Note: As I have mentioned prior, during my time I cannot work I am making pieces I put out on my blog with this note available for outlets in the Wausau area to freely use. All I ask for is credit and in accordance with rules of immigrating, my work cannot be used to take any paid work away from someone who is already a full citizen of the United States.

Just off of Merrill Ave. in Wausau a group of squawking and talking siblings is showing the neighbourhood part of the world they may not have seen while adding to the area around them.

They are the birds of Pha Xiong. All are parrots, one is endangered and for more than five years they have called the neighbourhood near the North End Pub home. A minority of American households have such creatures – a recent survey from the American Pet Products Association found a total of 6 million homes had birds as opposed to 63 million with dogs – but Xiong said the process of raising them is like any other animal and their positive features stand out strongly.  

“Older birds, they are harder to work with,” he said. “Babies, you can train them and work with them to do a lot more. A lot of the younger ones will explore and as they age, they know not to leave the yard. They do not go too far because they know they will not find food if they do.”

Costs to acquire a bird of the type Xiong enjoys can be more than $1,000 in many instances. Maintenance can run the same as any other kind of animal the average American owns and in contrast to the sensitive stomachs of some species birds are able to eat a wide variety of food.

“They are having fruits, nuts, vegetables and birdseed,” Xiong added. “You are making sure they eat and buying them toys, but it depends ultimately on how much money you want to spend.”

Though neighbors are fine with Xiong and his venture with complaints about noise being sparing, others are not as open. Figures in the Wausau Area Birders and Bird Watchers Facebook group argued his animals should be seen in the wild and not in cages and expressed great concern about his hyacinth macaw named Sky. He is threatened, though allowed to be owned under the law due to a variety of exceptions and Trish Hartwig said it is important to note the complexity of such a pet and one must not consider them a decoration able to make noise.

“These birds are messy and can cause serious damage to a human with their beaks,” a comment from her reads. “Their nails need to be trimmed, they eat expensive food, need lots of toys to stimulate them and there are no avian vets near us. [Owning one] is not something glamorous.”

Xiong concurred with some of the sentiment in response. In a text he said wild macaws do of course belong in the wild, noted Sky and his siblings were the result of breeders beyond his control and in his view the feathered family is no different from many four-legged Wausau pets.

“Mankind has been bestowed these magnificent creatures. It is an honour to even own one and be graced with such wonderful pets. Ones in the wild face so much uncertainty and I wish my babies were born in the wild like they were meant to be. What I choose to own is just the same as anyone going out there and buying a puppy or kitten. What is here [is like their industries].”

Things can always change, but until then, the group flys and flaps on.

Top Image: Xiong poses with his hyacinth macaw Sky during an interview at his home in Wausau in August. The area resident owns a number of parrots in addition to Sky and is one of a minority of Americans who presently do.

Evan J. Pretzer

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