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Friends of the feathered: Stonyford man's drive to rescue neglected and abused birds remains as strong as ever
The last time the Sun-Herald checked in with Michael Cox — otherwise known as "The Bird Whisperer" — reporter Susan Meeker introduced him as a fresh face with a big heart — the new guy at Century Ranch in Stonyford.
His story is fairly well known at this point, and for good reason.
When he was in his teens, Cox hitchhiked his way out of Virginia to escape from the fighting and alcoholism devastating his family — and from a place he knew he didn't belong.
Cox found his way to a Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona as a teenager and spent three years there with the tribe, where he says he learned to communicate with animals and that "every living thing deserves to be treated with dignity and respect."
He served in the Army Special Forces in Laos, Cambodia and South China, then worked as a computer specialist in Napa before moving to Century Ranch in 2010.
That's when he started Global Nest Exotic Bird Sanctuary — a nonprofit organization dedicated to healing neglected and abused birds. Cox is no longer a new face, but his heart and his spirit are as big as ever. Bigger, perhaps.
Cox's approach to rehabilitating mistreated birds has remained constant over the years.
"We communicate with these guys basically through heart. Most of these guys can't be re-homed, because they have basically lost humans. What has been done to them is horrible," Cox said.
He remains a resource for Animal Control and Department of Fish and Wildlife agencies in six counties — Glenn, Butte, Solano, Napa, Colusa, and Lake — gi ing them an alternative to putting down violent, often mistreated birds.
"They know they aren't going to get adopted out, they aren't going to get bred, and they are going to have a home. We are a true sanctuary. They come here for good," Cox said.
It seems as if the last four years have treated Cox well. There have been a number of changes in Cox's life.
In particular, 2012 was a good year for Cox. That summer, he married his wife, Mandee — a kindred spirit who is as ornithologically inclined as he.
"We do this as a team," Cox said. "The birds all love her. She has the perfect soul. We both have the same heart, the same inspiration."
The number of birds in Cox's sanctuary has more than tripled since 2010. Thirty-four birds — among them parrots, macaws, a cockatoo, a ring-neck dove and more — now share a home and are part of the Cox family. Cox has a internet radio broadcast called "Parrots, People, and Pets" that is broadcast to over 190 countries.
Cox has been invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Twin Cities Pet Expo on Feb. 22 and 23 in Minneapolis, where he will share the story of his bird sanctuary and his passion for loving birds other people have mistreated. The more-than-1,500-mile trip to Minnesota will mark the first time that Cox has attended such an event.
"I've never been to any one of these things before. I'm very honored. I'm blown away. They picked us to do this. I'm going to speaking two times each day on the main stage. I've got a few rattles in my belly about this," Cox said. "I'm trying to go and show the kind of heart and spirit it takes to bond with pets — particularly parrots."
The benefits of going to the expo extend far beyond a free trip to the pet show.
"What's really cool is that all the money from donations, they are giving that to us on top of (sending us there). They know we want to expand. They want to help us in that way, too. They know what my dream is," Cox said. "It's beautiful."
He explained that with 34 birds, his sanctuary was currently at its capacity, and he needs to add on to continue to accommodate unwanted birds.
"We're really happy with what we're doing here, but we want to expand to save birds' lives. That's our main intention — we want to save more lives. That is what we do," Cox said.
Global Nest Exotic Bird Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization, and relies on donations from the community to provide the sanctuary for their birds.
More information can be found on the organization's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalNestBirdSanctuary.