PHOTOESSAY BY DAVID WELTON
Whidbey Life Magazine Staff Photographer
February 17, 2016
Don’t be alarmed! If you happen to spy a large, multicolored, tropical bird flying through the forest on the south end of Whidbey Island, you’re not hallucinating or losing your mind. The parrot or macaw is likely a resident of Flying Colors Aviary.
Susan Hilliard and Mark Hockett operate the aviary with a staff of seven professionals, several of whom possess degrees in zoo-keeping. Hilliard, a lifelong animal lover, has a canine rescue background and previously owned a performing parrot show. She rarely failed to adopt homeless birds as she discovered them, and was eventually forced to search for a place to properly care for her growing foster flock. This search led her to the Langley area.
Flying Colors Aviary is one of at least seven parrot rescue facilities that exist in Puget Sound. Parrots, macaws and cockatoos are among the longest-lived animals. The larger of these “psittacines,” with lifespans of 60-80 years, can outlive their owners and must be re-homed when circumstances change.
The couple’s 120 feathered friends live in a spacious aviary with shelter and heated perches on a large estate, but each bird has a private space in which to retreat when needed. Hilliard is recognized for her ability to train her free-flying birds so they don’t wander, always returning to their roosts for their “three hots and a cot.”
Birds are available for adoption and may be returned to the Aviary, Hiliard said, “if things don’t work out.”
Hilliard and Hockett can be contacted, for further information, via Flying Colors Aviary on Facebook.
Image at top: Visitors must undergo a bird-scan by security officers Max and Frostbite before entering the aviary. Peanuts in the pocket will move one to the head of the line.
David Welton is a retired physician and staff photographer for Whidbey Life magazine.
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