Amazon,” Hurlin said. “He came from another rescue. We believe he’s about 20- to 30-years-old and was used as a breeder in some hoarding situation.”
Her other adoptees, a Goffins Cockatoo, a Citron Cockatoo, a Timneh African Grey and Red Lory, came from similar situations. Hurlin said parrots can live to be 90 years old, something many owners don’t consider when they buy one.
“People have to realize owning a parrot is a life-long commitment, and unfortunately, many people buy a bird as a novelty without realizing they’re temperamental and require lots of interaction.”
Sue Mitchel of Traverse City is very familiar with the issues of owning a parrot.
“They can be messy, and when they reach a certain age, the males can be aggressive,” said Mitchel, who has had her parrot, Sidney, for more than 40 years.
Mitchel and Sidney spent their careers together at Davis Junior High in Sterling Heights, where Mitchel taught biology and science.
“Davis was a brand new school, and it was decided early on that the science department should have a parrot,” Mitchell said. “Sidney was in class every day and went on to become the school mascot. When I retired, he retired with me.”
Mitchel said Sidney thrived on student interaction, and because of the constant stimulation began to talk very quickly.
“He loves music and picks up vocabulary from the TV,” she said. “He’s an entertaining and wonderful pet, but people fail to realize that it normally takes a long time and a lot of effort to get them to talk.”
Mitchel said because of a parrot’s long lifespan she’s left instructions for Sidney’s continued care in her will and suggests prospective parrot owners do their research, talk to other owners, be careful when buying one, and understand that they need a lot of interaction.
Harlin knows raising a parrot is a big commitment, and said owners shouldn’t be ashamed when they relinquish one to a shelter.
“The biggest cause for relinquishment we see is the owner has become ill and can no longer care for the bird or has died,” she said. “Parrots are very deep, intelligent, intellectual creatures. They’re extremely complex, and not a whole lot is known about them.”
Hurlin said she tries to match birds with new owners, but doesn’t always have the final say.
“Parrots just ‘click’ with certain people. They choose their owners, not the other way around,” she said.
To learn more about parrot rescue visit www.hurlinsparrotrescue.weebly.com. Contact the Hurlins at 231-392-6047 or by email at email@example.com.