Safe at home in DeLand: Unwanted birds find permanent pleasure at Patty’s Parrot Palace

GOLDEN YEARS — Blue-and-gold macaw Sophia and her green parrot partner Brandon welcome visitors to the large flight cage at Patty’s Parrot Palace, a sanctuary in DeLand for displaced and unwanted parrots.

GOLDEN YEARS — Blue-and-gold macaw Sophia and her green parrot partner Brandon welcome visitors to the large flight cage at Patty’s Parrot Palace, a sanctuary in DeLand for displaced and unwanted parrots.

BEACON PHOTOS/ERIKA WEBB 

YOGA WITH GOATS? — Indeed, it’s a thing. Six dwarf and pygmy goats, all named after types of candy, participate twice monthly in yoga with people at Patty’s Parrot Palace in DeLand. Shown here, Goober greets visitors as if to say, “Is it time yet?” 

YOGA WITH GOATS? — Indeed, it’s a thing. Six dwarf and pygmy goats, all named after types of candy, participate twice monthly in yoga with people at Patty’s Parrot Palace in DeLand. Shown here, Goober greets visitors as if to say, “Is it time yet?” 

GREETINGS — Above, Patty’s Parrot Palace founder Trish Koile shares a moment with Lorraine, a rescued parrot resident. 

GREETINGS — Above, Patty’s Parrot Palace founder Trish Koile shares a moment with Lorraine, a rescued parrot resident. 

It all started in 2010 in Tuscawilla with a conure in need of a cage. 

Eight years later, Patricia “Trish” and Tony Koile live on 5 acres in DeLand — with 98 parrots, 27 chickens, six goats, four dogs and one cat.

And, Doris and Duncan, the resident turkeys who follow Trish Koile everywhere.

A gigantic aviary houses dozens of macaws and cockatoos, the largest of Patty’s Parrot Palace’s rescued residents. 

Trish Koile worked 32 years as a real-estate manager; her expertise was in the apartment industry.

After being diagnosed with systemic lupus and unable to manage a regular workday, Koile still wanted to remain as productive as possible.

The wheels had started turning five years earlier, with that conure.  

Koile stumbled upon horrid conditions while responding to a Craigslist ad for the conure cage her bird needed. 

She saw birds that had died from rat bites and other forms of neglect. It was a bird-hoarding situation, she said.

“I told my husband, ‘I don’t know what to do; these animals need to be out of there,’” Koile said. “I called rescues, but they were all full. I knew right there that there was going to be a problem.”

She got two trucks and helping hands and left with 13 birds that were surrendered by the owner.  

Is her husband a saint?

“People always ask me that,” Koile said, laughing. “He is, but he loves the birds as much as I do.”

As word got around and rescuing birds blossomed into a mutual passion as well as a necessity, the couple realized their sanctuary couldn’t fully fledge on 2 acres in a country-club community near Orlando. More room and very few restrictions were a must. 

The need is great, the calls for help endless from people with parrots they can no longer care for. 

“Once you’re in it, you’re in it,” Koile said. 

She and her husband searched for property all over Florida. 

In DeLand, they found an old farmhouse on 5 acres, with a barn large enough to temporarily house the birds. They moved in in October 2017 and got busy building. 

The emerging facilities for the Palace’s growing flock are designed and built for birds to exercise — moving between multilevel perches — and for flying.

But not for breeding.

“They need nest boxes or they don’t feel secure to lay eggs. We don’t provide nest boxes, so we don’t have to worry about breeding,” Koile said. 

Forty macaws and cockatoos are “in flight” in a divided 80-foot-long, 20-foot-tall aviary with plenty of wire to grab and climb. From here, the birds greet approaching visitors — loudly. 

Salutations are uttered with enthusiasm, and such varied vocal inflections that it’s hard to chalk it up to mimicry. 

“No, they’re very smart, and they really do communicate,” said Koile, who clearly adores each and every one.  

Visitors are plentiful.

Many are volunteers. Without them, Koile said, the sanctuary could not exist. 

They feed parrots, clean cages, change cage liners, and socialize with the affable birds.

“They are such an important part of this,” Koile said. “We have students earning hours for Bright Futures [scholarships] from eight different high schools in Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties, interns from Stetson University and the University of Central Florida, people completing community-service hours and seniors — seniors are awesome.”

One, a 70-year-old regular, knows every bird’s name, Koile said. 

Koile also works with, and is helped by, several children and teens with autism.

One of them forewent an offer to join the U.S. Navy’s nuclear program, opting instead to accept a full scholarship to Rollins College because he couldn’t bear to leave the birds, according to Koile.

“I’m a hugger,” she said. “When Timmy first started coming, he wouldn’t hug. Now he says, ‘Come on in for a Timmy hug.’”

Koile has to reach up a little.

“He’s 6-3,” she added, grinning. 

With her four children grown and on their own, Koile said, the farm provides the perfect not-so-empty nest.

“I love kids,” she said. “I wanted to get back to the basics of a farm. There’s not enough connection anymore.” 

About 60 caged birds — including African greys, Amazons, conures, eclectus parrots, Hahn’s “mini” macaws, Senegals and Quaker parrots, all relinquished to the Koiles “for one reason or another” — remain in the large barn, but only temporarily.

Within two years, Koile said, all the birds will be “in flight” in large enough quarters to spread their wings and move freely. 

During the first week of June, she had three calls for birds needing homes. The numbers are staggering.

“I read that macaws average 12 homes in a lifetime,” Koile said. “That killed me.”

People get the birds, and then discover that the parrots scream, bite, pick on each other, need endless attention, and can become distressed enough to pluck themselves featherless. 

Peaches, a charming cockatoo, was caged behind a plastic screen in his former owner’s living room, Koile said. 

Thought to be a female — until Koile’s veterinarian at FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital determined otherwise — the friendly bird had not been handled for four years, and became arthritic from only having one perch. 

Having plucked her own feathers because of stress, Sabrina — a Goffin’s Cockatoo — was “naked” when she arrived, Koile said. 

Rather than surrendering the bird, her owner — who works out of town and was unable to provide the constant companionship Sabrina craved — pays a membership fee to Parrot Palace and visits his beloved bird regularly.

“He comes and brings his lunch, sits in a chair and they all fly around him,” Koile said. “He looks like a tree. He’s kind of an empath to birds. He’s got that thing birds like.” 

Sabrina’s contentment is evidenced by the return of her snow-white feathers. 

“I don’t take them all,” Koile said. “If they can go on a waiting list, that helps me. I would rather they go from home to flight, but if it’s an emergency, like the death of a family member, I’ll do what I can.”

Death causing a bird’s homelessness is not an unusual situation, since macaws live to be 80 or 100, and cockatoos, 40-60, she said.   

It takes a large and willing village. 

“I have friends all over the state, and usually we all work together,” Koile said. “I have a friend in Brandon with 400 birds and a friend in Naples with 350.”

Koile will concede that her unexpected, incredibly rewarding palatial undertaking began with her, but beyond that, she said, it’s not about her, at all.  

“It’s about the birds, our tireless advisory board, amazing volunteers, members and donors,” she said. “They make the Palace; they are the village that keeps it going. The birds are happier and healthier because of every one of them, and for that we are so grateful.”

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com 


About parrots

There are more than 360 different species. Almost 100 of these are threatened with extinction, mainly due to loss of habitat and capture to be pets.

Some scientists think parrots are at least as smart as dolphins and chimpanzees. For example, Alex the African grey parrot knew how to count to six, identify seven colors and name 35 different objects.

Alex was even learning to read! He was trained by Dr. Pepperberg, who is now training two more parrots just like him! …

Parrots have very loud voices. Different sounds mean different things (like “watch out for the hawk”, or “there’s food over here”). Parrots learn to make these calls by listening to their parents and flockmates. As pets, some can learn to talk by listening to us. 

Parrots also use body language (like fluffing their feathers) to communicate.

Parrots are loud, messy and highly energetic and live a very long time. They need special food and vet care, huge cages, lots of attention and tons of toys. But, they can be great companions, if you can meet all their needs and give them a home for life.

— From World Parrot Trust, www.parrot.org 


Paradise for yoga fans

Patty’s Parrot Palace is a not-for-profit avian sanctuary, with several twists. 

Goat and parrot yoga, for example.

Twice each month, founder Trish Koile said, a terrific yoga instructor from Sanford makes her way to the farm at 1065 S. Beresford Road to lead Sunday classes featuring the resident pygmy and dwarf goats.

“My son was living in Oregon, and I went to visit, heard about goat yoga — it’s huge there right now — and I went to a class,” Koile said. “I ended up laying on my mat the whole time, playing with the goats, and didn’t do any yoga. There were some serious students doing yoga, but most of us were taking selfies with the goats. They’re very interactive, like puppies.” 

“With so many nonprofit rescues, we’re all begging for the same dollar … you kind of have to think outside of the box,” Koile added.

Another Sunday is devoted to parrot yoga, where stretching and breathing, in the parrot cage under water misters, is enhanced by friendly fluttering, person-perching and chattering to further promote well-being.

The 90-minute classes regularly cost $20, but Koile said that periodically a 2-for-$35 Groupon is available online. 

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