Be Found Online is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and has employees all over the world. Some of our folks live in Belize where I had an opportunity to work with an incredible group of very smart people and had two weeks of training, learning and growing.
BFO’s people-first culture, flexible scheduling, and propensity for giving back gave me the opportunity to volunteer at an avian rehabilitation center, the Belize Bird Rescue.
What I didn’t know is that I was in-store for an adventure of a lifetime.
I arrived on a Friday around 4 pm and was cutting citrus for 200 birds by 5 pm to prepare for the next day’s meal service. I also received full instructions for tasks needing to be done morning, noon & night.
First Full Day
Each morning started promptly at 7 am.
7 am – 8:30 am
I met in the kitchen to prepare food for the residents which included many parrots, falcons, owls, toucans, woodpeckers and many other indigenous birds of Belize. A team of five volunteers chopped fruits and vegetables, cooked beans and corn, prepared special diets and non-parrot food such as meat, fish, insects, chicks, and mice.
We were on a tight schedule and rushed to get the food prepared to be ready for delivery. Because it was my first full day, most of my deliveries were within walking distance to beautiful habitats inside amazing enclosures. Most birds here are being prepared for their release back into the wild. What this means is that this place is not a petting zoo. Talking to the wild parrots isn’t permitted as a talking wild parrot has a better chance of getting poached for use in the illegal pet trade. Also, petting them or holding them beyond care needs is also not permitted. Letting the birds heal to “fly free” is the motto and philosophy of Belize Bird Rescue and the key to successful releases.
8:30 am – 1:00 pm
Next came the delivery of the prepared food & medicine. As much as I wanted to fill up the storage on my phone with pictures of every habitat and unique looking bird, there wasn’t enough time because we needed to keep moving to the next enclosure. However, I managed to take a video (click the individual bluebird photo) of the happiest bird I’ve ever met which is a huge compliment because I can now say I’ve met many. It’s also beside a picture of me feeding baby parrots through a syringe.
One of the most difficult but best moments of this day was feeding a pair of Boobies. They might seem easy going, but they actually weren’t able to eat on their own. My first attempt was to wiggle a fish in front of them and hope they would latch onto it and consume it. The first few attempts failed, so it was time for plan B. Plan B was to gingerly trick the bird into looking in another direction while grabbing it gently from behind so two of my teammates could open the bill of the Booby. My job was to direct the fish into the mouth and then massage the fish into the Booby’s stomach. The first Booby did a great job and the second kept throwing a whole fish back up which meant we’d have to come back later for plan C.
One of the cutest moments of this day was going into the Hobbit Room. The Hobbit Room is where all the babies, mostly parrots, are kept. One baby needed to be weighed and fed. He didn’t even have feathers yet, so I jumped at the chance to pick him up to be weighed. As you can see, I’m ecstatic! I also got to feed a plethora of baby parrots and felt like my heart was smiling from the inside.
From 2 pm – 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm.
This included more feedings, cleaning, and preparation for the next day. It was a long day indeed, but even with a plague of bugs bites, aches and being utterly exhausted, I can definitely say I’ve never felt more fulfilled.
Last Day – Bird Rescue Vehicle
My last day here followed the same schedule, but I got to help with new tasks in different areas of the sanctuary.
My top moment from my last day was riding in the bird rescue vehicle to deliver food because I felt like a true bird doctor. It was such a cool feeling I never thought I’d experience (red basket photo below is a clickable video).
Small Path Leading into the Jungle
Riding in the bird rescue truck meant I could venture out further into the jungle. We drove to this small path at the edge of the jungle that led to another one of my favorite moments of the day.
In the middle of the jungle, I found a huge enclosure housing parrots. Luckily, I am not afraid of heights because I climbed up the tallest ladder I have ever seen to deliver food.
Wild parrots also live in the jungle and are not afraid to fly and land on you. If you have a fear of birds, this is not the volunteer opportunity for you. For me, I can say that I did quite well and made some feathery friends for life.
The purpose of this rehabilitation center is freeing birds from poachers & rescuing abused birds. I was fortunate enough to witness a fully recovered woodpecker that was set to be released. After feeding him a good meal, we opened the door to his enclosure and watched him “Fly Free.” There’s no better feeling than watching freedom happen right before your eyes. (Clickable video)
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience for the Heart & Soul
If you ever find yourself in Belize and want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that supports a great cause, volunteer at the Belize Bird Rescue. If you’re not interested in volunteering, you can stay on-site at one of the Rock Farm Guest Houses. You will be immersed in 50 acres of nature. Also, all profits benefit the Belize Bird Rescue.
If you’d like to support this cause and learn more, check out the Belize Bird Rescue and either donate or just spread the word about a hardworking group of people in Belize helping birds “fly free.”