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Artist and animal rehabilitator Ashley Dietrich poses with one of the pigeons she rescued. . James Gibbard/ Tulsa World

Usually at this time of year, right as the weather starts getting cold, the majority of birds that Ashley Dietrich is concerned about are made up of brush strokes of paint on canvas.

However, the large aviary behind the artist’s home west of Sand Springs is populated with about half a dozen mourning doves and an equal number of pigeons.

“The doves were ones that were born late in the season and were too young to be released before the weather got cold, so they’ll be over-wintering here,” Dietrich said.

The pigeons, on the other hand, are set up to be permanent residents of the aviary’s north wing.

“I kind of inherited them from another rehabber who retired and moved to Florida,” Dietrich said, as she wrapped her arms around herself in the face of Oklahoma’s first blast of winter wind. “All of them have some kind of wing injury, so they can’t go back into the wild. They’re kind of like pets now.”

Dietrich has two other pet birds, both parrots – a white-bellied caique named Penelope, and an orange-winged Amazon who will announce herself as Zoe – that occupy large enclosures within her house.

But in reality, there are birds everywhere in the Dietrich home – varieties of owls, songbirds, a couple of cardinals, a peacock with tail unfurled, even some portraits of birds she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Dietrich specializes in working with doves and pigeons because she finds both species “kind of amazing.”

Artist and animal rehabilitator Ashley Dietrich paints and owl at her home in Sand Springs. James Gibbard/ Tulsa World

“Pigeons, especially, I think are pretty incredible,” she said. “They’re quite smart and very social. They’re also very peaceful and gentle – although right now, the ones out there are kind of skirmishing over housing in the aviary.”

And because Dietrich said she is interested in rehabbing, not breeding, the birds, when one of the females lays an egg, she will replace it with a fake egg.

“After a while, they realize this one isn’t viable and they give up for a while,” she said.

As for art, Dietrich said she has been creating images for as long as she can remember.

She grew up in Enid and earned her bachelor of fine arts degree at Oklahoma State University.

“But I have been able to make money from my painting since I was about 15 or 16,” she said.

When her position as an art and math teacher in Enid public schools was eliminated, Dietrich decided to devote herself to her art.

“I realized that if I treat it like a business, then I could make a living from what I love to do,” she said.

Dietrich has created paintings of many different subjects, but her portraits of birds have proven the most popular.

“Fortunately, I don’t think I will ever run out of technical challenges with birds,” she said. “There’s always something unique, like capturing the iridescence of a certain species’ feathers. And since I’m working at home, it also means I’m able to do the other thing I love, which is rehabbing.”

Article by: James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478 |

Ashley Dietrich  can be contacted at:

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