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Jim Gardinier's 'Wings of Love'

Feb. 15, 2011
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With a helping hand full of birdseed and a heart full of gold, Jim Gardinier supplies people with wings of love. Since his diagnosis of Ménière's disease 10 years ago, "Jim the Birdman" has bred and raised birds for the handicapped practically free of charge. He currently houses 45 birds in his basement, with three of his own perched upstairs, along with a couple of rescued canines, several rabbits and a tank full of fish. So why does Gardinier proceed to welcome in rescues? His "zoo," as he likes to call it, is a safe haven for unwanted and wanted pets alike. No bird will be denied a home or let out into the cold. But don't be too flighty and try to fool this birdman—he will request to see your disability papers if you are interested in taking one of his birds home.

So what do you do with all of these birds?

Some just live their lives here. A lot of them I can rehabilitate, where I spend time with them and take them out and show them that they don't have to fear humans anymore. And they actually become really good parrots for adoption.

What type of birds do you have?

I have cockatiels, lovebirds, parrots, rosellas, finches, green cheeks and red rumps. And I have several pairs of each.

Why birds? Is there a certain kind of bird you're most drawn to?

I met a person who raised a lot of birds and he got me interested. Birds are very complicated. People think they can put a male and female together and they'll have babies—that's not how it goes. The female picks her mate, and if she doesn't like him, she will kill him.

My green cheek parrots I like a lot because they're very smart. They bond to people very easily, and I hand-feed them at 5 days old, when they're deaf and blind. I'm the only person they see, so they think they're human. And I have a baby right now that wants to be with me all the time and tries to jump out of the cage. They become human imprinted.

Do you train all of them?

I don't train them. I just train them to step up on your finger. I always let the people who get them train them, because if you train them, then they bond to you—they don't want anyone else. If they bond to me, they will bite the other person. When they are babies and you hand-feed them, they think of you as their mate or other half.

They like to be let out of their cage and sometimes they will jump on the floor and follow you around the house. They're very happy just to be on your shoulder as you're cleaning or vacuuming. People think you have to spend all this time with them, but if you just spend 10 minutes with them, they're perfectly happy. If they don't get [attention with] the good behavior, they will turn to the bad behavior just to get attention.

Disabled people are, or at least from my own experience, it's a very lonely kind of place to be. You work for so long and now you can't. So I said. "Well, I'm going to do this." It's very rewarding for me because I like to see all of the smiles.

If you meet the criteria and would like to adopt a bird, you can contact "Jim the Birdman" at 414-535-1527. Rescues are welcomed!


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