BRENT CHAMPACO; The News Tribune Published: July 16th, 2005 12:01 AM
A now-famous colony of Quaker parrots, whose home atop a South Kitsap cell phone tower ignited a passionate animal rights debate, has gone on the lam.
Cingular Wireless was getting ready to replace the animals’ 60-foot-tall tower with one nearly twice as tall. State wildlife officials decided the birds should be captured and relocated to a more controlled environment.
Craig Bartlett, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said a contractor hired by Cingular tried to catch the birds Thursday evening.
But the greenish parrots abandoned their usually calm demeanor, instead “squawking and flying and causing a commotion” before flying off, said Port Orchard resident Fred Olin.
The 59-year-old Olin spent months fighting for the birds’ freedom. He was happy late this week when the birds seized it on their own.
“I believe given an opportunity, they’re going to rebuild a nest,” Olin said Friday. “My hope is they’ll rebuild on the new tower.”
The cellular company will try again to lure the birds sometime next week, possibly using a decoy bird, Bartlett said.
“We’re hoping for a successful outcome to this, but it’s an ongoing effort right now,” he said.
It’s the latest twist in the saga of perhaps the most talked-about feathered friends ever to grace the city of 8,000.
Most say the South American birds escaped while being transported to a pet store in 2001. Locals think the colony numbers about 20 parrots; officials say it’s really around five or six.
The birds eventually built a formidable nest on the tower overlooking Mitchell Avenue, overlooking South Kitsap High School. It already serves two wireless companies.
State officials, who feared the parrots would displace natural birds in the area, came up with a detention plan that began ruffling feathers earlier this year.
Cingular’s request for a taller tower eventually was granted. That prompted Olin and others to campaign against the animals’ capture. He circulated a petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Although the fight might not be over, their escape Thursday is a big victory, Olin said.
“The big thing is, they’re not trapped,” he said. “That was my goal.”
If the parrots are caught, they’ll be handed over to a member of the Olympic Bird Fanciers group, who already has built them an aviary.
Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653