Friday, November 17, 2017
News Roundup

'Captain Tut' provided safe harbor for neglected parrots


ST. PETERSBURG — The location feels unlikely, the result of some misunderstanding or Mapquest gone haywire. No way the Pinellas Suncoast Parrot Sanctuary could be located on a closely packed residential street.

But pull up alongside 4130 Queen St. N, and the cacophony of shrieks, warbles and trills makes it clear: This is the place.

Old palm fronds cover a large cage in the driveway. Exotic birds roam freely, including macaws, cockatoos and African greys. But for Robert Barrett, a crusty avian specialist better known as Captain Tut, many of the 75-plus birds here might not have survived. Instead they have outlived their owner, as parrots often do.

Mr. Barrett, a certified avian specialist and self-styled pirate who educated the public about the needs of exotic birds, died July 10, nearly two weeks after a fall at his home. He was 59.

His birds have ridden on the handle bars of his Harley choppers, attracted crowds at Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios. Silly Willie, a rainbow lorikeet, played Hulk Hogan's buddy in McCinsey's Island, a forgettable 1998 movie. Captain Tut had also co-hosted a national radio show, Talkin' Pets, and created the long-running Captain Tut's Pirate Parrot Show at Sunken Gardens, where he served as assistant zoo director.

The gigs brought him more fame than money. Mostly they brought him birds. People who had seen Mr. Barrett on the Animal Planet or giving talks at a Petland store consulted him about their bird problems.

"He could read them," said his cousin Mary Olsen, 61. "A lot of people can't look at a bird and tell if it's going to bite them or not. He could walk up and confidently reach out and put his hand out."

Visiting with owners gave him a chance to teach. "He'd say, 'You need to have it out of the cage. This is what the bird needs, this is what the bird's trying to tell you,' " Olsen said.

Robert Louis Barrett was born in St. Petersburg in 1953. He graduated from Dixie Hollins High and served two years in the Marine Corps. A string of adventuresome jobs followed. Mr. Barrett worked as a diver helping Pinellas County build artificial reefs. He captained boats.

He earned a degree in veterinary technology and multiple certifications in avian studies.

He was married and divorced.

In 1995 Mr. Barrett suffered head injuries after a car turned in front of his motorcycle. After that, he sometimes struggled with words. He returned to what is now St. Petersburg College, relearning things he had forgotten.

Rescue birds kept coming his way. Sometimes it was a concerned veterinarian who called. Other times it was Pinellas County Animal Control. Someone had been evicted, or was moving.

"People don't understand" the life expectancy, said Freda Linde, 59, Mr. Barrett's fiancee. "They think, 'Okay, 10 to 12 years, like a dog or a cat. And here this animal is going to live 40, 50, 60 years."

Mr. Barrett was caring for at least one bird older than himself: Mr. Magoo, a scarlet macaw once photographed tilting back a can of Budweiser in its beak, was born in 1949.

Mr. Barrett established the Pinellas Suncoast Parrot Sanctuary as a nonprofit corporation five years ago. It is a symphony of unusual sounds.

"The African greys here will (mimic) the phone," Linde said. "They will do the cellphone; they'll knock on the door; they'll clap like an audience."

The parrots noticed the commotion June 30, when Mr. Barrett was discovered unconscious.

"They knew something happened when the emergency vehicles came," Linde said. "And they're not seeing him anymore. That's another thing."

The Pinellas Suncoast Parrot Sanctuary is seeking donations or land to relocate the sanctuary.

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

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Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 28 minutes ago

Region football: Ocala Vanguard 35, Mitchell 31

NEW PORT RICHEY — The start wasn’t quite befitting of a playoff game between undefeated teams, but the end of Friday’s war between Ocala Vanguard and Mitchell certainly was.Like last year’s Class 6A regional semifinal, the Mustangs held a three-point...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

ZEPHYRHILLS — For Zephyrhills, Friday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Green Cove Springs Clay was doomed by 12 bad minutes. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime but allowed 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and were not able ...
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Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood came into Friday’s playoff game knowing its defense had to help control field position against Jesuit. The Spartans (9-1) left Friday’s game with a ticket to Immokalee for a region final — and six Tigers (6-5) turnovers en r...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region football: Tampa Bay Tech 42, Palmetto 26

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Region football: Cambridge Christian 50, Indian Rocks Christian 14

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Region football: Naples 24, Largo 0

NAPLES — In a game between two teams that had never met with a lot on the line, the Naples defense came up with one of its best efforts against Largo on Friday night.The Golden Eagles limited the Packers to 117 yards of offense in a 24-0 triumph in t...
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Updated: 1 hour ago