When US fireman Brian Wilson had a traffic accident 14 years ago, medical experts said he would spend the rest of his days in a nursing home, unable to speak or do much besides stay in bed.
But some chattering parrots made liars of them all.
"Two birds taught me to talk again," Wilson told AFP as he walked through the kitchen of his modest home in this rural suburb of Washington, which he currently shares with around 80 brightly plumed exotic birds, from snow-white cockatoos to scarlet or blue and green macaws to African grey parrots.
"I had such a bad head injury I was never supposed to talk any more than a two-year-old," Wilson said.
But two of the birds he had as pets since he was a child "just kept talking to me and talking to me.
"Then all of a sudden, a word popped out, then two, then more." And not from the beaks of the birds, but from Wilson's mouth.
To show his gratitude to the birds who helped him on the path to rehabilitation, Wilson has devoted his life to feathered pets whose owners are no longer able or want to keep them.
"I do whatever I can, whenever I can for them," Wilson said.
"They get everything they could ever want or desire.".
When a bird first comes to the brightly painted home with parrot-image wallpaper friezes, it is quarantined in what used to be a garage, checked by an avian vet and then either goes to a good family or joins the dozens of birds already at home in Wilson's suburban house.
It all costs money -- 6,000 dollars a month, says Wilson -- and with the US economy in a tailspin, the bird man of Damascus is struggling to cope, especially as he just took in more than 80 birds from a man who was no longer able to cope with them.
At the moment, Wilson is having to turn away birds at the rate of at least three a week.
Wilson has set up a foundation called the Wilson Parrot Foundation and relies on tax-deductible donations to try to make ends meet.
He also offers the services of the birds to entertain at birthday parties and corporate events.
And he teaches fire, gun and seatbelt safety using the birds.
Under Wilson's coaching, one of the parrots has learned to roll over and play dead when she's shot with a plastic toy gun.
Wilson was not wearing a seatbelt when he had his life-threatening accident in 1995.
"I'd planned on being a fireman and rescuing people until I was 98 years old and I would do anything to do it again," but his accident put paid to that idea, Wilson told AFP.
"You wonder why I rescue birds? They helped me to talk again, so now I take care of them," he said.