Thursday, September 20, 2012
Signal Mountain resident Bill Buck has always been an animal lover, but with birds, he is truly infatuated.
He bought his first, an Umbrella Cockatoo named Henrietta, as a 40th anniversary gift for his wife Debby 11 years ago.
“[Henrietta] fell in love with me and hated Debby, so I had to buy another,” said Buck, who recently acquired parrot No. 14. “I don’t breed them and I don’t sell them; I just keep them until they die.”
He said he would refuse to give up any one of them. The majority of Buck’s birds were abandoned, mistreated or unwanted by their previous owners, according to him.
“These birds have had difficult lives,” he said. “I want to keep them here where I know they’ll be safe and won’t be mistreated if somebody gets tired of them.”
People often do tire of their birds, which is how he built up the majority of his brood, he said.
One was found in a Dumpster on Lookout Mountain, and two others were referrals from Dr. Christian Keller, one of the only avian veterinarians in the area, according to Buck. The two met through Buck’s youngest daughter, the penguin keeper at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Another, Corky, once belonged to a young man who lived with his girlfriend for several years, during which time he purchased the bird. When the couple broke up, Corky went crazy, and is now the loudest among Buck’s birds.
Rocky was found in an old auto repair shop on Cherokee Boulevard, and Buck acquired two more parrots after he was interviewed by Jed Mescon on WRCB-TV.
The list goes on.
Vacationing without the birds is not an option for Buck, so he takes all 14 along in travel cages and camps out.
International travel presents more difficulty as a bird owner, which is how Buck met fellow Signal Mountain resident Pat Wood. She wanted to travel to Ireland but had no one to keep Joe, her African Gray parrot of 35 years. Both bank at Citizens Tri-County Bank, and an employee told her about Buck.
“It’s developed into a real nice friendship,” said Wood, a Zimbabwe native whose British accent Joe mimics.
She has accompanied the Bucks on trips to Myrtle Beach and Fall Creek Falls.
“Birds are like children,” said Wood. “It’s a lifetime commitment.”
Buck said the average life span of a parrot is 50-70 years, adding that he hopes his grandson will take an interest in the birds.
Buck lets each of the birds out twice a day, treating them with goodies such as raw spaghetti or miniature vanilla wafers, depending on the individual bird’s preference.