Bird Watching: Where are they Now?
By Martha Michael
If you remember stepping into The Bird Bungalow on Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, you would probably recognize the lively chatter from a host of colorful guests. Kelly Nilges, who owned the store, still gets to hear it.
In 2013 the brick-and-mortar storefront closed, but Nilges took flight and made it a mobile service, because her customers still wanted to maintain a close relationship with her.
“Taking care of grooming within the client’s home allows me to help them better when it comes to potential issues or hazards within the home,” she said. “We work together to make things great for both bird and owner.”
Nilges also offers boarding services, in addition to pet sitting at someone else’s house. “This (creates) a much calmer situation, as each animal can be accommodated as needed,” she said. “I can give medications or alter the temperature.”
Since closing the store, Nilges hasn’t been selling birds, but because of her extensive knowledge and continued relationship with breeders, she can usually point you in the right direction. She takes in surrenders and works with the birds to find the best home for them.
The two breeds she gets most requests for are the parakeet and the cockatiel. “They are great first-time birds and tend to be easier to take care of,” she said.
One of the more difficult birds to find is the African Grey Parrot, mostly because there’s a high demand for them. They only have a few babies a year and need to come from a reputable breeder, she said. And many breeders have waiting lists for African Grey babies.
If you ask Nilges about a pet bird that’s appropriate for children, she says it depends on various factors.
“There really isn’t a most or least family-friendly bird,” she explained. “Every family is different and the time required for each bird is different. I work with each one to go over the pros and cons of the birds they are looking at.”
For instance, cockatoos require a lot of attention, so she would never suggest one for a family that is constantly on-the-go and rarely home. “For a family like that, I’d suggest a pet that works better alone or in a cage for longer periods of time,” she said. “I have had some interesting situations with some truly beautiful outcomes.”
Among the amazing feats of birds, she has seen some that play fetch, are flight-trained, and can even request their favorite foods. There are times where several birds will have conversations with each other from other rooms, because some of them learn sounds and voices quickly.
“The birds that we have as pets here are generally wild birds somewhere else in the world,” she explained. “It’s best to keep your birds safe by having a proper cage and/or wings clipped, so they don’t get out. Many birds kept as pets do not have the proper camouflage for our areas and can get eaten by our wildlife.”
Nilges has advice for those who don’t really have time to own a bird, but want to enjoy the beauty of feathery flight.
“Wild birds are great!” she said. “They come and go as they please and don’t require high maintenance.”
But even if you go that route – and not personal ownership – you may still need some pointers from the expert.
“If you are feeding wild birds consistently, be sure to continue to do so, because they learn to rely on what you offer,” she said. “When you stop, you may actually kill off local nests or clutches, as they breed according to resources available to them. Lots of food equals more babies. When that food isn’t there, they must find other sources or not feed the babies.”
What Kelly Nilges does best is provide the knowledge bird owners need to have positive relationships with their feathered friends who, in turn, get the best care possible. And her customers will tell you they’re grateful she comes to them now, because otherwise they’d have to just wing it.