Anza Avian Refuge!


Two very friendly baby Great Green Macaws. They love to hop on your shoulder and play with your hair. (Please click to enlarge!)

Anza Exotic Birds/Avian Rescue is a bird and animal rescue facility in Anza California. It is owned by Kathleen Willhelm.

Anza, Kathleen, and her bird and animal inhabitants, are all quite fascinating.


Scarlet Macaw. (Please remember to enlarge for optimal viewing!)

Lets’s start with Kathleen. She was a stock broker working on the 80th floor in Manhattan, who decided after 9/11, and the death of friends and co-workers, that stock brokering was no longer for her, and that she was wasting her life. So she pulled up stakes, purchased a 26 acre ranch in Anza California, and started her exotic bird and animal rescue.


Blue Macaw.

She has over 1000 birds.

Many are handicapped, missing feet, parts of their beak, or are blind. Others were relinquished by owners who decided they couldn’t manage their bird. Quite a few of the parrot species survived owners who predeceased them, since parrots have long life spans. Some were scheduled for euthansia. Kathleen is breeding several species of endangered birds.

Many of her birds talk fluently. Most are immensely gregarious, and prone to hop on you when you least expect it, for a friendly visit!

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The rare and highly endangered Golden Conure, AKA Queen of Bavaria. I was enchanted by these birds.

I have been to many bird breeders, stores, refuges, etc., over the years, but I have never seen a collection of such happy, healthy, contented birds. Kathleen is not interested in adopting out her birds unless she screens you and makes sure you are worthy of her birds.

Good for her!


She guarantees that her birds don’t bite and they don’t. This is a no-brainer, because her birds are content.

She hooks new birds up with companion mentor birds. Birds with special needs are not adopted out, but accommodated. She has a team of dedicated volunteers who work in her facility,  and she runs an oncology rehab program, that hooks up elderly Anza cancer patients with rehab birds, who cheer the patients up.

I don’t know about you, but I would chuck being a stock broker in a heartbeat to do what Kathleen does. She rocks!

Check out more of her happy birds.


Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

In my next post I will introduce you to some of the other animals Kathleen has acquired as her rescue reputation has spread.  She has a whole menagerie of happy, well cared for animals, including abandoned doggies, Patagonian Guinea Pigs, Pot Bellied Pigs, two skunks, one named Flower……you get the idea.


This is a baby Sun Conure and a bird I am considering adopting, but not until February of 2014.

Kathleen selected a most interesting area to open her refuge.  Anza is a semi-desert community in an isolated part of California in the San Jacinto mountains, right above the descent down the mountains, into the Mojave Desert. It is located about an hour and a half east of The Holler. “It is estimated that the Cahuilla aboriginal tribes inhabited the area now known as Anza more than 2000 years ago” and first encountered white invaders in 1774.  It is a community of around 4,000 people according to the 2010 census.

Here’s what Wiki says about Anza, “Due to its history and relative isolation for hundreds of years, Anza is dissimilar to many areas in California settled during the same period. The cultural identity of many long-time Anzans exhibits the marked influence of Cahuillan aboriginal culture on the White population, expressed in terms of art and folklore.”

Anza is a wonderful place with interesting residents, like Kathleen.

Oh, and Red Skeleton lived here, in his ranch on Burnt Valley Road.

Reference source:,_California


This is  a Derbyian Parrot, a bird Kathleen recommends for me, as they love to travel!


Moluccan Cockatoo.

For more info on Kathleen and her awesome animal operation check out:

Cheers to you from wonderful Anza, and the cutest baby pot-bellied pigs you will ever have the opportunity to play with!

134 thoughts on “Anza Avian Refuge!

  1. I admire Kathleen for having the courage to set up the place to help the birds and other animals. These are lovely birds and appear to have great personality. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed seeing those incredibly beautiful birds. Wonderful post. Just brilliant color and sweetness. What a fantastic life they all have together, bound by love and devotion. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. 🙂 xxoo

    1. It is exactly what I thought. But she has a tight, small community that helps her, and she radiates that contentment that comes from doing something you really believe in. Cheers to you my friend and the happiest of TG’s!

  3. I love parrots. On holiday in Devon I met one who sat in the tree of an out of the pub. Hidden away he would call “You can’t park here”.

    The same parrot liked to sit on peoples shoulders as they played darts. Simply fascinated by the strange activity.

    Great photos. Enjoyable to see. 🙂

    1. Oh that is too good! “Don’t park here!” Love it! Apparently they have a word apprehension phase where they soak up language. Certain species have more natural ability. I heard of a bird that yelled “stop thief,” everytime someone walked into a store. They also can be quite protective and warn owners of intruders! Amazing creatures~

    1. Those Golden Conures were captivating!! Such personalities and so vocal! I would love to help them reproduce since they are so endangered, and I have a inner-courtyard that would make a perfect aviary. The birds would be outside with plants, but totally protected!!!

  4. What a wonderfully heart warming story, Cindy, and your photos burst with life and personality! I don’t have a particular affinity for birds but I could fall in love with some of these guys. (and I’m still smiling at you singing Vida 🙂 )

  5. I saw and read this yesterday, Cindy, and what this woman is doing is absolutely wonderful. Animals respond and react to spicial people like that because they can feel the love, and don’t have a sense of fear around them. She is their angel. ~Hugs~

  6. The birds are beautiful I love their vibrant colors!! That is so kewl she pulled up stakes and is living her dream!! Awesome pics Cindy!! Hugz Lisa and Bear

  7. Ms. Willhelm is doing such wonderful work! And your photos of the birds capture their beauty and personality so vividly. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to your next post!

  8. What a wonderful person, wonderful story, and wonderful birds. My best wishes to her for her continued success, and thanks, Cindy, for bringing her animals to our attention. Love them.

  9. How wonderful! The birds are beautiful, like flowers, their colors are so vibrant, sweet little things. Thank you for stopping by my blog! I will be following your wonderful blog, how exciting to travel and see so many things!

  10. my grand”bird” is a scarlet Macaw, she is not happy in her environment, she has plucked all her feathers, my son has taken her to several Vets.. she still seems to want to be featherless. Just saw her today, she is a character and a half. You have some great pictures there. thanks for sharing. Can you also send me a link to the WP fix person ..thanks.

    1. Owning a macaw is beyond my skill and confidence level with birds. They are stunning but they do require expertise and lots of attention. Plucking is a problem with bored birds, sounds stressful for your son as well. Its a good cautionary note for anyone considering owning a bird like this. The person who is communicating with me at wp is named Zandy and the only address I have is the generic:

      Still do send them your concerns and hopefully they will answer you. Please let me know how it goes! May the force be with you!

  11. First, Cindy, what a beautiful job of photography. The birds are gorgeous. Second, you have to love the folks who devote their lives caring for animals. We have a sanctuary for farm animals about a quarter of a mile from where we live. Very different, and yet the same. Good blog. –Curt

  12. Pingback: Anza Avian Refuge! | Inion N. Mathair

  13. Hi Cindy: As usual incredible job with the photo’s. On another note, we’ve been dying to introduce you to our networking friends & share your beautiful pictures!! We’ve hosted your blog on our website: Two Voices One Thought. If you have a chance, swing by & see the post dedicated to your website. If your too busy we can certainly understand as we sprung it on you quickly & just wanted to let you know we we’re sharing your blog!! Either way, thank you once again for sharing your amazing talent with us & the world!!

  14. Liebe Cindy das ist ja eine Farbennpracht ein Ara schöner als der andere super Foto und sie sind alle wunderschön einen schönen Sonntag wünsche ich dir Klaus

  15. As a child, I lived opposite a most eccentric woman who used to let her sulphur-crested cockatoo fly about outside. It could differentiate between types of visitors and divebomb the unwanted ones. Luckily for me, I was one of those who were welcome, or I’d probably have everlasting pockmarked bald patches on my head left as war wounds.

    1. Hilarious! I was gobsmacked in Australia. These birds were everywhere in the thousands. I want to go back!! So incredible to see them wild and free in flocks! Saw the Macaws the same way in the Amazon. Amazing Amazon!

    1. Yes they are just gorgeous and have these funny, charming personalities to go with their good looks. They are VERY vocal and it is hilarious! Cheers to you & thank you too!

  16. In our local culture, people who have big noses shaped like the beak of a parrot are said to be very flirtatious. I wonder where the local Chinese folks got the idea! 😀

    1. The thought of parents sharing my posts with their children, is really one of the major reasons I blog. The natural world is only fully appreciated by a child who hasn’t had a chance yet to be limited yet by education/socialization.Tell your boy, the truth of the world is beyond magical, it is factually, miraculous.
      Thank you btb.
      This comment made my day.

  17. OM ! Cindy,my friend,what a fascinating parade of bird portraits ! All of them are so beautiful with gorgeous motley plumages !!! Have you finally adopted any of them ! I would love to have one !!!
    Big hugs and love ♥ , Doda 🙂

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