Birds of a Feather

Lorin Lindner / St. Martin’s Press / 230 pages

The cover of Birds of a Feather: A True Story of Hope and the Healing Power of Animals, features a photo of a veteran embracing a parrot, who rests her head on his shoulder. The image suggests to a prospective reader that this book will be inspirational. The book delivers on this expectation and more.

Dr. Lorin Lindner, a psychologist, recounts the story of Sammy and Mango, the rescued cockatoos she adopted in the late 1980s. During this time, she would pass homeless veterans as she walked to work; she began counseling them—then lobbying for better care for them. Eventually, in 1997, Lindner became clinical director at New Directions (now called New Directions for Veterans), which had opened a 156-bed one-year residential treatment facility on the Veteran Administration’s West Los Angeles campus. She began bringing Sammy and Mango to work, and the birds developed relationships with many of the veterans.

As the demands of her work at New Directions grew, however, Lindner realized that Sammy and Mango were not receiving enough of her time. She could not always bring them to work. Parrots need companionship and communication; they need a flock. So, with help from the veterans, Lindner and a friend founded Earth Angel Parrot Sanctuary near Ojai, California, 85 miles up the coast. The sanctuary was a success, but Lindner wanted to bring the veterans and parrots closer together. In 2005, she founded Serenity Park on the VA campus—a place where veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could help themselves heal while caring for abused and neglected parrots. Robert Kenner, who directed the film Food, Inc. and is producing a short film about the birds and people of Serenity Park, calls it “a magical story.”

Notwithstanding the inspirational interactions at Serenity Park, Lindner emphasizes repeatedly that parrots are not good candidates as pets. Many birds come from low-welfare breeding facilities, and few people who purchase parrots are equipped to provide the proper environment for these long-lived, social, and supremely intelligent animals. Perhaps a better way to express one’s appreciation of these amazing birds may be to donate to a bona fide parrot sanctuary—or buy this book, since a portion of the profits support the Serenity Park Sanctuary.

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