PALM HARBOR — Inside the Amazon rainforest, thousands of miles from his office in Palm Harbor, the holistic veterinarian watched a colony of chattering macaws glide above the treetops.
"They looked like little blue and gold jewels filling the sky," said Dr. Joel Murphy, recalling a research trip in 2009. "They were so beautiful, healthy and happy."
Murphy, who taught graduate avian medicine at the University of Georgia and has lectured at veterinary schools from the Bahamas to Nepal, aims to recreate that vibrancy in the Tampa Bay area. He studies eating patterns in the wild to bring healthier diets to domestic pets.
Exotic bird owners from New Port Richey to Pinellas Park to Carrollwood seek Murphy's unusual care, which includes blood serum tests, a self-concocted line of flower essences, and dietary counseling. But most of the sick parrots, cockatiels and parakeets Murphy encounters in the bay area — about 2,000 annually — die early from malnutrition, he said.