Every winter, they fly south from Wisconsin, Illinois and Canada – regions where snow falls, ice melts and dirty slush fills their driveways.
They are known as ‘snowbirds’ or ‘winter birds’, and many of them that land on our shores hole up for the winter in quiet North Side, Old Man Bay and the Rum Point area.
Like full-time residents here, they spend their dollars buying groceries, eating out and purchasing other essential items. No question – snowbirds enhance our economy.
One such duo of winter visitors is David Quasius and his wife Kathy. David is better known as the ‘Michelangelo of North Side’. His concrete sculpture park has become a popular tourist attraction, which is on private property, yet open and free to the public. The park is kid-friendly and gives both adults and children great opportunities to take pictures of themselves with larger-than-life concrete animals, representing the real-life versions that are mainly endemic to Cayman.
The huge blue iguana sculpture at the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is one of David’s creations. He is almost finished with his most recent project – a pair of Cayman parrots to be exhibited at the Cayman Parrot Sanctuary in East End.
The sanctuary started as a dream, which advanced to an idea, and then became a project, which is nearing completion.
Chef Ron Hargrave of Tukka restaurant originally planned to build a simple playground and mini-zoo for his children and the youngsters of East End. A few swings, a slide and a sandbox was the plan, with maybe a few parrots and agoutis to keep the kids busy while he watched over his three popular restaurants in the district. As sometimes happens, one notion turned into another and now, nearly two years after the idea was hatched, it has become the home for local snakes, iguanas, hermit crabs and a family of Cayman parrots that share the grounds with other feathered friends.
Regina Nowak has become Hargrave’s official zookeeper. Along with a few assistants, she works to keep the sanctuary running smoothly. Nowak is well-known on the island for her compassion for animals and she takes care of the sanctuary residents’ many needs.
They require fresh water, clean cages, love and food, which must follow their natural dietary habits, such as sea grapes, almonds, tamarinds, mangos and a mouse now and then for the snakes. Such staples are not always found in local grocery stores so, as the official zookeeper, Nowak spends lots of time trekking through the bush of East End for supplies. On the rare occasion when critters get sick or become injured, she takes them to a veterinarian in George Town. Observant and dedicated keepers are the mainstay of an animal sanctuary’s medical programme. They get to know the individual animals under their care by watching them daily. Keepers are the first to recognise abnormalities, such as loss of appetite or inactivity, or changes in behaviour that may reflect early medical problems. Immediate reporting of observations is preferable to ‘waiting it out’, because many zoo animals instinctively conceal obvious signs of illness until the disease or injury is well-advanced.
When complete, the Cayman Parrot Sanctuary will be a place for fun and learning, and will welcome birthday parties, social gatherings, schools, and educational tours. Plus, we hear Cayman parrots just love to take selfies with visitors.
| The sanctuary is not yet open to the public. However, opening day is not too far away. Watch for announcements in the press to get the update or visit the sanctuary’s Facebook page on www.facebook.com/CaymanParrot.
Did you know?
- The Cayman parrot was declared the national bird of the Cayman Islands in 1979.
- It is illegal to take a parrot from the wild and keep it as a pet.
- The Cayman Islands parrots (Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac birds) are two sub-species of the Cuban Parrot (Amazona Leucocephala).