Years ago, it was the keen eye of Michael Bautsch’s younger brother that first caught sight of an abandoned Moluccan cockatoo in the expanse of their New Orleans backyard. With a mixture of curiosity and caution, they set out a dinner plate with an assortment of birdseed they had on hand. The hungry cockatoo, overcoming its hesitation, gingerly stepped onto the plate and, miraculously, onto their father’s shoulder. This pivotal moment, sparked by a child’s discovery and his family’s compassion, marked the beginning of Michael’s lifelong journey rescuing and advocating for countless similar vulnerable birds.
This passion would eventually lead to Mike’s vision to found the Georgia Aviary, a space where the many birds Michael has since rescued and housed in his own home will have room to fly free. This future space is envisioned to encompass 12 acres of sanctuary in North Georgia, blanketed by forest canopy, alive with the calls and colors of its avian residents.
“Our sanctuary is designed to be a global exemplar – not just as a refuge for parrots, but as an educational hub where the community can learn about the importance of conservation and the roles these birds play in our world,” Michael explains.
At the center of the issue that leaves so many of these birds abandoned—the “parrot crisis,” as Michael accurately describes it—is a widespread miseducation around how complex these incredible animals are. They live between 70-100 years, mate for life, often with their chosen human caretaker, recognize and differentiate between different human faces and voices, and can have the emotional intelligence of a human toddler between the ages of 3-5: all devastating realizations of how painful it is for these creatures to be neglected and abandoned. Often, when they are separated from the human they have bonded to, they spend the rest of their lives sick from the loss, plucking their own feathers out, losing weight, and growing increasingly depressed.
Michael takes in as many of these birds as he can fit in his home from a wide variety of places: local veterinarians, an overflowing local rescue, and various contacts throughout the state that know he is one of the only people equipped to care for these animals for the rest of their lives. Many of his rescues greet him when he returns home, say goodbye to him when he leaves for work, and affectionately groom him when perched on his shoulder.
To protect these birds and provide them with the space to live out the happy lives they so ardently deserve, Michael knew he had to meticulously research and plan a facility to serve as their sanctuary. He put together a board of experts to form a nonprofit in February of 2023 by presenting a thorough, 50-page business plan to nonprofit specialists, renowned veterinary researchers from facilities like the University of Georgia, and additional experts on these delicate species.
From this careful combination of love, decades of hard work, and years of specialized research, came forth Michael’s vision for the Georgia Aviary. Epsten Group was deeply fortunate to be chosen as the designer for this space, that, when complete, “will feature state-of-the-art amenities:
- Spacious Aviaries: Designed for the comfort and stimulation of the birds, providing ample space to fly, socialize, and engage in natural behaviors.
- Veterinary Hospital: On-site medical care specializing in avian health, ensuring that each bird receives the attention they need.
- Visitor Center: An immersive experience for guests to learn about parrot species, conservation efforts, and how they can contribute to the cause.
- Event Space: A place for community gatherings, workshops, and celebrations, all in support of our feathered friends.”
The Aviary will be the only facility of its kind in the region, providing these exceptionally intelligent and emotionally intuitive animals with a tailored habitat that ensures the rest of their lives will be filled with the care and comfort they deserve.
“The Georgia Aviary is more than a sanctuary – it’s a movement. Whether you’re a parrot enthusiast, an advocate for wildlife, or simply someone who believes in making a difference, we invite you to join us. Volunteer, donate, or simply spread the word – every action contributes to the wellbeing of our parrots and the health of our planet.
Together, we can ensure that the skies remain filled with the magic of parrots – in all their squawking, soaring, and splendid glory.”
To support Michael, donate to the Aviary, or learn more about his lifelong mission, visit the Georgia Aviary website here.
To learn more about Epsten Group and our Zoo Design services, reach out to us here.