Excellent service learning submission from Alea Kittell

I volunteered at Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park. The Park was started by a man named Sandy who was born and raised on an island where macaws were wild and free. He developed a love for these birds, and started adopting macaws. Unfortunately April 30th of last year Sandy passed away. The mission is to educate the public about these birds and to take in unwanted macaws and other birds.

I did many different jobs at the bird park. My primary job was feeding all of the birds giving them treats or giving them their main meal. I also trimmed plants, fixed & improved aviaries, cleaned out a storage building, shoveled bird poop, chopped up an old garden border and removed the nails from it for re-use, and just spent time with the birds which is also important since many of them like attention.

One of the chapters that pertains to my service learning is Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction. I first-handedly got to experience the power of a macaw’s beak, which has evolved for cracking open even the toughest of jungle nuts and fruits. One large male macaw decided he wanted my finger instead of the treat. He bit down hard and cut my finger. My finger was numb for almost half the day and after he bit me I felt woozy. Sure I knew that parrots and macaws beaks are so specialized for eating tough foods, but it wasn’t until I experienced this that I realized just how well suited they are to this task. Another issue mentioned in this chapter is habitat destruction and overharvesting. While macaws and many of the other bird species at the park have destruction of habitat in their native lands, some of them are wild caught birds. There is a large issue with birds being caught in the wild and sold as pets. Since macaws normally mate for life, this can be devastating to wild macaws. Some of the birds at the park were wild caught or are closely related to wild caught birds. Chapter 10 mainly talks about the issue of the wild birds of Guam being killed by snakes. Even in captivity you can have problems with predators so at the bird park there are animal traps set out to catch predators, each aviary is secure to keep the birds in and the predators out.

Another chapter that relates to my experience is Chapter 17: Solid Waste. At Uncle Sandy’s Bird Park I noticed that many things were re-used or re-purposed. They make use of at least two of the four R’s mentioned in chapter 17. I noticed that when they gave visitors a plastic cup full of peanuts to feed the birds, after the visitors ran out of peanuts the park workers would take back the cups and re-use them again. Also, when I was breaking apart that wooden border, I was told to take out the nails because they could be re-used. It was hard getting the nails out, but it felt good knowing they could be used again for something else. When fixing the aviaries we would use scrap pieces of wire fencing to patch areas we cut out for placing a perch and we would also use scrap wood to make a food dish holder for the birds to perch on. In one of the large flight aviaries, old truck bed covers (toppers) and things were placed for macaws to perch on and play with. The sleeping boxes for the macaws were old metal barrels or plastic barrels with a cut out opening for the birds. Even the food that fell from the off ground aviaries did not go to waste. The free-range turkey, named Tom, enjoyed walking under these aviaries and eating up the food that fell.

Finally, the last chapter that I can associate with my volunteer work at Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park is Chapter 18: Agriculture. While chapter 10 is mainly about agriculture, it also mentions the symbiotic relationship between the ducklings and the rice field. It is this symbiotic relationship that was a great solution in chapter 18 and something I want to focus on. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I noticed that not even the food went to waste because the free-range birds would eat the food that fell out of the aviaries. Not only was this a great benefit for the park, but also the poop from the free-range birds can even be beneficial for the plants. I personally use my peafowl’s poop on my plants and it really helps them grow. Bill’s dog helps scare away any predators or pests (like how I witnessed his dog chase away a mouse) but the dog is friendly to the birds and keeps them safe. The peacocks can also make an alarm call and alert people and birds of any predators or people coming. Sure there isn’t much agriculture going on here, but there are a lot of beneficial relationships going on which reminds me of the ducks and the rice.

I breed and raise peafowl (www.bamboopeacock.com) so I already have experience with caring for them and was able to relate to many of the chores, but I did learn that peafowl are much easier to care for than parrots and macaws. I made sure to listen carefully about what food to feed the birds and how much, because parrots eat a different food mix than macaws. If I was uncertain about my instructions I would ask again because it is better to do something the right way the first time than mess up and have to do it over. I made sure I worked hard no matter what the task, although it was hard to clean out some of the aviaries when the bird wanted to bite you or crawl all over you! When I finished something I would ask for something else to do instead of standing around. Doing what I was told to do and working hard will certainly help me with whatever job I end up having. I was able to see how the aviaries were constructed and how things were run and these things can help me care for my own birds.

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