Elbert County's Gabriel Foundation is for the birds, in a good way

Parrot rescue thrives in the heart of the county

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Passersby often wonder what those large, netted enclosures are at the corner of Elbert County Roads 13 and 158. If you look closely, you will see large, vibrantly colored parrots, living joyful lives within the grounds of The Gabriel Foundation.

According to its website, The Gabriel Foundation is a “parrot welfare organization providing for the complete physical, psychological, and environmental well-being of the parrots in our care.”

The foundation was founded in 1995 by lifelong parrot lover and avian consultant Julie Weiss Murad. The foundation was first based in Aspen, but moved to the rolling hills of Elizabeth in 2005. Currently, the property houses roughly 400 birds, though the foundation hopes to work its way to 350 birds so each will have more space and receive even better care.

A journey through the grounds of The Gabriel Foundation afforded an abundance about the adoption process, lifestyle of the birds, employee experience, and goals for the future of The Gabriel Foundation.

Adoption

The first and most overwhelming observation was the sheer abundance of birds on the property. When asked why there are so many parrots in need of homes, aviary operations manager Jessica Boone explained that many parrots live extraordinarily long lives.

“Some parrots can live well into their hundreds,” said Boone. “Many of the birds who come through the foundation have outlived their owners.”

Boone also indicated that many of their birds come from unfortunate circumstances. “A lot of the birds come from hoarding situations, while many come from homes that cannot afford to take care of such a maintenance-heavy pet.”

Roughly 75% of the birds are adopted out, with more than 100 birds having been rescued since the start of 2021. Since the inception of the foundation in 1995, thousands of birds have come through the doors of The Gabriel Foundation and have been adopted out to loving families.

The adoption process if very extensive, ensuring that the long-living birds are sent home with the right family and will have optimal care.

Staff members at The Gabriel Foundation work diligently to ensure that the birds they adopt out go to safe, loving homes. Before visiting the foundation for the first time, potential adopters must take online courses about parrots and parrot care.

Potential adopters are also required to visit The Gabriel Foundation at least five times to participate in bird education. On their visits, potential adopters learn about diet, enrichment and enclosures. They will also do extensive touring to narrow down which bird is right for them and their family. Potential adopters are also required to provide photos of their at-home enclosures before they are able to take the birds home.

Lifestyle of the birds

The birds at The Gabriel Foundation are well taken care of and live exciting, enrichment-filled lives. Many of the birds have their own large enclosures, while some have chosen to pair-bond and live together. Some, like the macaws visible from County Road 13, spend a lot of their time in groups. They are divided by sex to avoid breeding.

The birds are given regular baths and are fed a varied and nutrient-rich diet comprising everything from leafy green breakfast salad to hearty nuts and grains. They also have an abundance of toys and items for chewing. Many locals and those within the parrot community donate cardboard boxes and old phone books and newspapers for chewing. The staff and volunteers also make many of the toys the parrots regularly play with.

Employee experience

The Elbert County News encountered many Gabriel Foundation employees and volunteers working with the birds in various capacities from preparing food to bathing. All seemed excited and passionate about their work.

The Gabriel Foundation currently has 15 employees and roughly 100 active volunteers. Decade-long staff member Jessica Boone expressed her love for working with The Gabriel Foundation.

“I love working here because my day is never the same,” said Boone. “I also love working around the birds because I think of them as individuals with their own personalities.”

Future goals

Like many nonprofit organizations, The Gabriel Foundation has been impacted by COVID-19. Prior to the start of the pandemic, staff gave regular tours and held events for visitors. Interaction with the public provided some necessary funding for the foundation.

Boone said the foundation wants to revamp its education program in the near future. Prior to the pandemic, staff would go to local schools and nursing homes to educate people about parrots and the foundation.

“We really loved doing that and I hope we can get back to our education programs soon,” said Boone. “For now, the majority of our funding comes from individual private donors.”

The Gabriel Foundation is currently seeking more volunteers and encourages those interested to visit their website to apply.

For more information on The Gabriel Foundation, to volunteer, or to donate, visit the website at thegabrielfoundation.org.

The foundation can also be found on various social media platforms:

Facebook: facebook.com/TheGabrielFoundation

Instagram and Twitter: @tgfparrots.

YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCFKj2nfdQgKCMTOFVLysf0w

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