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Art for the Birds

By Vincent Hrovat


"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul . . . ."   --Emily Dickinson

There's no denying that feathers are both beautiful and useful. Besides providing our birds with insulation, buoyancy, color, protection and aerodynamic prowess, they are gorgeous and intriguing - veritable works of art to us humans. Like snowflakes, no two of them are quite the same, and their colors, textures and shapes defy words.  It’s unfortunate that this beauty has become a liability for the many species of exotic and domestic birds which are hunted, bred, raised and slaughtered for their feathers.

Tania wears her own
creations almost everywhere
she goes, as they give her a chance to educate people
about bird rescue.

Most Mickaboo foster and adoptive homes have no shortage of feathers from molting birds. Over the years, most of these have ended up in vacuum cleaners or trash bins, with a few saved off in scrapbooks as mementos. Recently, however, a thoughtful and creative volunteer saw an opportunity to put these feathers to good use while making money for the rescued birds that produced them.

Tania Tengan is a birdkeeper, animal rescuer, mother, artist, and Mickaboo volunteer. As founder and proprietor of Art for the Birds, Tania produces cruelty-free feather art suitable for personal or home adornment. Tania gets most of her naturally-molted feathers from Mickaboo volunteers, and donates a portion of her sales to Mickaboo.

This distinctive hair clip shows how even cut or broken feathers can be made into beautiful art

Tania got started with companion birds with her own severe macaw, Kaiya, who she’s had since he was hand-feeding. She came to realize the importance of bird rescue a few years after that when she saw an African Grey who had not adjusted well to his human companion after a change in her appearance due to chemotherapy and who had nowhere else to go.  Since then, she’s made sure that her son and daughter are comfortable with her birds and will be willing and able to take care of them if the need ever arises. Still, Tania was aware that a lot of companion birds lose their caretakers for many different reasons and need someone to care for them.

More recently, Tania heard about Mickaboo when she met a volunteer who was transporting a rescued cockatoo and stopped to talk to him. She felt an immediate affinity and a desire to get involved. In her words, “I felt so grateful that there was an organization that acted as a safety net for parrot owners. Immediately I signed up for the bird care class, had a phone interview and wanted to foster birds as a way of ‘paying it forward’ to such a noble volunteer organization.”


Tania has an artistic eye for color, contrast, symmetry and balance. As a watercolor artist, she had never worked with feathers until she decided to just try it. She made a pair of earrings from her own Macaw's feathers, and immediately recognized the possibilities for a fundraising project. That same evening, Tania posted a request to Mickaboo’s discussion board for feathers for jewelry, and Art for the Birds was born.

Art for the Birds makes pendants that can be worn as earrings, hair clips, necklace pendants or hair charms, hung as decorations in cars, homes, offices, or used as holiday ornaments.

Earrings from Art for the Birds are beautiful, one of a kind, and cruelty-free.

Tania’s creativity, originality, and keen eye for design help to keep her feather art moving in new directions.  She attributes her success in coming up with ideas to “patience, thinking outside of the box, using every bit of each feather possible, keeping my eyes open to all the jewelry I see everywhere, and listening to people's comments.”

Tania’s art is unique and captivating in and of itself. The fact that it’s not only cruelty-free but is supporting rescue work is a major selling point to all who care about animals. But what’s really made Tania’s art for the birds special to many of us are the feather charms that she’s made in memory of bird companions who we’ve lost.  Mickaboo volunteer Pamela Lee has requested several memorial charms for her beloved parrotlet and budgies and was quite pleased with the results. “Tania showed creativity and compassion in asking for my preferences and style decisions.  The items are well made and beautifully packaged. “ 

Veterinarians Dr. Chris Sanders and his wife Dr. Diana Welsh have also asked Tania to do memorial pieces for their staff and special patients’ human companions.

For Tania, her most memorable piece to date has been a charm she made for Mickaboo volunteer Priya Tuvell after Priya’s beloved Senegal parrot, Maddie, passed away.

“I made her a memorial charm using her bird’s ID band, and a heart-shaped ceramic piece she sent to me along with her bird's feathers.

Memorial charm made in honor of Maddie

Since its inception just under a year ago, Art for the Birds has made over 500 pieces of feather art and raised over $1300 for animal rescue organizations, including Mickaboo.  Art for the Birds has sold its wares at events as diverse as Mickaboo’s holiday party, animal adoption fairs, opera rehearsals (Tania recently performed in Aida with her son and daughter), art and wine festivals, and the Cherry Blossom festival in Cupertino.

Feather art display at a recent event.

Besides her efforts with Art for the Birds, Tania has helped her son, Austin and daughter, Aria, with their mobile petting zoo, Critter Kids (, which has been giving presentations for eight years and which recently raised $750 for a local elementary school. Along with Austin, Tania is also a volunteer for Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society (BAARS).

Aria at a Critter Kid session

All of these activities go hand in hand with her bird rescue and feather art efforts, and make each activity an opportunity to talk about animal rescue and to push the "adopt not shop" message.  Besides their macaw, Tania and her family have several pets, including  a rescued Red-Lored Amazon, a long-term foster Senegal parrot,  two adopted Eurasian collared doves, rescued roller pigeon, rescued mourning dove,  several snakes, lizards, turtles, and dogs (all rescues), tarantulas, scorpions and even a few Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.


Tania considers it an honor to be associated with Mickaboo and takes advantage of every opportunity to spread the message about bird rescue.  She considers her art to be educational, first and foremost, and wears her own creations to help spread the word. “I am so grateful to be able to do something meaningful and helpful for the birds in Mickaboo's care in a way that educates people.

Austin showing off a snake

The feather jewelry I usually wear attracts attention and I seize each opportunity to raise funds and awareness about the ugly truth behind most feather jewelry, and to spread the word about Mickaboo and adoption.” Tania's future plans include a website and Etsy store to extend her reach and increase her benefit for the birds.

You can follow Art for the Birds on Facebook at and can request a custom piece of feather art from Tania at Feather donations (from disease-free birds only) can be mailed to:

Tania Tengan
Art for the Birds
7480 Heatherwood Drive.
Cupertino, CA  95014