BIRD BLUES: Residents Fear Losing New Attraction

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It’s hard to tell…

“I had never seen adult birds feed baby birds, before, ever,” says Myrtle Storm.

Who’s more captive? The birds, or their audience?

“Her little babies are in there!” laughs Ruth Raitt.

Since they arrived in October, they’ve become an interest and a distraction for those in need of both.

“Some of these people, this building is their whole world,” says Connie DeLong, a resident at the Rose of East Des Moines retirement center on Idaho Street.

“They’ll make the effort to get up if there’s something to watch, something to look at,” says Storm, another resident, who says she spends several hours each day watching the collection of zebra, spice and society finches.

“It’s not just something that’s interesting to do, it’s joyful,” says resident, Martha Escher, waving to the birds through the plexiglass and screen enclosure.

But there’s a catch.  Oak Creek Aviaries in Nebraska agreed to bring in the birds on a trial basis.  The trial obviously worked, but it's now over, and keeping them will cost $4,000.

“Well, $4,000 to people on fixed incomes…" says Storm, "it might as well be $40,000.”

This facility is one of Des Moines’ lowest-income retirement centers.

“A lot of them have a lot of difficulty even getting groceries on a weekly basis,” says Rose administrator, Scott Berger.

Losing the birds, now, seems unthinkable.

“I was thinking of something I could sell," Storm says, "if I had my car, yet, I’d sell it! But I don’t have it anymore!”

There is a plan to sell handmade crafts and baked goods, but it’s hoped that someone might donate.  In fact, Oak Creek Aviary placed an ad in today’s Des Moines Register.

“Best case scenario is we raise enough money to keep the aviary and pay for a couple years of maintenance,” Berger says.

Maintenance--which includes quarterly cleaning session featuring nail trimming for each bird--runs $1,000 a year.

It would seem to fit the spirit of the season.  A chance to help a few lives who’ve become so attached to a few others.

“It’s just marvelous to watch how they get along!” Raitt laughs.


Since this story aired Tuesday night, cash donations have poured in along with calls promising the check is in the mail.

Donations can be sent to:

The Rose of East Des Moines

1331 Idaho Street

Des Moines, IA  50316

(515) 883-1000