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Colonial Heights man pleads to keep his beloved exotic birds

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- A Colonial Heights man is pleading with city leaders to keep his beloved exotic birds.

Lewis Waskey, also known as “Buddy the Birdman,” will take his case before Colonial Heights City Council leaders on Tuesday night to ask for a special use permit.

Waskey has been raising large domestic Macaws for more than a decade at his home and adjoining property. He also breeds the birds for conservation efforts and uses them for educational programs in schools and community events.

He brood consists of 22 birds, including several Blue-Throated Macaws, which are listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Act as endangered.

Waskey raises his Macaws as both inside and outdoor pets, and five years ago started training some of the Macaws to fly free on his property and around city parks and school playgrounds.

Buddy the birdman

Buddy the birdman

“They’re part of our family,” Waskey says. “They’ve all got names and different personalities.”

In the spring, Waskey says his family was surprised to learn that Colonial Heights city code classifies birds as companion animals and forbids residents from owning more than four companion animals.

Animal Control officers also informed Waskey that he couldn’t let his birds fly free because city code states that exotic or poisonous animals cannot be at large in the city.

While Waskey now takes his Macaws to a field in Prince George County to fly, he says city leaders are still concerned about the number of birds he owns and the noise levels. Some of Waskey’s neighbors have complained about squawking noises. Waskey says he’s spent thousands of dollars building barriers in the yard and planting several trees to serve as sound buffers.

macaw

Neighbor Ann Hoopsick says she’s been pleased with Waskey’s efforts.

“I always say we’re in the Amazon,” Hoopsick laughs. “It’s a unique sound but to us it’s not bothersome. We have more noise from car stereos than those birds create.”

If council members vote against Waskey, he fears what will happen to his long-time companions.

“My biggest fear is losing the animals,” Waskey says. “These birds have flown ever since they were babies and there are very few of us in the United States that do this. If somebody else ends up with them, they don’t know how to take care of these birds.”