Langley is for the Birds—Big, Colorful Birds…

Posted in Community, Feature, More Stories, Second Chance

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.

Georgia Edwards has been vetted by her new friends: Jude, Angel and Midori.

Georgia Edwards has been vetted by her new friends: Jude, Angel and Midori.

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.”

Midori loves our photographer, David Welton, and wants a “selfie.” Welton, however, had to assist, since Midori tried to eat his camera.

Midori loves our photographer, David Welton, and wants a “selfie.” Welton, however, had to assist, since Midori tried to eat his camera.

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.

 

Each bird has a distinct personality and Susan Hilliard has named each of them. She is hand-feeding Joule, while Midori, who befriends everyone, hopes for a handout.

Each bird has a distinct personality and Susan Hilliard has named each of them. She is hand-feeding Joule, while Midori, who befriends everyone, hopes for a handout.

 

Mark Hockett cuddles Clarence, a hyacinth macaw with a three-foot wingspan.

Mark Hockett cuddles Clarence, a hyacinth macaw with a three-foot wingspan.

 

Visitors sign in and are encouraged to leave jewelry outside. Glasses however are shiny and equally attractive to Huey, a Rose Breasted Cockatoo.

Visitors sign in and are encouraged to leave jewelry outside. Glasses however are shiny and equally attractive to Huey, a Rose Breasted Cockatoo.

 

Carissa Kraszewski gets a kiss from Rowdy!

Carissa Kraszewski gets a kiss from Rowdy!

 

The deck is crowded, so Angel, the cockatoo, moves on, searching for someone else’s head.

The deck is crowded, so Angel, the cockatoo, moves on, searching for someone else’s head.

 

Huey and Angel take flight at the edge of bare January alder forest at Flying Colors Aviary.

Huey and Angel take flight at the edge of bare January alder forest at Flying Colors Aviary.

 

Ariel stretches her wings through the conifers, and then returns to her home at the aviary.

Ariel stretches her wings through the conifers, and then returns to her home at the aviary.

 

Scarlet MAcaw in Flight

 

Grace, a Macaw, displays her colors and imitates a rainbow.

Grace, a Macaw, displays her colors and imitates a rainbow.

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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