_MG_0040Ellen* found herself alone, having lost her husband Tom* a few months before to cancer. At 83 years old and suffering from arthritis, she wasn’t finding it easy to take care of her responsibilities, and was finding it difficult to care for her beautiful red macaw parrots. They were a long term bonded pair, and had been the closest non-human friends that she and Tom had ever known.

A friend told her about the Adventures in Birds, and its associated 501c3 non-profit Spring Branch Animal and Bird Sanctuary (SBABS). A short while after contacting them, she had found a new home for her best friends where she knew they would receive excellent care.

Both the business and non-profit are owned and operated by Jean Jordon and her longtime associate Gary Foster.  Established in 1980, Adventures in Birds is very much a specialty store, with a huge variety of food, supplies, and toys for birds.

_MG_0060Their customer base is as diverse as the variety of birds found there. Though they field calls from all over, they’re surprised to find locals who still haven’t heard of them. “We have had customers from as far away as Saudi Arabia.

[But] 36 years now and we still have people say ‘We never knew you existed,’” says Jordon.

When the economy stumbled in 2008, folks began surrendering birds they were no longer able to keep to Jordon, prompting her to start SBABS. In 2010, the organization received its official 501c3 designation, which has helped Jean, Gary and their volunteers care for the animals they take in.

“The sanctuary doesn’t have employees, so any money we receive goes into food, toys, and the various things that the animals need. [People] can make a donation, and will receive whatever income tax benefits that go along with that donation,” explained Foster. Adopting birds helps too, as the fees associated with adoption go directly to caring for the other birds.

Prices for their retail birds, and those up for adoption, range from $30 to $10,000 depending on the bird’s rarity. The operation also breeds birds, and are seasonally successful in doing so. “They seem to have taken an oath of celibacy,” jokes Gary when looking at the birds labeled “breeders.”_MG_0091

The staff at the sanctuary tends all the cages twice daily, feeding the birds fresh fruit and vegetables in the morning, and removing the leftovers at the end of the day. This is no small task, considering the population of the shop and sanctuary can easily exceed 200 smaller birds, and 40 or more larger birds. It’s hard work, but it’s clear by the looks on the faces of those who work here that it’s a labor of love.

*names have been changed to protect privacy

Adventures in Birdsthe Spring Branch Animal and Bird Sanctuary, 7414 Westview Dr, Houston, TX 77055, 713-681-5299.