A Personal Tribute to Liz Wilson

We lost Liz Wilson, my cherished friend, on April 13th. I should have written this days ago, but I alternate between tears and yelling at Liz for being so quiet.  She and I had some kind of dialog, almost every day.  Even if it was via email, I could hear her voice. Those of you that have heard Liz speak know what I mean.  Her voice was unique, strong, honest, and she had a gift for satire which could disarm you if you didn’t know her well.

Liz 12.04
(Liz Lecturing at a Phoenix Landing Event, December 2004)

Over the years I’ve met many people who had their views shaped by a simple truth spoken in raw honesty by Liz.  Since she was dedicated to the life of the parrot, she was not patient with those who thought a situation was all about them, or that they did something right and the parrot did it wrong.  That’s a good thing, parrots need this kind of advocate, someone who doesn’t dance around the edges of the hard issues.  Parrots often pay the price for our stupidities, and Liz was bound and determined to help people get ahead of those.  For the parrot’s sake.

Liz was ahead of her time, she was a pioneer.  As the market for parrots as pets was really taking off, she along with a few others tried to make a difference for the many birds now in homes.  Liz dedicated her life to understanding what it means to be a parrot in captivity.  Caring well for parrots was no easy task then, it’s no easy task now.  Did she always get it right?  Of course not, do you?  We are all learners.  We are all teachers.  However, Liz put her whole heart and soul into it, always seeking to learn something new and to do a better job.  She tried damn hard to make sure the rest of us made an effort too.  To those of you who left Liz’s side when something newer came along, yours is the greater loss.

I never stopped learning from Liz and her breadth of hands-on experience.  How many of us can say we lived with the same parrot for over 40 years?  Most people give up after a few short years, sometimes after only weeks or months.  At Phoenix Landing, we rehome adopted parrots again and again; mostly because people – good people – can’t find the time, money or interest to stick it out longer.   Sam, Liz’s blue and gold macaw, is over 60 now.  There’s no doubt they had some ups and downs in their relationship, and faced the usual challenges of compatibility between two species, human and parrot.  I hope some of us will be lucky enough to live up to this legacy with our parrots, what a remarkable accomplishment by Liz.  I cannot imagine how Sam is feeling now, she probably has the same empty hole in her heart that I do.

Liz Whispering to Sam
(Liz Whispering to Sam
Photo Courtesy of Morgan Henderson, April 2013)

Lastly, up until her final days, Liz was a treasure to Phoenix Landing.  Joining our Board of Directors in 2004 as our Education Vice President, she was a steady and invaluable advisor.   She knew how to cut to the heart of difficult issues or decisions, she was my constant sounding board for ideas or problems, and most of all she was an unwavering friend.  No matter how contentious a discussion or challenging a situation, I KNEW we were the best of friends and that our relationship was never at stake.  Everyone should be so lucky to have such a genuine friend.

Liz and Wendy 2008
(Liz and Wendy Huntbatch from the World Parrot Refuge
Board Meeting 2008)

Liz, I really don’t know yet what we are going to do without you, you will be forever missed.   But I promise you, we will always put the birds first, and we will do our best to promote education in your honor and good name.   Love always to you and all the parrots now by your side.

Liz and Ann 2003
(Liz and Ann, March 20o3)

15 thoughts on “A Personal Tribute to Liz Wilson

  1. Ann, I have not yet been able to put my thoughts into written words, what you have written is beautiful. Thank you Love Barbara


  2. Thanks, Ann, for your lovely tribute to Liz. When she lived in PA, she and my Noble, Macaw, Tory, visited her a couple of times a year for grooming and I always enjoyed a lively conversation with her. I still can’t belive that she is no longer with us, lending her wisdom to the parrots who need her so much.


  3. Liz just didn’t realize how far her personality reached out to others. Along with her invaluable knowledge and experience with parrots, her delightful humor would erupt laughter during Board meetings. She will be greatly missed.


  4. What a wonderful tribute, Ann. No doubt she felt the same about you, especially with your common bond of dedicating your lives to the nurturing of parrots in captivity and in the wild. Her experience and wisdom reached far into the avian world, for the parrots as well as their human companions. Most of us would think ourselves lucky to have even a small impact on the betterment of the world. Hers was considerable. Never fear – she will be watching over you and guiding your way. As for those holes in our hearts, they are what give us the space to expand our love to those people and creatures already in our lives, and welcome those yet to come.


  5. Thanks for the wonderful tribute, Ann.Liz was a great guardian for parrots everywhere. I know without her wisdom, advice, wit and straight forward, to the point voice, I would have failed as a parrot guardian. But I always knew if I posted a question on the Phoenix Landing Yahoo group, she helped me look at a problem in a new way and find the solution.


  6. For the average pet bird owner and for their pet birds, Liz has probably contributed more to comprehensive pet bird care over the longest period of time than any other pet bird expert.

    Her feet were firmly grounded in the science, the medical, the experiential, the practical, and the theory (how many feet did she really have?) of pet bird care and behavior.

    She had the phenomenal ability of an accomplished teacher to impart this multifaceted knowledge and experience in terms that us plain folks could grasp and implement and lovingly rap our knuckles along the way.
    She also had the ability to assimilate and distill the ever evolving and growing body of knowledge of pet bird care and behavior and pass it along in practical terms to the whole spectrum of breeders, sellers, veterinarians, technicians, care givers, and owners. That enriched the lives of people and contributed immeasurably to the quality of life for pet birds.

    Bobbie and I and, most importantly, Lucy (Blue Front), Pepper (Blue Front), Jazzy (Blue and Gold) and Harley (Blue and Gold), are ever indebted to Liz. We say thank you very much.


  7. Ann, you’ve captured so much of Liz’s legacy perfectly, but what you said about how quiet it is now without her in our lives brought tears again. What a friend she was to us and especially to her beloved parrots. I miss her more than I can say.


  8. My wife and I will always be grateful to Liz for her expert advice that help us improve and enrich the life of our African Grey, Ronnie. She always spoke highly of Phoenix Landing. Two years ago I was diagnosed with a serious lung condition. The lung specialist strongly recommended that I get rid of Ronnie or else… Right away I new what was the right thing to do. I placed Ronnie for adoption with Phoenix Landing. Ronnie is doing great with her new family! I will be eternally grateful to Liz for what she did for Ronnie and so many other bids. God bless you Liz!


  9. I am touched by your comments, Ann. Liz was truly wonderful in her honest and objective commentary on the pl group. I wonder how many others like me also benefitted from her private emails and advice that were so freely offered. I personally treasured her advice and support when Arrow (my ekkie) and I were living out of my car during a particularly challenging time in my life. She encouraged me and supported me and reminded me just how resilient both Arrow and I were (and are). And she was right… We will miss her uncanny wit and remember her always.


  10. I knew Liz for about 15 years. I will miss her a lot. We didn’t see each other much but we communicated by e-mail and Facebook. The world is a little dimmer without her light shining…RIP Liz.


  11. Liz was the one person I was always confident in referring to and have credited her repeatedly for her comment ” you don’t date the maid “. She so well understood the complexity of the avian mind. Liz was a great lady.


  12. I will miss Liz so very much, her ability to know how to help with any problem you may be having and her years of experience and unmatched knowledge will never be forgotton. You could not see Liz anywhere, anytime, or any place and not learn something from her. I first met Liz many years ago at a Seminar where I was a new pet bird owner. I learned so much from her and longed for the next opportunity to see her and learn more. Liz will be missed by all human and feather. We are fortunate to have her on film so she can continue to teach us all. Luv ya Liz RIP


  13. I never met Liz, bit this still brought tears to my eyes because I get who she was for pparrots from this tribute. Who has Sam these days? My heart hurts for Sam too.


  14. Hi Debbie, thanks for your comments. Sam is with David, Liz’s husband and partner of many years. He and Sam are working to find their way together, and they know we are here to help in any way, if needed. Liz always hoped she would go first, although Sam has had some medical challenges in recent years also.


  15. Ann, I know I sent this to you privately, but I also wanted others to know what an inspiration Liz was to our family.

    I saw Dr. Frank a few weeks ago (my son is in theater with Dr. Frank’s wife) and meant to email you sooner. My daughter had surgery April 22 (2 days after I saw him) and I completely forgot!
    Dr. Frank told me that we had lost Liz Wilson & I wanted to share something with you. Several years ago I took Liz’s online course on Parrot Behavior. The skills I learned were invaluable in dealing with the birds that we had the privilege of fostering. But there is more. It also helped me to salvage a relationship with my mother that had been difficult since I was young. Without Liz, I would not have been blessed with having my mom as my friend as well. But, again, there’s more! We have been through some very challenging times over the last few years. You know that I lost my dad in 2009. After his death, I retreated inside of myself for about 2 years. When I finally emerged, we were on the verge of losing our daughter. The journey to reconnect with her has been very difficult…but it would have been impossible without Liz. You see the tools and skills she taught in her class made it possible for me to save many relationships, my mom, daughter, son, husband & friends. I wish with all of my heart that I had thought about sending this email to her. But I didn’t. So I’m sending it to you. So that someone will know what a profound impact her life had to someone as insignificant as lil ole me. She was an amazing and gifted woman. The world has truly lost one of the great ones. I just hope that her lessons will live on in others. I know they will within me. Today I have wonderful relationships with those that I love the most because of what she taught those who were lucky enough to learn from her. Thank you for the opportunity to interact with her. Without you and the many birds that we loved for a little while, we would never have known about Liz or had the chance to learn & grow. For that my family & I will be forever grateful.


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