The End of the Rainbow (Almost)
By Bob and Liz Johnson

Home Improvement
By Bob and Liz Johnson
(Condensed version was published in Bird Talk in the June, 2003 issue
under the title "Try a Free Flight Aviary")


The Shyne Foundation is a (501)(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to the permanent housing of formerly abused, neglected, and unwanted parrots. Birds were designed for flight and here the birds live in a quarter-acre, sixteen-foot high free-flight simulated rainforest habitat in South Florida. They are thus enabled to live their lives as closely as possible in the way nature intended, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, the trees, the rain, the feel of the earth beneath their feet and interactions with each other.

Bob and Liz Johnson, the founders of The Shyne Foundation, so named it in memory of Shyne Browne, who was a dedicated researcher and breeder of Hyacinth Macaws. In her honor, the Foundation is also continuing the research portion of her work with this highly endangered species. Here, the Foundation is attempting to learn more about Hyacinths' natural interactive behaviors (and misbehaviors) in this natural habitat setting, which has seldom, if ever, been done within the confines of captivity.

As the caretakers of parrots, we must consider preserving the spirit of the bird as well as merely the physical form. A bird's environmental requirements differ greatly from ours and proper environmental stimulation is important to both their physiological and psychological well-being. Here, we are attempting to provide as natural a setting for them as possible. Many of the psychotic behaviors exhibited by some pet birds, such as feather plucking, excessive screaming, and biting are often the result of being forced into an unnatural environment. Many of these undesirable behaviors are alleviated when birds are allowed to express themselves as birds. When given a sense of self-determination and self-worth, they heal.

This free-flight situation in no way deters from their desire to interact with humans. A less codependent relationship develops and they begin to see us as coinhabitants who can share in their games and play rather than as captors who restrict their behaviors.

The Johnsons, both psychologists and nutritionists, have been practicing alternative health care with their birds for over twenty years. As well as living in a natural setting, the birds are also given a totally natural diet, consisting of organically grown fruits and vegetables, a variety of raw nuts and seeds, and an abundance of locally grown palm nuts. They are also given a variety of immune-building herbs and natural supplements.

"...and once you have tasted flight
you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been and there you long to return."
-- Leonardo da Vinci