By Scott Meeker
Globe Features Editor
Spike belongs to a species of parrot known as the albino cockatiel, but as Becky Ruble followed the bird's progress around the upper reaches of her living room, she linked him to another kind of feathered friend.
"You're being a turkey!" she said, after several attempts to get her flighty charge back into his cage.
Finally, Ruble coaxed Spike onto her hand, where the bird chirped contentedly and took a few playful nips at her finger.
Though she hasn't had him for too long, it's obvious that there's already a bond formed between Ruble and Spike - one of two cockatiels she has taken in for Parrot Perch Avian Rescue.
Yes, this foster home is strictly for the birds.
Ruble's Joplin home is one of three foster settings set up by Parrot Perch as a place where birds can rest their wings until a new home can be found for them.
"Sometimes, people who have had birds for a long time can no longer take care of them or they need to get rid of them for different reasons," Ruble said. "We want to place them so they'll have a good home."
Parrot Perch doesn't buy or sell birds. In fact, those interested in adopting a bird from the organization must go through an application process and agree to a home visit by a representative from the group.
The application process is designed to find the best match between a bird and a new owner, says Parrot Perch founder Christie Dalman, a Parkville, Mo., resident who said she wants to educate people as much as possible about raising birds.
"So many birds end up in rescue because people see them and think they're pretty, but then can't handle them," Dalman said. "A lot of little birds are even let out into the wild. I just felt the need was great enough to form an organization with standards, guidelines and education."
So far, she said that she has placed 10 birds into foster settings until new owners can be found. The cockatiels that Ruble is currently caring for came from a breeder in the Kansas City-area who was getting out of the business, Dalman said.
When placing the birds, she said there will be several key things she considers.
"I'm looking for, No. 1, do they have any prior bird experience," Dalman said. "I also want to know whether they live in a house or an apartment, if they are established in their home and what their work schedule is. Allergies are another factor."
Dalman said that work schedules are a key issue, as birds can't handle too many hours without any sort of interaction.
There is also an adoption fee, which can range from $300 for larger birds such as a macaw to as little as $5 for finches and other small birds. The fees will be held to help offset any veterinarian expenses or for equipment such as a new cage.
She said that Parrot Perch will also offer free consultations for people interested in finding out more about owning a bird.
"We'd like to educate people before they buy a bird," Dalman said. "And we'll also be able to help them work through any problems they might have after they get the bird."
But until they're placed, the birds that are taken in by Parrot Perch will be assured of a good home in one of the foster settings.
Ruble, who eventually did get Spike to settle back in his cage, says that one thing people should take into consideration before adopting a bird is its potential lifespan.
"Some can live 30 to 50 years or even longer," she said. "You're taking on a big responsibility. You have to realize, this bird's going to be around for a while."
While she has two bird of her own in addition to the foster cockatiels, Ruble said she hopes she has the opportunity to care for some bigger birds, like a macaw.
"I'm looking forward to getting more," she said. "They're very entertaining."
Parrot Perch Avian Rescue has a Web site that is currently under construction. It can be found at www.parrotperchrescue.zoomshare.com. For more information, contact Betty Ruble at 623-5209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.