Former city councilman rescues parakeet

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary … No, this is not about a raven, but a parakeet who decided to explore the other side of my condo.”

So begins a letter the Kitsap Sun recently received from bird lover Ellen Bankus of Port Orchard. Bankus, who owns a number of birds, went on to describe the mishap of one “no name” parakeet who got out of his cage in the bedroom, made a beeline for the laundry room and somehow got stuck on the floor behind the water heater. The space behind the appliance was so confined, that even the tiny bird could not find a way out.

Bankus called the Port Orchard Police Department. Kind officers came out to her apartment and spent considerable time “exhausting every know way to get him out to no avail,” Bankus wrote. “I finally accepted the verdict that my parakeet was going to ‘rest in peace’ behind the tank.”

If this were one of those old time serial movies, this is where we’d fade to black, leaving Tweety tied to the railroad tracks.

But look, up in the sky. It’s a bird; it’s a plane. No, it’s Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Olin to the rescue.

Bankus called Olin, remembering his militant advocacy for the city’s Quaker parrots in 2005. This was before my time on the South Kitsap beat, but apparently Olin’s involvement in city government sprang from his interest in a group of parrots that had escaped during transport to a local pet store in 2002 and taken up residence in a cell phone tower near South Kitsap High School.

(The photo here is courtesy of, a blog where Steve Baldwin chronicles the life of urban parrots in New York City.)

The council in 2005 OK’d the extension of the tower, but on the advice of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, required that the tower owner remove the large nest of sticks and trap the birds. The DFW said the birds could cause problems for native wildlife and there were concerns about fire in the tower.

Olin began researching Quaker parrots and found the gregarious birds have a penchant for inhabiting man-man structures. “I know more about parrots than anyone should know,” Olin said, in a recent phone interview. “They come from the highlands of Argentina, which is a moderate climate, so there’s no surprise they can survive here.”

Survive and thrive. Olin estimates at one time there were up to 30 parrots cavorting and entertaining residents in a wide vicinity of the tower. He took it on himself to circulate a petition to save the parrots and allow them to remain free, eventually gathering 1,800 signatures.

“I am not a bird person. I am not a parrot person. I’m just going, ‘It’s not right to do that,'” Olin said.

The outcry about the parrots gathered media attention, with signatures on the online petition coming from 18 foreign countries, 45 states and 61 Washington state communities. The council asked the DFW to reconsider requiring that the parrots be removed.

The DFW pressed its case, however, and attempts to trap and remove the birds went forward in July 2005 … not without resistance from Olin. When sticks from the nest were removed from the tower, they just happened to show up in the back of Olin’s pickup truck, which he planned to park in the area in hopes of providing the birds a new accommodation. None of the birds were captured on the first day.

What wasn’t reported at the time, and what Olin divulged to me is that on the evening of the first capture attempt, he went to the local hardware store and got pounds of millet, which he distributed on rooftops far and wide in the dark of night.

“The next day the trapper came back, there wasn’t a bird in sight. They were all over town,” Olin said, with an audible smirk. Don’t think a smirk can be audible? Trust me, Olin was pleased as punch with himself.

Later, when Clearwire applied to put antennae up on another tower, the council ditched a proposed condition that any nesting birds be removed. Olin was inspired by his civic success to run for city council in 2007. He served 2008 through 2011.

Now back to the parakeet in peril at Bankus’ apartment. Olin sprang into action, making a net out of a mesh orange sack that he fished into the wedge of space behind the water heater. But he was unable to snare the frightened bird. Then Olin got the bright idea to drain the water tank, which he accomplished with a water hose directed off Bankus’ upstairs apartment. The tank empty, Olin was able to move it an inch or so to the side, and “No Name” walked out from behind it as if to say, “What the heck took you so long?”

Bankus now has christened the little, feathery fugitive after his rescuer, “Fred Olin.”

4 thoughts on “Former city councilman rescues parakeet

  1. I honestly can not believe you gave such credit to this man who has done nothing but try to prevent parrot education in our community.

    When the cell phone company came to town wanting to put up a new tower, they first came to our club, the Olympic Bird Fanciers, and asked us what would be the safest and most humane way to accomplish this task of moving the birds. Although we all wanted the birds to stay there we also realized that the city council had already granted them a permit to build their tower.

    We tried working with the cell phone company but at that point Mr. Olin had already created such a fuss that the company felt the need to involve DFW. Had Mr. Olin not drawn so much public attention we could have assisted them in removing the parrots safely and relocated them in an area where there are other flocks.

    The night prior to them tearing down the nest, the millet did nothing. Parrots are not stupid by any stretch of the imagination and once they knew their nest was in peril they simply flew the coop so to speak. It had nothing to do with the millet Mr. Olin claims to have placed on rooftops all over town.

    As far as knowing more than any person should know about parrots is just a big joke. Mr. Olin does not know squat about parrots and does not care about educating the community let alone himself. He has tried to prevent the Olympic Bird Fanciers from holding our meetings at the Active Club in Port Orchard. He has also created so much havoc that we are no longer able to have our parrots there to learn and educate. Mr. Olin is no parrot advocate whatsoever. As far as the Quakers go, Mr. Olin simply used it as a platform to help him get onto the city council. I honestly can’t help but laugh at what an advocate and expert Mr. Olin seems to think he is.

    To Mr. Olin, I would personally like to ask you to please stop and realize that what we do is such a huge community service. If you only realized how many parrots, (just like any pet animals) end up in homes where the owners did not realize what they got into or how to properly handle, train, feed or house these beautiful creatures, then you would not fight us at every turn. We provide many services in educating the public whether part of our club or not. Since when is education a bad thing?

    To Chris Henry, I would like to chastise you for giving Mr. Olin any publicity whatsoever despite what you learned about his efforts to destroy the Olympic Bird Fanciers. Your job to check facts before you publish them was poorly done. All you had to do was go back into records to see how this history actually transpired and you would see that Mr. Olin is simply a self-serving know-it-all.

  2. Make no mistake, this man is no friend of psittacines, that is parrots, for the uninformed like Mr. Olin. I think that Chris Henry was sold a good, but suspect story and unfortunately bought it.

    If Olin was such a good guy and so caring of birds then why didn’t he go to any of the local Olympic Bird Fanciers meetings to find out the real story before trying to take away their rights to use a public space with their birds?

    At the end of this laughable story you might think Mr. Olin was some kind of bird whisperer. I tend to think it is more like the tyrannical banker that works hard to run all the poor people out of town, who is then pictured in the local paper dropping a dime into a homeless man’s hat. Cute, heartwarming, but hardly accurate and certainly not good journalism.

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