For the birds
Woman breeds exotic birds in Yellowknife home

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 19/97) - Her home is a nesting ground for some of the world's most exotic and beautiful birds.

While they can be messy and noisy, Nancy Stannard wouldn't trade her bird-breeding hobby for anything.

Cages are everywhere -- her 16 birds have literally taken over her downtown bungalow, amounting to what she calls a full-time job caring for them.

"We started with one pair because we thought it'd be neat," she said. "Now we just can't get them to stop. I guess they're happy."

Over the past 10 years Stannard has hatched more than 22 baby macaws and baby African greys -- colorful, exotic birds.

She got her first pet bird while living in Leduc, Alta., 22 years ago. These days, she goes for the larger, more exotic varieties. "I guess it's mainly because they can talk," she said.

And talk they can! Most of the time her home is filled with the sound of birds screaming at each other, copying phrases they've heard. One bird can even mimic the sound of a ringing telephone, and then say "hello".

They all know their names and talk to themselves. "They have different voices -- there's loud ones, soft ones and squeaky ones. They even argue with each other," said Stannard.

She's proud of her feathered family, noting that every one of her birds can talk. "I have one that had a vocabulary of 1,800 words about four or five years ago," he said. "I can't even guess what it would be now."

Stannard isn't sure how many birds she's had over the years. She gets many of them from people who no longer want to keep their pets. "Some of them have been abused," she said.

But in her care, the animals get top-notch treatment. They play with wooden toys Stannard makes herself and they eat the same food the family eats.

"If I didn't have the birds, my grocery bill would be cut in half," she said. "They eat their pellets, nuts and fruit. If we have pork chops, so do they."

The big, happy family may be moving in the next couple of months, and Stannard said that their flock will make it a little more difficult to find a place. "But they go where we go," she said.

And as she puts "Buddy" -- a blue and gold macaw, one of her largest birds -- back into its cage, she scolds him for being unruly. "He's going through the terrible twos," she apologized.