If You’re in Chicago, Go to the Pet Store and…Adopt!?


Yin, a wonderful adopted house cat!

Here is an interesting and innovate solution for you. Just last month, it was announced that the city of Chicago is banning the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits from breeders within the city limits. In other words, pet stores will now be selling rescue animals from shelters and welfare societies, both private and public. A lot of the rhetoric around this ordinance relates to the abusive conditions in some breeding operations (think “puppy mills”). While I would warn everybody from assuming that all breeders are running inadequate operations in which the animals’ needs and rights are neglected, there certainly has been a share of cases to cause concern. What hasn’t been mentioned so far, and why I support this law, is that this could be seen as a way to manage the overpopulation of stray animals so prominent in many cities (especially my hometown, Detroit, MI). For example, I have heard estimates that there are 2,000 to 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit. While 50,000 seems a bit high to me, I can’t say I haven’t driven around at night, alongside a pack of 3 or 4 dogs in a desolate part of the city. By keeping shelter pets in the pet stores, and not breeding new ones, perhaps we can curb some of this problem. Some dogs are feral and at this point may not be appropriate to become house pets right away. However, many need a loving home and shelters often provide cheap or complimentary spaying or nudering, which alleviates the stray and feral problem.

It appears that this idea was so well received that the rest of Cook County, where most of Chicago resides, decided to follow suit. I believe that this law has potential to improve both the human and animal urban environment. In a sense, the control of stray and feral household pets has become the city’s version of wildlife management. For example, we have deer out here in central Pennsylvania. Detroit and Chicago have dogs and cats. While the current proposed regulations only deal with dogs, cats, and rabbits, I think this could definitely be extended to parrots. As a parrot caretaker, I am well aware of the the abundance of those, particularly the larger ones, who need to be rescued and re-homed. This happens while breeders keep pumping out more than what people can purchase.

Again, I am not trying to condemn all breeders. However, the amount of companion animals that need our help is astonishing and shutting down some of the countries worst operations, as well as the illegal pet trade, can’t hurt. I applaud Chicago and would like to see this pick up some momentum.

For another interesting and recent example of using legislation to protect animals, check out New York City’s animal abuse registry. Interesting stuff!

Sources: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-05/news/chi-chicago-antipuppy-mill-measure-advances-20140304_1_pet-stores-chicago-aldermen-homeless-animals


Image: Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits


Become a Citizen Scientist!

Sound Wave Bat - Urban Hermits

So you happen to have some time on your hands, let’s say 5 minutes. Is your first move to pull up Facebook or play a game? What if you could play games that help scientists collect or manage data for various projects? Well, this is one of the great benefits of citizen science. For example, Bat Detective has accumulated thousands of bat sound recordings to aid in tracking populations effected by global change. However, without a availability of free ears, the project would be extremely set back by time constraints. This is where you come in. With even five minutes, you can sit down and test your brain to identify bat calls.

Below is some other projects of note:

Cell Slider hosts anonymous cancer slides that require analyzing. “This would accelerate research and free up scientists to tackle other research opportunities. Imagine the collective force of hundreds of thousands of people accelerating the race to discover personalized cancer treatments. If we stand united, cancer doesn’t stand a chance, ” say the creators.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count – Now free to participate – help track bird migratory patterns.

Dark Sky Meter  – Collect data on light pollution and night conditions by using a free app to record.

Project Feeder Watch – A winter project, collect data about what birds comes to your feeder.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project – Help track monarch butterfly populations and nests (and I recommend you read this article by the New York Times.)

Want a great place to start your citizen science search? Try Sci Starter. Do you know of a project that we haven’t heard of? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Image: Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits, 02 December 2013;

On Pets – Our Flock!

You may remember seeing various posts of three wonderful parakeets on our blog. Here is a bio breakdown of our flock members just for some fun!

The Zen Master – Tél

Personality: is BIG, will stand up to anyone and anything often dancing after he triumphs. However, he is very patient. Seems to be judging you and often gives the “stank-eye”.
Named after: the Hungarian word for winter.
Known as the: tolerant one.
Has a thing for: unpainted fingernails.
Favorite things are: green seeds and fingernails.
Reaches: nirvana through twirling his seeds in his beak and closing his eyes.
Has a tendency: to play tricks on people admiring him.
Lived: with only humans for 2 years until Sufi joined him.
Time in family: 3 years – adopted.

The Hyperactive Goon – Sufi

Personality: Adorable, bubbly, innocent, and hyper – the opposite of the quiet bird that we first met!
Named after: the folk artist, Sufjan Stevens.
Known as the: little psychopath.
Has a thing for: wet hair, landing on Tél’s back.
Hates: flies.
Favorite things are: his two boyfriends, Tél and Django.
Has a tendency: to squawk repeatedly and dance when someone is recounting a long story.
Lived: in an overcrowded pet store tank where he had been bleeding from his wing.
Time in family: 2 years – bought / rescued.

The Mystery Man – Django

Personality: Grounded, alert, a little drummer. Still learning about him everyday!
Named after: Django by Rancid
Known as the: weatherman.
Has a thing for: Sufi.
Hates: thumbs.
Has a tendency: to make scratchy sounds under his breath when talking.
Favorite things are: drumming on his hanging mirror.
Lived: in an inattentive home before he was up for adoption.
Time in family: 3 months – adopted.

Mark and Lauren Go Places – The Great Lakes Zoological Society

Mark and I visited the Great Lakes Zoological Society last month in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The astounding reptilian, amphibian, and avian rescue is a wonderful family destination and educational center for all ages. The GLZS’ mission is to “promote conservation, the importance of a balanced ecosystem, and how to coexist with wildlife; as well as serving as a rescue and recovery center for injured, neglected, and unwanted reptiles [amphibians, and birds].”

I was truly impressed by the effort to give each animal a beautiful and spacious enclosure. It came as a relief after being accustomed to seeing various snakes, lizards, turtles, and birds in cages too compact for physical and mental health. The resident parrots even sit on large branches in the open, free to move as they please (which isn’t an issue with visitors since they mostly stay on their gyms). Volunteers and interns care for the animals with a passion. They would share their extensive knowledge of the individual animals, often allowing the children to touch the head of a tortoise or the back of a small snake.

The Great Lakes Zoological Society is a 503(c)(3) nonprofit. It offers a variety of sponsorship, summer camp, volunteer, and event opportunities. A must see and a great place to support if you are interested in the welfare of all animals!


The rescue’s male Crocodile Monitor, Mahuru.



Mahuru basks on his tree!



The resident Greenwing Macaws– Scarlet preens Charlie!


Image Source: A. Fulmer, July 2013

Updates on the Budgies!

I just wanted to post some updates on the budgie crew from the past couple weeks. I have bought my first smart phone and consequently have been going a little instagram crazy. Django, Mark’s recently adopted budgie has been staying in my apartment. He had another flare up of thrush and is once again happy to be off of his medicine. My two boys, Sufi and Tél, with the addition of Django have stirred up interesting bouts of drama and jealousy. Django has decided that Sufi is his love, and the two get quiet and stare Tél down anytime he comes over to be part of the commotion. So, Tél has been hanging with Mark and I. See below!

Bird Extravaganza!

Here’s a vine video of our lazy Sunday morning with the boys!

The Elusive Night Parrot

For over 100 years, the elusive Australian Night Parrot has had no accounts of being seen alive. But documentary film-maker and naturalist, John Young, recently claimed to have photographed the bird in the wild for the first time in a century during his 15 year study on the species. The Night Parrot, a relative of the Budgerigar, is a ground-dwelling and nocturnal bird. Dead specimens have been the only evidence of their survival until now. The species is critically endangered and quite a spectacular creature. Read more here from Reuters and World of Birds.

Rueters posted:

In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the bird as critically endangered, its population depleted by feral cats, foxes and changes in the environment after European settlement in Australia.

With no firm estimates about how many of the birds exist in the wild, Young refused to reveal where he found the parrot.

“I think the worst thing we can do at the moment is to let too many people anywhere near it,” said Young. “In the time I had with the bird the other night, it is the most sensitive bird I have ever seen.”

Image Source: William T. Cooper, Night Parrot, Pezoporus Occidentalis, Australian Museum

Sources: Thuy Ong, Reuters, 5 July 2013; Aries Munandi, World of Birds, 9 July 2013

Meet my New Companion: Django!

Hi everyone!

I thought I would share with you the newest addition to my circle: Django! He is a green and yellow budgie, the same type of bird that Lauren, my fellow UrbanHermit, wrote about in a post about her birds, Sufi and Tel. I have spent some time looking for a little bird friend to keep me company while I am in grad school in Pennsylvania. After searching online for birds available for adoption, I came across this little guy about an hour away from my home. I went up to a farm to meet him and right away felt he was perfect. Today was only his third day with me, but he has been doing great! He already has flown out of his cage to explore my apartment and will even sit on my hand! He loves commotion and was very excited by a thunderstorm. I have been using some techinques to get him used to me, like feeding him from my hand and reading him a few poems before bed, but I am fortunate that he has adjusted so well and so quickly. Django did not have a name when I adopted him , but I chose it based on one of my favorite songs by the punk rock band Rancid (my favorite band), which is based off the 1966 Italian film, Django, as opposed to the more recent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, which is significantly different from the original. Below are a few pics:

Django preening himself


Getting aclimated to his new best friend

Eating out of my hand!

Meet little Django!

Django on my hand!

Django on my hand! (Sorry about the quality-phone shot!)