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‘Nothing will love you as much as a parrot’

Sabra Scotton’s two children are grown and out of the house, but she’s not finished being a full-time mom.

Or, as members of the Northwest Bird Club sometimes say, a full-time “parront.”

It’s mid-morning in Scotton’s home on Kings Highway, and Scotton is stroking a blue-headed pionus named Bella, her companion.

Suddenly, a few words drift around the corner in a thin, almost tinny voice. Scotton’s eyes dart in that direction, though the speaker doesn’t repeat herself.

“See?” she says. “Sometimes she speaks.”

Scotton heads around the corner into the foyer area, where the source of the voice perches on top of her open cage. Silent now, the gray-feathered parrot cocks a gray eye in Scotton’s direction. They’re still getting acquainted after only a few days of co-habitating, and the veteran bird owner knows it will take longer than that to establish trust.

Scotton explains that the new arrival, an African grey, is probably about 35 years old; her previous owners surrendered her because they couldn’t care for her while maintaining residences in two countries.

Scotton is far from the only member of the club to foster birds or take someone’s old pet under her wing, but as president of the club, she oversees many avian ownership transfers. One of the main purposes of the club, its members say, is to facilitate connections between those who don’t want their birds anymore or who are under-equipped for the number of the birds they have, and those whose homes are open to more feathery friends.

Most of the birds that change hands through the club’s connections are canaries, finches and parakeets. The club’s largest event, which sees the most sales of birds, is the annual Bird Mart held in Central Point every fall.

In addition to animals, vendors sell equipment, books and toys at the Bird Mart, says Joanie Doss, a board member and one of the club’s several published authors.

Doss has had extensive experience raising birds. She has been a member of the club for 15 years and has raised birds for longer. Her birds have played an even broader role in her life than being pets. Doss spent years touring the country with her three “Amazing Amazons,” which she trained to perform routines. They took the show to schools, prisons and hospitals, she says.

Doss, who was also a model, housewife and mother, focuses her outreach and writing on ways to better care for these avian companions, some of which have the potential intelligence of a toddler.

Education is another one of the club’s main functions, and the club wants to reach out to younger people through partnerships with youth organizations, such as 4-H.

Any member of the club will tell you that many people who get birds without first researching them are taken aback by the amount of attention and care the birds require to be healthy and happy.

“They’re not a decoration,” Doss says. “They demand that people pay attention to them.”

In addition to their physical needs, parrots in particular need mental stimulation. Without it, they often engage in unhealthy behaviors such as feather-plucking, or they’ll get excessively noisy.

Amid those high demands, however, bird owners say their animals of choice are among the most affectionate, offering, as several put it, unconditional love.

“Nothing will love you as much as a parrot,” Doss says.

Find out more about the Northwest Bird Club on its Facebook page (fb.com/NorthwestBirdClub) or website (www.northwestbirdclub.org).

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Sabra Scotton pets a rescued African grey parrot. - Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Sabra Scotton, president of the Northwest Bird Club, holds her pet parrot Bella in her Medford home. - ANDY ATKINSON / MAIL TRIBUNE