Angella Knutson was looking for a cagemate for a pet bird when she first met Pecos. The parrot had beautiful green and red feathers on his head, but he had plucked much of his own body bare - a result of stress or emotional trauma. Knutson adopted Pecos, and she said it was an experience that helped get her thinking about a way to make a difference for other birds.
In January, Knutson started the Golden Cage, a bird adoption and rescue organization that she runs with the help of her husband Brett Knutson from their family's home in Hazel Run.
A cockatiel, one of the companion birds that Angella Knutson’s family keeps, checks out the camera earlier this week. This January, Knutson started a bird rescue and adoption organization in Hazel Run.
"It is needed," Angella said of the rescue. Birds are the third most popular pet in the U.S., behind cats and dogs, but people aren't always able to give them proper care. Animal shelters may not be able to help. "They're set up for dogs and cats," but often not for birds, she said.
While the Golden Cage currently doesn't have any birds up for adoption, Angella and Brett said over the past few months they have cared for more than four birds in need of a home.
Education is part of the Golden Cage's mission, Knutson said. People who want a companion bird may not realize how much attention they need, or how long they live. For example, she said, living with a parrot like Rainbow, the Knutsons' scarlet macaw, is a little like living with a 2- or 3-year-old human.
"And she will remain a 3-year-old until she's 80," Knutson said. "It's like having a child. You go into it for the long haul."
The Knutsons have several birds of their own. They've set aside a room for birdcages, but make sure the birds get plenty of interaction and exercise. During a visit to their home, the bird room was full of chatter, while a young African gray parrot explored a bird-sized jungle gym, like a toddler in a playroom.
A little later, Rainbow watched conversation in the dining room from a perch, while munching on a treat Brett Knutson gave her.
It's a lot of work caring for the birds, but Angella Knutson said they still have a lot of love to give.
"They do some of the funniest things sometimes," Knutson said. "They like music. You wouldn't think a parrot could dance, but they do."
Caring for a foster or rescue bird starts out with a quarantine period, to monitor the bird's health, she said. Then, the newcomer is gradually introduced to the rest of the family.
"We try to socialize them as much as possible," Knutson said, as well as getting a feel for the birds' personalities. Seeing how a bird responds to people, other birds or other pets helps her learn what homes they would be best suited for.
Knutson is firm on the Golden Cage's mission. "I am here if a person cannot take care of their bird anymore," not to buy birds or accept more than she can handle, she said. It's hard, but she acknowledges that there will be birds she won't be able to take in. Likewise, there have been people she has had to turn down for adoptions.
Knutson said she is applying for nonprofit status for the Golden Cage, but it's a long process. She's also been working on spreading the word about the organization through word of mouth, and online with a Facebook page.
"You get to meet a lot of people," she said. "We want people to see the fun side of birds, but at the same time it's a lot of responsibility."
For more information about the Golden Cage, Knutson can be contacted at (320) 226-9524.