Words by Abi Scaife
“I never thought about anything else except birds.”
Rosemary Low’s whole life has been about birds. From the pets she adored, to the creatures she looked after during her conservation efforts in the Canary Islands, her life can be mapped by the thousands of birds she has known and cared for.
“I have been passionately involved with birds since I was five years old,” says Rosemary. “It was a pet duck that I pushed around in a doll’s pram!”
While Rosemary has had, at one time, owned over 80 birds between her home and her aviary, she truly believes that a smaller group is the way to go. That way, she says, you can foster deeper connections - like the one she had with her Yellow-crowned Amazon.
“Her name was Lito,” Rosemary says of the parrot she holds closest to her heart. “She was an important part of my life for 37 years and the parrot with whom I had the strongest bond.
“If anyone sang along to a song on the radio Lito would join in, usually very much out of tune. She had a good sense of melody and really enjoyed melodic songs. I think she would not have approved of today’s pop music! She died in 2006. I miss her still.”
Throughout her life, Rosemary has been many things - a journalist, an author, a researcher, a charity founder and a conservationist. Her work for various charities and conservation centres has raised thousands of pounds for the preservation and protection of endangered species of birds around the globe.
“A world without birds would be unthinkable,” says Rosemary. “We need them: the most visible of all the creatures around us, to remind us that we are not the only creatures on this planet.”
From deforestation and climate change to the introduction of non-native predators and poaching, the last few hundred years have not been kind to the birds of the world.
According to BirdLife International’s ‘State of the World’s Birds’ Report 2022, 49% of bird species worldwide have a declining population, while 21.9% are listed as “of significant conservation concern”.
BirdLife International found that there are between 21 and 32 bird species that would have gone extinct without the help of conservation work like that Rosemary has performed throughout her lifetime.
Rosemary has travelled extensively as part of her work protecting birds, including spending nearly eight years in the Canary Islands working as a curator of two separate collections of parrots. First, in Loro Parque and later in Palmitos Park, Rosemary lived on-site, often hand-rearing hatchlings whose parents could not care for them.
“Parrots are highly sentient and intelligent and their emotional needs are as important as their practical ones,” explains Rosemary. “They need to be treated as individuals."
Alongside her work as a conservationist, Rosemary has penned hundreds of articles and scientific papers to the conversation surrounding birds and their protection. She has also written the most books one person has ever written on parrots (dead or alive) - a whopping 33!
She worked with The World Parrot Trust, helping founder Mike Reynolds set up the trust in 1989. The World Parrot Trust is a science-based conservation charity dedicated to parrot welfare. Today, she lends her support to different charities including BirdLife International, and the Instituto Arara Azul, which Rosemary supports personally. Through the Instituto Arara Azul, you can sponsor a nest box for Hyacinth Macaws, many of which have cameras installed so you can check up on the chicks inside.
Rosemary firmly believes that parrot keepers should make an effort to support conservation efforts. “There are so many projects and never enough funding, especially at this time when household budgets are causing serious cuts in charity donations.”
Rosemary’s most recent book, Female Heroes of Bird Conservation, is available for purchase online.
“This book shines a spotlight on more than 30 of these female heroes. It encourages women to be inspired by their stories and to make their own contributions to saving wonderful feathered creatures from extinction.”