COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. --City leaders denied a resident the permit needed to keep all 22 of his beloved, exotic birds.
Lewis Waskey, also known as “Buddy the Birdman,” took his case before Colonial Heights City Council leaders on Tuesday night to ask for a special use permit.
Waskey said his family was surprised to learn earlier this year that Colonial Heights city code classifies birds as companion animals and forbids residents from owning more than four companion animals.
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.
He will now have to find a new place for the majority of his birds, by May 1.
City Council's decision was to uphold the current code, and allow him to keep a total of eight of the birds, four on each of his properties. He was granted a special permit to keep his dog, since he is technically one over the limit of pets allowed.
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.
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 had been taking his Macaws to a field in Prince George County to fly, he said city leaders were 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.
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.”
Waskey fears what will happen to his long-time companions.
“They’re part of our family,” Waskey says. “They’ve all got names and different personalities.”
“These birds have flown ever since they were babies and there are very few of us in the United States that do this," he said. "If somebody else ends up with them, they don’t know how to take care of these birds.”