Perfect parrot despite imperfections

For Crystal, a 22-year-old blue and gold macaw, life in a Pennsylvania vet clinic had been quite comfortable for many years. It may not have been her very own home, but she was a staff favorite, and she was loved and doted on. In addition to Crystal, several other abandoned birds had taken up residence at the clinic over the years, but Crystal's birth defects earned her a special place in the hearts of the veterinary staff. Though she looks like a fairly normal parrot, Crystal walks on her inner hocks because her feet don't work, and one of her ears is malformed. Most noticeable, however, is the way that she holds her head almost completely upside down. But, when she is properly cared for, Crystal still enjoys a high quality of life and the company of both humans and other birds.

Crystal the macaw who has some physical challenges is available for adoptionSaving a blue and gold macaw

In fact, Crystal's life might have continued quite happily if the clinic had not changed hands. When a corporation purchased the building and the business, the new owners immediately evicted the birds. Crystal's feathered friends were quickly placed in new homes, but not Crystal. In spite of the fact that the birth defects weren't causing her pain, the new business owners didn't believe that she could be happy with her issues, or that anyone would want to adopt her. So, they decided to put an end to Crystal's life.

But the staff members who had cared for Crystal all those years stepped in to prevent that from happening and asked if Best Friends Animal Sanctuary had room for Crystal. We did. The staff members wanted her to have a chance at a happy life and a home of her own, so they took up a collection to raise money for one of the vet techs to fly her out to Best Friends.

Parrot settling into a new life

Now, after several weeks in Parrot Garden, Crystal is beginning to settle into her new life. Caregiver Bonnie Grafton says that it has been a difficult transition for Crystal, as the only world she's really ever known is gone. But, from the outset, Bonnie and the rest of the Parrot Garden staff were determined to help Crystal to relax and to start developing trust and forming new bonds. Though Bonnie is careful never to force herself on Crystal, she will put part of her body into her cage and wait patiently until Crystal decides to reach out to her.

And, now that she has gotten more comfortable with her caregiver, Crystal has begun talking and moving around inside of her cage, sometimes even venturing off of her custom-made perch and climbing the bars. The more confidence she gains, the more she's starting to explore her surroundings, Bonnie says. It may take time before Crystal is comfortable enough to really let her personality shine, but "she's going to get there."

As Crystal was once loved by the staff at the vet clinic, she is now loved by Bonnie and the other caregivers at Parrot Garden. After her life was nearly cut short because of her less-than-perfect physique, Crystal has become a perfect example of how happiness and quality of life do not depend on a perfect body.

Check out the adoptable birds at the Sanctuary.

Learn more about Parrot Garden and how you can volunteer with the birds at Best Friends.

Photos by Molly Wald