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Our History

Under My Wing Avian Refuge had its beginnings in 2006 when its founder, Paula N Ashfield, began taking in some birds from the local community in Franklin, NJ. Discovering that she had a natural talent for handling these little creatures, she opened her own bird care center which she named The Cherished Nest. Birds brought here were groomed, bathed, had their nails clipped, and enjoyed time out of their cages. The length of their visits varied – some were brought in for only a few hours – others were left for several days or weeks, depending on their owners’ needs. Before long, a number of locals began asking Paula to keep their birds permanently. At that point, Paula decided to change the nature of her business from a care center to a rescue for unwanted and mistreated birds.

Among the first birds Paula rescued was a cockatiel named TJ who, at age 15, is still thriving at the refuge. Then, in January 2007, Lance arrived. An Umbrella cockatoo, Lance was surrendered because of the abusive behavior of a member of his owner’s family. At that time, he was very aggressive, but with Paula’s love, patience, and excellent socializing skills, he became the sweet bird he is today (if one doesn’t consider his predilection for biting bare toes). Soon, Paula and her husband Scott found themselves rescuing birds from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.

In August 2007, a Moluccan cockatoo named Aldo was surrendered. Like many other surrendered birds, he had been neglected by his owner and was suffering from multiple health issues; these included an untreated 6-year-old leg fracture, an infection, and liver problems. Once at the rescue, Aldo received proper veterinary care and was carefully monitored by the staff. However, his condition deteriorated rapidly and at the last of several emergency visits to an animal hospital he was pronounced critical. Aldo was brought home to the rescue where he died later that day with his head under his wing.

Upon Aldo’s death the rescue was restructured as a sanctuary to accommodate the needs of those exotic birds that clearly require special care and permanency. In honor of Aldo the sanctuary was named Under My Wing Avian Refuge.

In November 2007 Under My Wing Avian Refuge was registered as a New Jersey nonprofit corporation and in May 2009 it was recognized as a 501 c3 nonprofit organization.

The objectives of this organization were to

  • be a “no-kill” exotic bird sanctuary
  • aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of abused and abandoned exotic birds
  • safeguard exotic birds from becoming extinct
  • provide humane care and treatment for exotic birds needing protection in the area served by the organization
  • seek to return lost birds to their owners
  • seek suitable homes for the adoptable birds without owners

The task of settling in on the new property the Ashfield's purchased for the refuge in March of 2010  was not easy. Along with meeting the many township requirements for receiving a certificate of occupancy and the personal cost of bringing the property up to codes came a series of tremendous setbacks: a heart attack suffered by Mr. Ashfield in August, a furnace puff-back 3 months later that sent soot throughout the house, including the birds’ quarters, and on completion of the needed renovations - flood and wind damage from Hurricane Irene hit hard in August 2011.

Miraculously, however, not a single bird was lost due to either the puff-back or the hurricane’s damage. Moreover, the many financial, physical, and emotional struggles had not been in vain. Through their own extraordinary efforts and the unceasing help of their Board members, volunteers and financial supporters the Ashfields are finally extant to the kind of sanctuary they had envisioned.

Memories of Storm Sandy in 2012 have left no untouched life in New Jersey. Under My Wing Avian Refuge was able to assist with temporary bird care for families who needed to relocate to temporary shelter and those who were left with no electricity, others who just needed to re-establish their life’s without the concern of caring for their birds.

Welcoming 2013 and all the newness a new year can bring and embracing the recuperation from the devastation of yet another natural disaster. Late in 2013 was able to to admit new birds for lifetime care and find several homes for the adoptable birds.

Under My Wing is continually progressing in its growing stages and looking forward to continually sharing the numerous activities with you in 2014 and as the years unfold.

Paula's Story is one of a "Lead a Rare Life" Story. Please Vote for her Award and Contest.




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