Meet Darby

By Leslie Crane Rugg   |   April 19, 2022
Meet the resilient and expressive Darby

Impulse. Illogic. Emotionalism. These human qualities are the ones not to rely on when considering an exotic animal as a pet. Exotics may be beautiful, talented, and rare, but they are also living creatures – not commodities or toys. Too often they are kept captive at the whimsy and even cruelty of their owners, looking for something to satisfy their own egos.

Take, for example, this little naked chick named Darby. She’s actually a Goffin’s, the smallest of the cockatoo species. Now in the care of the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary, adorable Darby should have been cherished for the sweet funny bird she could be. Yet for the first 10 years of her life, she was subjected to inhuman treatment, owned by two people who fed her junk food humans shouldn’t eat, and poured beer, wine, and liquor in her water bowl. Truthfully, it’s a wonder that Darby survived; she was a stressed-out habitual feather-picker, never in her right mind. 

What saved her was being passed to a couple with more sense and sensitivity. They fed her properly and gave her positive attention. She responded by growing full plumage, singing, bouncing, and displaying cockatoo happiness for 14 years. Then the couple divorced. Darby went to live with someone else who lacked bird care skills. Darby became angry, resorted to feather-picking again, and often bit the new owner. This arrangement ended when the divorced wife, missing Darby, came to visit her after a few years. 

Seeing the bird so miserable prompted the woman to bring Darby to the Sanctuary where she has remained ever since, winning everyone’s hearts. Some of her feathers have grown back, but Darby’s beauty shines from her cheerful spirit. Nothing is sweeter than seeing her reach out a claw to hold onto a child’s finger. She still has a mind of her own and makes her preferences known. After what she’s been through, she’s entitled to express herself. Displaying her crown-like crest and showing her wings, bedraggled as they may always be, endears her to all visitors who learn her history. 

The emotional cost to a bird like Darby is heavy. The Sanctuary’s cost to provide true quality of life is measured in dollars and cents. The price per bird per year – including on-site care and food, grooming, and caging/aviary needs – averages $5,000. Veterinary visits and emergencies add another cost factor. With 50 parrots populating the Sanctuary, the annual base need is $250,000, not including overhead costs. Since the Sanctuary exists through grants and donations, fundraising is a monumental concern. Regardless, the Sanctuary’s mission prioritizes each bird. African grey or Amazon, caique or conure, cockatoo or macaw, each is special with its own story, history, personality, talents, quirks, and needs.  

To support Darby and all her Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary feathered friends, visit 2430 Lillie Avenue in Summerland, call for a tour (805) 969-1844, email, and check out,,, and


You might also be interested in...