Lucky duck? No, Lucky Parrot

Students volunteer at sanctuary create unexpected friendships and earn service-learning hours

Florida Gulf Coast University students have a place to volunteer and complete their service-learning hours that’s for the birds. Lucky Parrot Sanctuary is located on a fouracre site in Golden Gate Estates and welcomes FGCU students — and parrots, of course.
According to the Lucky Parrot Sanctuary website, the mission of the shelter is to “provide a haven in a natural setting for homeless, abused, and/ or unwanted parrots.” The nonprofit organization houses 40 parrots cared for by Marvin and Ethel Buchbinder.
“They had to be given up,” Marvin said regarding why many parrots end up in the sanctuary.
The couple moved to Naples 12 years ago and have been caring for parrots since then, including African greys, Amazons, conures and macaws. The Buchbinders do not have any children. Marvin said Ethel did not want to come home to an empty home, he’s allergic to cats, and having exotic goldfish did not work out for the couple.
“Gee, let’s get a parrot,” Marvin said. They adopted two parrots and the sanctuary started from there. Four-outdoor aviaries have been built to house the creatures, and 20 FGCU students helped begin the construction of new aviaries in November.
“The FGCU students helped us give the parrots freedom, not the freedom of the wild, but a chance to be parrots, and not just an ornament in a cage,” Ethel said in an email.
“They helped us out considerably,” Marvin said of the students during an interview inside one of the aviaries. The FGCU students also removed old screening from the aviaries and trimmed shrubs, Ethel said. Fundraising assistance, public relations and clerical work are other services in which people can be involved, according to the sanctuary’s brochure. Most of the students who have helped build the aviaries did not get the opportunity to meet the parrots. Some parrots can be aggressive, but students can enter with Ethel or Marvin’s guidance. Some parrots “beat up the weak,” Ethel said. Many of the parrots pluck feathers from other parrots or their own. Ethel said there are several reasons why the birds pluck their feathers, but she thinks it is because of stress or sexual behavior.
Lucky is a 20-year-old macaw who occasionally plucks the feathers of its skin. Amanda and Fred are two other Macaws who pluck their feathers. Ethel said many of the parrots’ ages are unclear like Amanda and Fred’s ages, but Ethel said she believes their age is about 30 years old. Ryan Cavalli, an FGCU student studying journalism, said the group of 20 students did not get the opportunity to finish the aviaries but he thinks the next group will complete the aviaries.
Cavalli said he was taking the University Colloquium course when he found out about the sanctuary. Amy Towne is a parrot owner and an instructor at FGCU. She explained that she taught an IDS course and learned about the parrot shelter. Towne is the primary contact on the FGCU Service-Learning website if students wish to volunteer at the shelter.
“Definitely,” Cavalli replied when he was asked if he was willing to help again.
“How often do you get to deal with parrots?” Cavalli said. “It is unique.”