Maspeth couple finds homes for birds

Maspeth resident Gayle Schwartz often has birds on the brain - and sometimes even on the neck.
Schwartz, who runs the Maspeth Bird Haven with her husband Barry, recently answered the door with her bird Taco tucked inside her shirt to welcome visitors to the haven, which is based in her home.
Since 2004, the haven has been providing a foster home of sorts for sick, abandoned and homeless birds and matching birds with potential owners.
“There isn’t anything like this in any of the five boroughs,” Schwartz said.
Many of the birds in the haven were given up after their families could no longer take care of them, or were found by people who were not in a position to take care of birds.
While they do have about eight or 10 birds up for adoption, they also have a number of birds, which they consider permanent residents. The multicolored Sun Conure, Taco, came to The Bird Haven from 9-1-1’s Parrot Alert, which called the Schwartzes when it could not place the bird. After spending time with Taco, Schwartz decided to make it a permanent resident, as “he fit in with our family and with the other birds,” she said.
Currently, their flock includes more than a dozen feathered friends. However, the Schwartzes have not always been interested in the flying creatures. As Schwartz explained, she and her husband were on their way to pick up her husband’s tuxedo for their wedding, when on a whim they decided to check out the pet store next door. They walked out with two parquets.
Neither she nor her husband had owned pets before. “Never in a million years did I ever think I would have so many birds,” she said.
Now the Schwartzes are self-described “bird people.” After owning birds, they soon began joining various bird organizations and attending lectures and realized the need for a safe haven for abandoned birds.
Because her husband works during the day as a geologist, Schwartz is responsible for the Bird Haven, and running the haven is a full-time job, she said. Besides feeding and cleaning up after the birds, Schwartz faces the challenge of providing each bird with enough attention.
“In many ways, the birds choose the owners,” Schwartz said.
The Bird Haven has strict policies regarding adoption. Someone hoping to adopt a bird must fill out an application online. With the application, they must provide three references, and people wishing to adopt larger birds like cockatoos are expected to have some sort of experience.
A lot of people want to adopt the larger birds because they can talk. ”That’s not a good reason to get a bird, “Schwartz said.
Additionally, the haven requires adopters to visit the bird at least twice, and as the website explains, the haven reserves the right to visit the home of potential adopters. However, the process is designed to weed out people who will not provide the birds with adequate love and attention.
The Bird Haven accepts private donations and has received grants from companies like PETCO and Pet Smart. However, finding funding can be difficult, Schwartz said.
Another difficulty is having enough space to keep all the birds - sometimes the couple must turn birds away.
While taking care of so many birds can be a lot of work, Schwartz doesn’t seem to mind.
“It’s a big job, but someone needs to do it.”
For more information about The Bird Haven, please visit https://mysite.verizon.net/vzermrgu or e-mail maspethbirdhaven@verizon.net.

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