Thursday, May 24, 2018
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.

Comments
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 5 hours ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman hit, killed while crossing road in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing N 40th Street near E Hanlon Street on Wednesday night, according to Tampa police.The crash took place just before 8 p.m. The driver was heading north on 40th Street before strikin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Updated: 6 hours ago