Geri Wissinger has a mission … to introduce children to an appreciation of our feathered friends. “There’s too much in life that falls by the wayside,” says Wissinger. “We’ve paved everything over,” which affects the bird’s habitat, she explains. “Many birds are born deformed. I’m afraid that birds may one day become extinct.”
As a first-time author of the children’s book, “Little Peepers”, the East Dallas writer and nature enthusiast has successfully combined her altruistic desires with her ability as an artist, creating a delightful book for bird lovers of all ages.
Wissinger considers herself an amateur artist, but to the many who own a Geri watercolor or pastel drawing of their pet, she
Is a master. Expressing her passion about birds, and combining it with her illustrations, was a labor of love. Wissinger is “thrilled” to have the little board book in major bookstores.
But, more importantly, she says, is the opportunity it provides to reach children, “ . . . to teach children to value birds.” Since the book was released last year, Wissinger has appeared at local bookstore signings, and she has presented readings for school children at the Dallas Arboretum.
Her appreciation of birds came about when she began, about nine years ago, working at A&B Animal Clinic (on Garland Road) as a veterinarian’s assistant. As the clinic takes in and treats ill or injured birds, she began a journey that would lead to a lifelong passion. “My experience with birds has been absolutely delightful. I’ve learned so much from them,” Wissinger explains.
Wissinger has owned dogs and cats in the past, but her personal experience with owning a bird came about six years ago when she first got Sydney, a cockateel that had been left at the clinic. “It’s really amazing how birds can bond and communicate with people,” she says. “Sydney’s pretty old,” she says. “He sleeps 22 out of 24 hours. The average life span of a cockateel is about 20 years.”
Adelaide, Wissinger explains, is a much younger cockateel, “a very active and aggressive bird,” which is obvious as he climbs his cage, squawking for attention. “He was found by a mailman.”
Cockateels, a species of Australian parrot, grow quickly so it’s hard to tell a young bird from an older one. “I’m trying to teach Adelaide to talk, but it may be too late. Like people, there may be a window of opportunity when a bird can learn to talk,” she says.
Wissinger believes that all birds are different, “ . . . they all have their own personalities and needs.” She hopes to have met one need by introducing children to the wonder of these fragile creatures we call our feathered friends.
WILD BIRD TIPS
* To attract sparrows, cardinals, doves, and chickadees put out seed feeders. All birds eat fruit, bread, and meal worms (which can be bought at a pet store). Nuts, such as peanuts, pecans, and walnuts will attract crows, blue jays, mockingbirds, and robins.
In the winter, put suet out, the high content of fat will help keep them warm.
And always, provide water in a birdbath, especially critical in our hot summers.
* To try to eliminate birds, especially the annoying ones like the starling and brown headed crows, you can try hanging an artificial owl (one that appears to move) to discourage their stopover in your yard. Or, try hanging a rubber snake from a tree. The owl and snake are a bird’s natural predators. Just remember, these items keep all birds away.
* And if you find a bird egg or a baby bird that has fallen out of a tree, place it back in the nest. The old wives tale that a mother bird will not go back to the nest if a human has touched it, or the egg, is just that — an “old wives tale.” The most important thing is to the place the egg or bird in a box and to keep it warm with a light or rags, and to feed it regularly. Bird formula can be bought at any pet supply store. When ready to have the bird test its wings, release it in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Wissinger advises parents to teach children about birds as part of the awareness and appreciation we want them to have about nature, and to utilize springtime as the opportunity to show them baby birds in their natural habitat. And, if the need occurs, to model community care and concern for our feathered friends.
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