By BETHANY WIEGAND
Wings over Williamsport, an avian rescue group, was started in the fall of 2007 to not only rescue birds, but also to inform the public about caring for pet birds.
Member Allen Hilling explained that although the group's name includes Williamsport, their members cover an extensive area.
"We have more members that are not only in Lycoming County, but Clinton, Centre ... we even have members in Danville," Hilling said.
The rescue group has about four members that have foster homes. Hilling said the group will go in and assess the temperament and condition of the bird, and go from there. They work with birds intensively to re-home them.
Wings over Williamsport also has held informational seminars at local pet stores such as Calico Creek to inform the public of the ins and outs of owning a bird.
"People walk into a pet store, see a white bird that talks to you and right away they fall in love with that. Of course, the bird is nice and calm and quiet, but after a week at home, they become loud. From the time he wakes up till the time he goes to bed, he wants to be with you, on you, around you," Hilling said. "People ask me all the time, are you trying to tell me not to get a bird? Our group is basically there for people who have questions, [want] input on a bird. And we also help people who can't keep their bird. That's when we come in and take the bird and try to re-home them."
Since the fall of 2010, Wings over Williamsport has helped in the rehoming of 23 birds and parrots. The organization also pairs up with other avian rescues to help when necessary.
Nikki, an umbrella cockatoo owned by Sherry Gunsallus, has been the poster child for the bird rescue group. Nikki, who came from an elderly lady who became ill, has lost most of her feathers due to stress.
"Cockatoos will pull out their feathers when they are stressed. They are very emotional," Hilling said.
Gunsallus said although Nikki is in a better home and happy, the picking of her feathers has become habit.
"She still picks her feathers out, she will probably always do that," Gunsallus said.
Hilling found out about Wings over Williamsport through Craigslist two years ago and went through the adoption process to adopt a bird as well.
"I got Oscar, my Meyer's parrot, through the group. He and I just bonded. He had belonged to a couple that was getting ready to have a baby and they were worried about the bird," Hilling said. "Me and that bird, we're best buddies."
Hilling owns many different kinds of birds, 12 all together, including cockatiels, a Congo African Grey, an African Meyer's parrot and a cockatoo.
Hilling also fosters birds, as do other members, but in order to foster all the birds that need help, Wings over Williamsport needs somewhere to house them.
"We need to have a facility. Just over the last couple months we've had many calls about larger birds," Hilling said. "I had calls on cockatoos and parrots. But you have to quarantine the bird until you can check out their temperament, and get them acclimated."
The group also takes the birds to a veterinarian for health screenings once they've been received, an amount that can add up. The group always is looking for sponsors, even for those who can't foster a bird.
"The money goes to the care of the birds. It never goes directly to a member," Gunsallus said. A gift of sponsorship can go toward toys, food and vet bills.
Wings over Williamsport has birds up for adoption as well.
"We're not like a pet store. We're nonprofit. There's a small adoption fee, but it covers a cage and vet bills. It's nothing compared to a pet store," Hilling said.
After the holiday, the group is gearing up for visits to nursing homes and is hoping to bring their birds and knowledge to anyone who is interested.
For more information about Wings over Williamsport, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wingsoverwilliamsport or their website, www.pennparrots.tripod.com. On their website, there are pictures and information about birds that are available for adoption and sponsorship. Hilling also may be reached at 484-1508.