Feathered Fundraising: Artist Creates Cruelty-Free Jewelry to Aid Birds


Tania Tengan and Kaiya.

Tania Tengan spends a lot of time cleaning out birdcages as an owner and foster parent of rescued companion birds. The feathers and poop were getting scooped up together and dumped into the trash, until one day she realized she could rescue the feathers and make something both beautiful and valuable to help even more birds.

“Many of us bird owners were throwing away the majority of our birds’ feathers every morning with cage paper…I made a pair of earrings with some feathers from my own 21-year-old bird,” she remembered. “They were beautiful.”

In addition to being a passionate supporter of different animal rescue groups, including Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue and Mickacoo Pigeon and Dove Rescue, Tengan is an artist. Noticing the popularity of feathered jewelry, she decided to create and sell her own, donating a portion to help more birds.

There was one more facet to Tengan’s new artistic and philanthropic endeavor, raising awareness about the dark side of most feathered accessories.

“All the feathers in feather jewelry and craft stores, except peacock feathers, are taken from birds that were bred and killed just for their feathers,” she said. “My jewelry is a vehicle to explain to people the ugly truths behind the fashion industry, and tie it in with bird rescue. People are so surprised because everybody knows birds molt.”


Earrings created by Tengan.

Unfortunately, collecting feathers takes more patience than the current high demand of the fashion and fly fishing industries, Tengan said.

Today Tengan takes her message and her colorful jewelry to sell at fairs, boutique shows, private appointments in her Cupertino home, and through her Facebook Page, Art for the Birds – Cruelty Free Feather Jewelry.

On Oct. 26 she’s selling her jewelry at the Santa Clara County Audubon Society’s Wildlife Education Day at Blackberry Farm in Cupertino, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Besides collecting feathers from the birds in her care—like Kaiya, a 24-year-old Severe Macaw, and Skittles, a Red-lored Amazon parrot, in addition to rescued pigeons and doves—Tengan relies on a cross-country network of foster bird parents and owners to send her feathers in every hue of the rainbow on a weekly basis.

Tengan carefully prepares, sorts, and catalogs the feathers. As she creates each piece of jewelry, she pays careful attention to details, even matching feathers from the right and left hand side of birds’ bodies to make symmetrical sets of earrings.

Her jewelry ranges in price from $6 to $200. Brides have commissioned her to make elaborate hairpieces, and mourning owners have asked her to make memorial charms out of the feathers of their departed companion birds. In the past two years she’s been able to donate more than $2,000 to help rescued birds.

The jewelry and what it represents is a labor of love for Tengan, who says creating the art and educating people about companion birds, “brings out all those parts of myself I wanted to express and share.”

One of the beautiful hair pieces created by Tengan.

One of the beautiful hair pieces created by Tengan.