New bird brings outdoors inside for McKeesport care facility residents

| Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 1:28 p.m.

For a couple years, there was a need for a female pin-tailed whydah in the bird collection at John J. Kane Regional Center in McKeesport.

That request was fulfilled when the Joyful Bloomers Garden Club of McKeesport donated the small songbird to the facility. President Joanne Welch said the gift ties in with the group's theme this year, “Birds, Blooms and Butterflies.”

“We stopped to look at the birds and saw they wanted a female for the male because he was lonely,” she said. “We decided to buy the bird for them because we meet here and they have been very nice to us.”

The garden group plants and cares for the flowers in Kane's courtyard, but wanted to do something extra.

“Not all the residents can get outside to see the flowers,” Welch said. “The birds are something that those who don't go outside can enjoy.”

Finding the bird was no easy task. Welch said she searched online for the bird and was able to find one in the state of Washington. It made an overnight journey to Kane, arriving about a week ago.

The newcomer is easy to spot — she's the only one with a white stripe on its head.

The latest addition to the aviary in the facility's lobby has been the center of attention for residents, employees and guests.

Justine Coates, director of nursing at the center, said the birds “give the residents an activity. They come down here and sit and watch them. This is just great for our residents.”

Assistant nursing director Linda Kinney said some residents enjoy watching the birds because they are so lively. “This is a real pastime for them. They like watching the birds with their family, who also enjoys them. This is great for everyone.”

The aviary is taken care of by first-floor housekeeper Laureen Gordon, who has had parrots for many years. “I clean the cage every day after work. It's something I enjoy.”

Gordon will not say how many birds are in the aviary, but a larger “home” was needed a few years ago. The large aviary was a gift from Community Life in McKeesport.

“I heard about their cage and asked about it,” Gordon said. “When Charlene (Yoder) came here as administrator, she made the arrangements for us to get the cage. They donated the cage with a couple birds.”

Birds have been a mainstay at the McKeesport center for about 10 years. Before the acquisition of the larger cage, smaller ones housed the facility's feathered residents.

Recreation director Ken Schmigel said the birds offer residents “a peaceful place to come to” throughout the day. He said there are a couple smaller cages throughout the facility, including the home of Willie the Bird on the second floor where Paul Pichura is nursing supervisor and Willie's caretaker.

The 8-year-old love bird was born at Kane and is popular with the residents. “They will come up here on their own and interact with Willie,” Pichura said, as his feathered friend perched on his shoulder.

“If the birds make someone's time here more comfortable then it's worth it,” Gordon said. “When you look at their faces when they are watching the birds it's great. They will sit around the cage and watch them for hours.”

Resident Cathy Chute said she likes the birds' colors and loves “to watch their flight,” while Rita DeFelice likes everything about the feathered creatures, referring to the yellow canaries as “beautiful.”

“They are very pretty and very active,” Alveria Johnson said.

Anna Cmar said she enjoys watching “these little creatures fly back and forth,” which brings back memories of the bird feeders she had at home.

For Kevin Dwyer, the canaries make his day. “They are extremely beautiful singers. At night when I'm watching TV the male canaries are singing and it is exquisite.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or

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