“Hi, baby. Hi, baby.”
A friendly parakeet sways side to side, catcalling me as I walk by her cage. Those two words are all the bird ever says, I’m told, and nobody here at Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary knows where she learned them. It’s a mystery, because, like many of the 400-plus animals living here, Babygirl was abandoned.
Next to her cage is another, this one holding a cockatoo whose front side has been plucked of all feathers, leaving only its exposed wrinkly, gray skin. Self-mutilation is common among stressed-out birds, and once feathers have been plucked, they never grow back.
Gilcrease is designed to relieve abandoned or mistreated birds’ stress by providing food and shelter. That’s no easy task—especially now. The preserve is still feeling the effects of a devastating fire in March that killed more than 250 birds and a guard dog. The tragedy brought an outpouring of media coverage and community support—which has since slowed.
- Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary
- 8103 Racel St.
- Open daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
“We are still in need,” says Director Sandra Salinas. “We have harsh seasons—cold winters and gusty, hot summers. Right now, I have tarps and fans with misters [for birds housed under patios]. The birds have managed to take the 108-degree weather. We’re managing, but it’s a challenge.”
Gilcrease plans to rebuild, using a $500,000 grant, as well as the $11,000 raised through community donations. It’s a sizable chunk, but it may not be enough to build the right type of aviary needed for the local environment. Many of the birds are meant to live 7,000 feet above sea level. Here, it’s 3,000. Salinas estimates the new aviary will be complete in January at the earliest, which means they’ll have to endure a harsh summer and part of winter first.
So every little thing helps, Salina stresses. “It’s not so much the size of the donation that counts. Every penny we get is one more penny than we have today.”