From the Acting CEO: 2023 Annual Report

Article from “The Mickaboo Bird Rescue Companion”
Published January, 2024

By Sarah Lemarié

2023 - The New Normal

2023 has been a bit of a blur for many of us. Looking back at this year we have much to be proud of, and as always, much to look forward to! 

While the Covid-19 virus continues to affect many lives, our 2023 statistics tell us that human activity has returned to patterns that are much closer to pre-pandemic times. Whether or not that feels like a good thing might be a personal judgment. At Mickaboo, we very much still have a large, pandemic-shaped cloud hanging over us that leaves us greatly in need of more foster homes. The past three-year surge in surrenders (and corresponding intakes) across this time has filled us to capacity and then some, so the need for foster homes is large. I’ll share some numbers, but first let’s remind ourselves of some great achievements and events from the last twelve months. 

Adoption Fairs & Events

Producing a monthly live show is no mean feat, but our virtual adoption fair team did it again! This is the third year we’ve hosted adoption fairs as monthly events online, with the recordings available for thousands of people to view via our social media and YouTube.

A total of 55 birds got their chance to be featured through these events. We’ve had great success with featured birds finding homes quickly most of the time. The videos also serve as an educational tool, which is an unexpected bonus. 

In person, we represented at our usual annual outreach events including the Bay Area Pet Fair, Solano Stroll, Oakland Zoo’s Earth Day and Berkeley Humane’s annual Bark (& Meow) Around the Block event, bringing birds along and providing valuable outreach. 

San Francisco’s Official Animal: The Wild Parrots

March saw a surprise media opportunity to showcase our work with the wild parrots of San Francisco. The SF Chronicle launched a competition - originally a fun idea to promote their Total SF podcast - which soon became an all-out effort to help the parrots secure “Official Animal” status. Judy Irving and I appeared on the Total SF podcast episode about the wild parrots along with Joey the (quiet!) Wild Parrot. We made our case for the public vote, and after an intense battle with the sea lions, the parrots triumphed! We celebrated with a design contest, and you can buy merchandise featuring some of those designs now at our Mickaboo Market.

Volunteers and Staffing

My goal this year was to fill many of the open volunteer positions - especially for the species coordinators - that we had listed in December 2022. While we have made great progress, some existing team members had to step away, leaving us closer to neutral in terms of growing the species coordinator teams overall. 

In particular, I would like to recognize and thank Linda Liebelt for her countless hours co-leading our phone screen team and performing many, many phone screen interviews for us over the years. Thank you also to Virginia Scribner for working with Linda to keep our phone screen volunteers trained and active. Linda and Virginia kept this essential part of our adoption pipeline running so smoothly for so long - we have big shoes to fill with continuing their efforts in 2024. Thank you, Linda and Virginia! 

One key role we filled to great effect this summer was that of Volunteer Coordinator. I want to express my gratitude to Lisa Siegel for taking on this role and playing an instrumental part in the raft of new faces that we have seen join Mickaboo’s “new volunteer” ranks in the second half of this year. Welcome new volunteers! I’m excited to see your contributions as we continue to orient you in our systems and onboard you all in different activities.

Thank you also to Catie Kniess who stepped back after several years as the key pillar of our four-person budgie coordinator team. Catie continues to process our new applications and manage our phone interview assignments. Thanks to Michael Hoenig for stepping into her budgie-shaped shoes in her place. We chirp in appreciation for the work you are doing for budgies everywhere! 

In more positive news, we have recruited new coordinators for the conure, eclectus, lovebird and amazon teams. We still have several positions open, including the role of Finch Coordinator. If you’d like to save a finch or two - send us a beep

Fundraising and Development

Charities across the board are reporting a 20-30% decline in giving in 2023. More than ever, we appreciate your financial support.

We are continually fundraising to help us with our commitment to the medical care of our flock. 2023 was no different, and thanks to two enormous auctions selling almost 1200 items(!) and two coordinated GlobalGiving matching campaigns, we have maintained our level of annual fundraising compared to prior years. We launched Bonfire merchandise campaigns in Q4 which contributed an additional $3,000 of new income, and we are looking forward to exploring this more in 2024. We also added the ability to take cryptocurrency donations to our existing suite of online giving, vehicle donation, and brokerage capabilities, so we are well-positioned to meet the giving needs of our donors.

We also took the best practice steps of listing our IRS Financial Statements directly on in the spirit of transparency (they have always been public via the IRS and GuideStar historically), and listing photos and biographies for most of the Mickaboo board and leadership team. The remaining few will come!

As has been true for many years, the cornerstone of Mickaboo’s funding is still periodic and very generous estate gifts. We are grateful to everyone who has made arrangements to benefit Mickaboo in their estate planning; thank you! If you need help with making these plans, you are welcome to contact us to discuss any details.

The Parrot Rescue and Conservation Network

We greatly value our connections and collaborations with fellow parrot sanctuaries and rescues across the US via the Parrot Conservation Alliance. Three of our volunteers attended the second PCA conference in October 2023, and we also took the opportunity to visit Ginger’s Parrot Rescue and The Oasis while in Phoenix. Physically meeting so many of our rescue peers is not only a great opportunity for increased learning and collaboration but also a fantastic chance to contrast and compare our strategies for our everyday operations and best practices.

Great Losses

Later in 2023 we felt the double blow of losing two of Mickaboo’s longest serving volunteers and strongest supporters. Louisa Jaskulski and Fred Cox were both well known and much loved throughout the Mickaboo community.  

Louisa’s incredible knowledge, experience, and devotion to caring for medically fragile birds is irreplaceable. She played active roles in our administrative, education and approvals teams for years, even after she moved to Arizona.  

Fred’s passion for supporting Mickaboo continued even as his health declined, and although he had not attended public events for some time, he provided invaluable back office support to our finance and adminstrative teams behind the scenes. 

We will miss them both and feel their loss keenly in the years to come. It is an honor to have taken back into Mickaboo their remaining birds in need of new homes.


2023 In Numbers

Our intake totals dropped dramatically this year (from 488 to 168) as we have filled every imaginable foster place for a bird and then some. This was exacerbated by our commitment to always take back returning Mickaboo birds (32). Surrender requests have increased; we have 80 documented birds we did not take in this year, and many more inquiries (200+) that did not progress to that stage. We do not have absolute numbers for surrender requests due to the sheer number of them that we receive via multiple channels almost every day. 

Our adoptions decreased (from 238 to 135), in alignment with the decrease in applications since the height of the pandemic (from 298 to 131) - now less than half the total of applications per year vs 2020. This is a return to activity levels closer to 2017-2018 years.

The most notable and drastic changes are in our budgies - we’ve seen a surge in surrender requests for budgies, many of whom were purchased during Covid lockdown, and many of whom were bred in that time, deliberately or not. While we did our best to absorb record numbers of budgie intakes in 2022 (159), this year we have run out of foster space and have only been able to take in more as new additional fosters and adopters have been found (46). Please remember, a budgie is for life, not just a pandemic! 

Behind the budgies, our other unfortunate stand out in the numbers this year is our intake of San Francisco Wild Parrots, also known sometimes as the ‘Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill’. In a typical year we will see 10-15 sick or injured intakes from the Wild Flock. This year we hit 20, with abnormally high numbers of physical trauma, predator attack or injury victims instead of bromethalin poisoning. As all of these birds require medical care, this adds to our costs.

We are also seeing a rise in non-urgent, older big bird surrender requests. 30+ year old amazons, cockatoos and macaws are all waiting for placement as we struggle to find homes prepared to take on these larger, louder birds, who often come with untreated health conditions. Newly-surrendered macaws are now mostly on a waiting list, Mickaboo having taken in only three this year as flagged emergencies, with two adoptions.

Grand Finale - Our 2023 Volunteer Of The Year!

Drumroll, please! 

Our 2023 volunteer of the year is.. Dara Torgerson!

This year Dara has played an invaluable part in multiple rescues and intakes, including being the landing spot for a multi-bird rescue where the health status of the birds was unclear, and we needed space to triage and move the birds to appropriate foster homes. It’s very hard to find people with the skills and capacity to handle these events carefully. Thank you Dara for opening your door to so many birds!

Dara also welcomed back not one, but two conures whose adoptions sadly did not work out in 2023. It is a great relief when a returned bird can re-enter to their original foster home while we find them their true forever home, to provide some welcome reassurance after a double move. 

Dara is a major contributor to our macaw, conure and wild conure teams, actively participates in our virtual adoption fairs, represents Mickaboo at several outreach events each year and also helps manage our Oakland storage unit space. Thank you Dara for being such a fantastic asset to Mickaboo and all our flock! 

Learn more about Dara here:

Gratitude and Closing Thoughts

We move into 2024 with the exciting prospect of launching an updated online class format, extending our online fundraising opportunities further, adding more educational and information content to our social media channels, bringing our new volunteers deeper into the admin teams of the organization, and returning to more in-person events and activities as we move past the era of extended lockdowns and their after effects. 

If you learned of us only recently, Mickaboo is a large and friendly community of bird advocates and carers throughout the greater San Francisco Bay and beyond. Joining us as a foster, adopter or volunteer brings with it a world of resources, knowledge and expertise that is hard to find otherwise in Northern California. We are so much more than a place to find a bird to bring home! We hope you will consider joining us and helping more birds in need find a safe place to land. 

If you are a 10-year-plus veteran of our ranks working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our organization coordinated and operational - thank you from the bottom of my millet jar! It takes a village to do what we do year after year. The seasoned admins at the heart of our daily efforts continue to support us in front and behind the scenes and keep Mickaboo’s heart beating strong. You are the wind beneath our wings - let’s soar into 2024 together!

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