I got a message from a friend that asked if I would like to go out to Zazu’s house in Woodinville, Washington for a tour and an interview with the owner Christy. I of course responded, “does a one-legged duck swim in circles”. I had met a couple of volunteers at the Macaw Rescue & Sanctuary that were very knowledgeable and had actually been curious about this other rescue that was in the area.
For this project I asked my friend Keith to be a part of it and be my camera guy. Him being a bird person himself with three birds at home, he was game. After charging all the batteries and preparing like we were going on an African Safari, we headed off to Woodinville, WA.
This time of year can be dark and stormy, the rain made the day a little cold and gloomy. It however did not affect the excitement of seeing behind the scenes of a successful sanctuary. We arrived to the electric gate and were let onto the property. You have to picture an oasis in the middle of a green belt surrounded by trees. Lots of green shrubbery surround the area, adding a nice cushion for sound, that feels like a comfortable and cozy blanket. Even though the facility is next to what appeared to be a busy road, there was a feeling of serenity and the sound just kind of vanished.
Adrienne lives on the property in an apartment behind the flight enclosures and says “I can barely hear the birds when I am sleeping”. Christy the owner of Zazu’s added, “Usually the birds get along just fine, it’s when they want attention from us they have issues with one another. The biggest problem is jealousy over who is getting more attention”. In fact before we had gotten there, sometime in the middle of the night, there was a squabble between birds and there was a need for a trip to the vet. Everyone involved managed to walk away with only a few lacerations and were no worse for the wear.
The first stop on our tour was the “Special Needs” room. There is a cage around the door preventing escapes, in fact there is a sign telling you to make sure the door is closed behind you before you open the next one. We walked in and were immediately greeted by alarm calls from one bird to another. We almost felt like we were intruding on their special time with a couple of the volunteers. There were so many various species in this particular enclosure. Macaws, Amazons, African Greys all frolicking around with one another. There happened to be a “gang” of greys that staked claim to the lower area of the building. They are called the ankle biters, and will actually come up to your ankles and attempt to take a nip or two out of whatever they can get. It reminded me of the Sharks from West Side Story coming towards you slowly and snapping during a dance number. They tried to be so intimidating and to be honest, you just couldn’t help but giggle a little, but don’t tell them I said that.
After our tour of the “Special Needs” facility, we were directed to the Macaw flight. I have to describe the way walking into this space feels. You walk through a couple of small doors and you know the spot in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy walks out into Technicolor and everything feels so tall and bright. That is how you feel when entering this building. It is four thousand square feet of perches, trees, ropes and would be considered a vacation room for parrots. We got quite the vocal greeting when we walked past the prep area gate.
Did I mention that when we got to the facility, we were warned that the birds were feeling a bit hormonal and were being a little louder than normal. Imagine being in a building that is metal and hearing the echos of the Macaw calls. This flight happens to have 75-80 Macaws in it at one time. That’s a lot of Macaws calling. Let’s just say that I am never going to complain about Dexter and Cooper imitating the trash truck.
The floor is concrete and easily rinsed with a hose. There are also feed troughs in the middle of the room, that are constantly cleaned and replenished. You will notice there is a pile of mixed “ingredients” swept up here and there in piles, to be eventually picked up with a dust pan and disposed of. Very organized with cleaning and timing of feeding. The birds get a mix of various foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
When walking through this room, you notice that birds will follow you. They just want attention and some sort of acknowledgement from humans. I was being followed by a rather large Scarlet Macaw and was busy taking pictures. How dare I, right?. I then was subjected to this same Scarlet Macaw tossing an empty food bowl at my head. “Your aim is off lady”, I said to her, while she replied with a simple laugh.
After walking around the flight and admiring the size of this mecca for birds, we made our way towards the kitchen. The kitchen is where a lot happens. Food for the birds is prepared here, pounds of veggies and fruit chopped up ready to serve. All food given to the birds is logged in.
The kitchen also acts as a break room for the staff and volunteers that need one. There is a table, a Keurig coffee maker and a radio to listen to. We noticed there are perches in the kitchen as well. Staff and volunteers are allowed to bring in their own birds for socialization or if the resident birds bond with one staff members/volunteers, these perches allow them to have that quality time with their “person”. I was in fact mesmerized with the bond that a female Blue and Gold Macaw has with one of the volunteers Justin. She will attach herself to his shoulder and be with him as he does his cleaning and other duties. It was truly touching how she follows him around and clearly adores him.
Christy the owner of Zazu’s had a lot going on that day. An elderly gentleman was bringing his Macaw to the facility and wanted to spend a little time in saying goodbye after spending almost a lifetime with his bird. She also happened to be trying to plan her vacation which is something that she says she rarely ever gets to do. We did get to chat briefly.
Zazu’s House currently has a third building under construction to join the special needs building and the Macaw flight. However to finish this bridge, it will require donations. Donations are what make rescues/sanctuaries run day-to-day.
I love Zazu’s House’s business model. They are incredibly organized! “I believe rescues, like churches, get donations and need to know how to distribute those donations accordingly”, Christy said. “Just like I believe that pastors need to know about business, so should rescues” she added. She and her husband own local business’ and have hands on experience running them. “Who knew I would retire to do this” Christy said. Christy and her husband have donated countless amounts of their own finances and personal time to help keep Zazu’s House going. They are constantly fundraising to keep their beloved sanctuary alive. I applaud their efforts and determination. It takes special people to operate rescues. Thank you to Christy and all of the staff and volunteers at Zazu’s house for allowing us just a sneak peek into your lives. Check out the video below!!!
If you would like more information about Zazu’s House including a wishlist or to make a donation… you can reach them here.