We love when we have the capacity to say “yes” and welcome a parrot in need into our home. Each “yes” takes us on a wild new adventure, a new direction that we never expect. I always wonder what adventure we are missing out on with the calls we can't take, and with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I always wonder about where they may have ended up.
We say “yes” because these broken babies need a safe place to land. They need understanding, love and patience. They need good, nutritional food, socialization, support and enrichment... They not only need someone who can “read” them, they need someone who can connect with them and be in-tune to them as any companion should. And I have been surprised to find out how much we need them, too. They are sweet, feisty, stubborn and funny. They keep us on our toes and teach us lessons that we need to learn to be more successful and live happier lives. They make us laugh daily, and sometimes they make us cry, out of joy and heartbreak — and that is ok, emotions can be life’s greatest enrichments.
Phrases we commonly hear include: “I don’t know how you do it!” or “I always wanted to help parrots in need, but I can’t stand the heartbreak, and then what if I fall in love?” Well, you will fall in love. You will cry for them if they are having a rough time. But you will also learn patience, strength and compassion. With them, you will grow stronger, and they will too. Maybe, you will even learn what love truly means, even if it means loving them so much that you would let them go when they are ready, and if they would be happier in a different setting long term. Even if it means staying by a medically fragile bird’s side during its last days, then, at least you taught them what love is and that not all humans are bad, and you, in turn, have grown as a human being.
You can make an impact. Although you may want to, and even try to, one person cannot save them all, but perhaps all of them can be saved if everyone does their piece and works together.
Do you have anything to add to our list? Make a comment below!
Yes, adopting saves lives and helps rescues continue their missions to help animals in need, but this topic goes much, much deeper than that — even beyond the questionable husbandry conditions of large (and small) farm-like breeding facilities. I once dreamt of breeding parrots for a living, because what would be better than to work with the animals I love every second of the day? At the time, I thought I loved parrots, but as I look back, I did not love them as I do today and I realized my dream to produce baby parrots to sell to the public in order to support myself was selfish, to say the least.
In 1996, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reported 40-million “pet” parrots, and in 1998 the World Parrot Trust estimated that as many as 50% of these parrots are kept in inadequate conditions. There are well over 100 bird rescues and sanctuaries in the United States, with several only recently coming into existence and immediately being filled to capacity. There is no concrete way to keep track of every rescue, especially the smaller in-home operations, and it is not possible to keep accurate numbers of exactly how many parrots are entering rescues or sanctuaries, let alone at what rate they are being relinquished, but we can conclude from our own experience that the rate of relinquishment is horrifying. The overproduction and promotion of parrots as “pets” has caused serious animal welfare issues; parrots are among the fastest growing group of displaced pets, and to further the problem, most traditional shelters are not fit for their needs. The losers in this commodity “pet” exchange are the parrots. Frequently, the poor souls bought on the Internet or in stores go to people who have no knowledge about how to care for their new “pet” and, consequently, the animals themselves suffer, and in turn, the limited number of sanctuaries and rescues struggle to keep up.
After a quick search I found 5,200 ads for baby parrots in US on one website alone, and most of these ads were for multiple babies. This may not seem like a lot until you factor in the numbers at rescues and sanctuaries that have reached into the thousands (and quickly growing), and the fact that the average household is simply not fit for a parrot companion. Meanwhile, on a separate rescue-only site, there are just over 2,200 homeless parrots within 300-miles of our Traverse City, MI home — this number is not for the entire US, and it does not include every rescue in the area. "Reputable" breeders and stores may claim to strive to place their parrots in wonderful approved homes, but this means less homes for the parrots that are rapidly filling rescues and sanctuaries.
Parrots are not fit for captivity, and many owners will realize this after a purchase — after the daunting reality of the extent and expense of their life-long needs set in. The babies are sweet and cute, but they are still hard-wired wild animals that once they reach maturity, can make for difficult companions. For this reason, aside from outliving their owners with their exceptionally long lifespans of 60-90 years, the average bird is rehomed seven times in its life, and during our experience in rescue we have seen them rehomed as many as ten or more times in a short period. While parrot ownership can offer a lifetime of joy for some, most people are quickly overwhelmed by the noise, mess, expense, time and commitment. You do not have to start with a captive bred baby to have a good companion, because even the parrots that are raised in the best way possible can wreak havoc once they mature — despite what others may say, buying a baby guarantees nothing. If someone is not willing to work with a parrot that may have issues, that someone should not own a parrot at all. And for the record, not all parrots in rescues have “issues” that are not manageable by a novice. Research, volunteering at a sanctuary/rescue to gain experience and seeking mentoring from knowledgeable owners and the rescue itself is the key — and these are things that a potential parront should do regardless, whether purchasing or adopting.
Another argument you will hear is that captive breeders help the wild populations. On the contrary, even since importation to the United States became illegal in 1993, thousands of wild parrots per year continue to cross the US border. And again, the constant breeding and introduction of babies into the pet trade is not helping because parrots are not meant to be captive — it’s that simple. Take a look at what happens when people are locked up in prison; they can lose their minds, and even if they are released, they are never the same. The situation is similar for parrots being kept in cages in captivity, captive-bred or not. Solitary confinement during most of the day while owners are out living their lives can drive a parrot mad and lead to unwanted behavioral issues, and even medical complications, which in turn commonly leads to the parrot ending up in a rescue, or at worst, locked in a room and forgotten.
Granted, not everyone who purchases a parrot from a breeder will turn out to be a “bad owner”, but even the best parronts out there cannot offer their beloved parrot everything that it needs to be happy throughout its life in captivity, leading to consistent feelings of guilt — just ask any experienced long-time parront, more than likely they will agree. Parrots are not dogs or cats, which beginning tens of thousands of years ago, have been bred as pets and even have a history of relating to and living peacefully with humans before captive breeding took place. Most captive- bred parrots are only a few generations out of the wild, and they are not and never will be fully domesticated. They are not “pets”. The only captive breeding programs that are helping parrots in the wild and in captivity are the breed-to-release programs that work to replenish endangered numbers in their natural habitat in an attempt to fix what the human race has done.
Because breeders are contributing directly to the problem of homeless parrots, rescues feel that pressure, and although it's a very difficult decision to make, we commonly end up having to no longer help the pet stores or breeders with their problem birds, whether or not the parrots were just dropped off or returned to the store after purchasing — or at the very least, in order to keep the rescue afoot, we must limit contact. More often than not, these parrots need ample time spent with them for rehabilitation, and this can take years, not to mention many times the parrots are sick because the store or breeder doesn’t have the funds to handle the extensive veterinary bills, or the knowledge about all of the illnesses and testing that needs to be done.
In some stores, even though the owners do the best they can in retail-type settings, in the long run their budgets do not allow for proper care: diet, toys and veterinary being the most common. Parrots can be difficult to sell, and the business can be unstable with its income. Some hard-to-sell parrots that are a difficult species (for example, large cockatoos) or just a difficult bird in particular can end up staying in the store for years. This can be damaging to their health -- mental and physical. Even without the pressure from new offspring constantly being introduced into the pet trade, rescues are forced to turn away several parrots in need every week, and that is the worst, most helpless feeling in the world for a rescuer.
Do you ever wonder why there isn’t a parrot rescue in every city, or at least one within a reasonable distance for every potential adopter? It isn’t because of a lack of homeless parrots; it is because it takes a special person to commit their lives to a companion parrot, and an even more special person to maintain a rescue. It is a lifetime dedication full of stress and heartbreak, along with much financial burden.
I frequently hear the phrases “I love the birds, I don’t care about the income” in conjunction with “Sorry, I cannot stop breeding.” Breeders and store owners may love their birds, but folks that dedicate their lives to rescue and animal advocacy take this love to a whole other level that is indescribable. People breeding parrots to support themselves financially — for monetary gain — is something that I personally will never understand, and there are many other options that reflect on an individual’s love of birds aside from rescue alone.
The AZ Exotic Bird Rescue, Inc. is a 501(c)3 rescue and maintains a storefront that sells quality food and supplies but does not breed or purchase their birds from breeders — they have birds for adoption, and this type of store not only supports the plight of the parrots, but it is a very successful tactic. Andy's Pet Shop of San Jose, CA has been opened since 1950, and adopts out homeless pets through their store and makes their profits by selling quality supplies. This store is very knowlegable, caring, and is a symbol of success! Another very passionate person, Chris Castles, is a co-director of the ARA project in Costa Rica. This establishment strives and thrives by hosting a breeding program for macaws to be bred, raised and released into the wild — working to replenish the concerning numbers in their natural habitat. At the other end of the spectrum is Dr. O, an avian certified veterinarian in Ohio that is dedicated to bettering the lives of companion parrots in captivity with her medical studies. Other establishments such as Foster Parrots, LTD not only maintain a sanctuary with over 500 parrots, but they dedicate their lives to public education, which is the most important thing above anything else when it comes to the plight of the parrots.
The general public is the future and will determine what happens to the unfortunate captive and wild parrot situation. Education is key, and not just about how to keep a parrot happy and healthy in captivity. It is topics like this that need to be known; it is the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors that will make all of the difference.
It’s common practice for someone to get a bird, and leave it in its cage for most of the day. After all, the majority of Americans have full time jobs to support themselves and their family.
In the wild, parrots travel with their flocks for their entire lives. They are never alone. When it comes right down to it, even though parronts will do everything possible to make their feathered family member happy, it still will never be enough.
Lets face it: the general public is not fit to care for a parrot. They are not pets; they are lifelong companions. They need to be a part of a family – a part of a flock. You can give your bird the best diet, the biggest cage and an abundance of toys, but if the bird doesn’t get what it needs emotionally, this will cause problems from a parrot that is angry at the world, to a self-mutilating mess and anything in-between.
This is yet another reason why rescues are filling rapidly; people just simply don’t realize everything that birds need. And unfortunately, no matter how prepared someone is, the experience of actually having that bird in your home is something that all the research in the world can’t fully prepare you for. Even the best parrot owners still live with the guilty feeling of never being able to do enough to keep their babies happy. I feel this way about every bird that comes throughout our doors. It takes a special person to own and love a parrot, and an even more special person to keep that parrot happy.
Like the title says: here is a collection of quotes that relate to parrot rescue...
"Many of you have forgotten this truth but you must never forget it: you remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When people say, “I could never foster because it would be too hard to give them up.” We say, “How could that be harder than knowing an animal died because no foster stepped up?” - Unknown
“If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” – James Herriot
“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind's capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don't; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”― Matthew Scully
“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” ― Alfred A. Montapert
“When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals' emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.” ― Marc Bekoff
“People that say money can’t buy happiness have never paid an adoption fee.” - Unknown
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened” –Anatole France
“If you can’t love a parrot like a family member, don’t get one... Because they only know how to look at you as a flock member, and to them, that is family.” - Unknown
“Saving a life will change yours” - Unknown
“Man is a two-legged animal without feathers.” - Unknown
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein
“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” – Mark Twain
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi
“I saw you were perfect, so I loved you. Then I saw you were not perfect, so I loved you even more!” - Unknown
“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” – A.D. Williams
“Be the kind of person that your bird believes you are.” - Unknown
“I found my rainbow of hope today. It was there all along, wrapped in feathers.” - Unknown
“She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” – Mark Twain
“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.” - Aesop
Today, I saw someone referring to rescues who charge adoption fees "an animal rental company". Frankly, whoever has this opinion should be ashamed of themselves. Take some time to educate yourself and get involved with animal rescue.
Dog, cat and small animal rescues alike need to charge adoption fees to keep doing what they do. Where do you think the money comes from to provide veterinary care, medications, food, housing and toys? Each parrot costs approximately $75 per month in just food and toys -- this number does not include vet care, and we make all of our own toys to save on cost. There are also electric bills for air conditioning, air filters, radios or television entertainment for the birds, and for full spectrum lighting. Without charging a nominal adoption fee, there would be no rescues in existence. We would not be able to continue our missions, and the animals would die or suffer needlessly without us.
A typical rescue does not receive government funding; like us, we do not receive government funding, and we rarely receive donations. Donations are usually received as adoption fees. We do not charge a fee to take in a bird, because we do not want to make an animal suffer any longer. Folks who relinquish neglected parrots will not pay a relinquishment fee to save the bird that they never necessarily cared about. Many times, these birds do not come with any toys, perches, or proper housing. That expense is on us.
Every cost comes out of our pay checks; that is our contribution, our way of giving back to the world, because someone has to be the voice for these birds. A true rescue will never break even, and we will never make a profit from adoption fees. The fees only help us prepare for the next case that comes through our doors.
Keep in mind, too, about how many shady people in the world there is. If we did not charge adoption fees, even with signing a strict contract and checking up on the home, there is no telling where that parrot would end up in the long run. Payment of an adoption fee shows a person's commitment to their new family member, and it also goes towards helping other parrots needing rescue -- by paying an adoption fee, an adopter not only helps one bird, but multiple birds. Humane Society's and local dog and cat rescues all charge adoption fees to keep their mission of saving lives going, and bird rescues have to do the same.
And trust me, we wish we could be a sanctuary-only and keep every parrot forever (heck, that would save us hours from our day of reviewing potential adopter applications), but not many rescues have the means to do that. It requires a very large building, several outdoor flight aviaries, and ample quarantine rooms-- that is just not feasible for the average rescuer. Yes, there are really that many parrots in need. And if we keep them all, we will fill up quicker than you can imagine, and then we can not be there to help when another poor soul comes to us nearly on their death bed. If we can continue finding homes for the adoptable birds, we can continue helping parrots in need, and with a growing amount of breeders teamed with parrots outliving their owners, this need is not going to end anytime soon -- in fact, it is only going to get worse. Don't you want to be part of the solution to this problem?
“People that say money can’t buy happiness have never paid an adoption fee.”
I was a thirteen year old internet junkie who had a passion for animals of all kinds, specifically reptiles, parrots, and exotic mammals. As years passed I crammed my brain with information relating to all types of animals kept in captivity with a dream to one day own my own pet store. My passion for animals was and still is inexplicably strong.
Once moved out of my parent’s house at age 18, I began a breeding program for bearded dragons. I had my entire future pet store’s layout engraved into my brain, and even drawn out on paper. There would be an extravagant back room with large, nature-based enclosures to work as a display for my breeding pairs. I had plans for reptiles, birds, and exotic mammals alike— I loved them all. Customers would be able to view the back room as a museum, or zoo of sorts, and the front of the store would hold all of the displays for the babies for sale, along with the highest quality supplies and foods possible. Of course, every enclosure would be immaculate, detailed, and fit every one of the animal’s individual needs. To be able to support myself by working with animals that I love so dearly seemed like a great idea at the time.
After spending time finding homes for the baby lizards I realized how many were in rescues, not to mention the large amount of related animals such as iguanas. From there I gravitated towards rescuing reptiles, but for whatever reason decided to breed green cheek conures. At that time my brain didn’t connect the two, and I did not realize that there was an even stronger need for parrot rescue—something that I quickly discovered once it was time to find homes for the first babies. Upon searching through several different web pages to get an idea of the parrot market, I fell upon a countless number of people trying to re-home their birds due to behavioral problems, medical issues, or life changes. A few ads displayed parrots that appeared so hopeless and depressed, that my heart dropped to the floor. Something had changed in me; from there I researched parrot rescues and found many of them to be full, and at least three sanctuaries had well over 300 birds at that time with more coming in.
A pang of guilt overwhelmed me. What was I thinking; if I love these animals so much, how can I contribute to the problem of the thousands that are already homeless? To this day, it still brings a tear to my eye, but like several others, I was young and uneducated; and without guidance from family or friends, I had to learn everything on my own. I’m grateful that I was not breeding animals for very long, but do you know what? I wouldn’t take this life experience back, because it has brought me to the place that I belong; for all this time, animal rescue was my calling.
I erased my pet store plans from my mind, and burned whatever drawings I had made. I halted my breeding projects, taking away nest boxes. I was on a new mission, and this one just felt “right”. At the time I was working two jobs—for a few months I was working three—and taking in parrot rescues here and there as they came to me. I was not making myself public until I owned my own house and had one full time stable job that I knew would support my rescue missions. In a way, animal rescue was the gateway to my entire life’s success— it was my motivator.
A few years later, in July of 2013, my husband and I opened our home to parrots in need. Working in rescue is far more rewarding, seeing birds in a depressed state or in poor health and lifting them back up is the most magnificent feeling of accomplishment—I know that I’m doing something to give back to the world, and with my husband by my side we can accomplish anything. Because we are fortunate enough to have full time jobs to support the rescue, making a living off of the animals I love is no longer a concern. Thanks to my experience and research from when I was younger, and from my continued life experiences today; when I see an animal, I do not see dollar signs—I see a soul, a living creature that deserves love and respect.
I often feel the reason why a large majority of parrots end up in rescue is due to people not knowing how it truly is to live with one. The experience is like nothing you can read on paper, no matter how much you research on their care. Their intelligence and emotions run so deep, it’s something that you have to witness in order to fully understand.
A common misconception that a unbelievably large amount of people have is that humans are above every other creature on this earth emotionally, mentally and physically—most folks reading this article wont think that way, but regardless, parrots are a prime example of why that belief isn’t true. Every parrot is its own individual, just like a person, so it is hard to speculate exactly what every parrot owner’s experience will be like. There are some birds out there that may not like human interaction, or need a lot more work getting there. The majority of my birds are not the cuddly type, preferring more social interaction such as training sessions, singing, being talked to, or just sitting on a play stand beside me feeling like a part of the flock.
I have heard the question “does it talk?” a countless number of times. It is never guaranteed that a parrot will talk, regardless of the species, even if they are the happiest parrots on earth. I have witnessed many occasions where at first, a new bird introduced to our rescue will talk up a storm only for the speaking to diminish within a couple months as he realizes all of his needs are being met; so in his eyes, perhaps there is no longer a reason to talk. Of course, the opposite has happened where a bird comes to us completely silent, and leaves as a happy chatterbox. In general, a happy parrot will call out loudly to the morning sun, and bid farewell in the same fashion as the sun sets. For the groggy morning person such as myself, this may not be so delightful. Thank goodness for my husband who is a chipper morning person that talks, sings, and screeches right along with them to make their morning complete—a daily morning comedy show while I begin my day with coffee, water bowl changes, and filling every bird’s dish with fresh food.
So what exactly is it like to be owned by a parrot? Think of mother/fatherhood and having a child. Expect to have to teach them how to live a happy life in captivity; they need to learn how to play with toys for continuous enrichment, step up onto your hand and onto a stick in the case of emergency, and they need to be introduced to many new foods—whether they like it or not. Parrots need continuous training and guidance for their own mental health, and also to strengthen the bond between bird and parront. This can include target training and trick training; for more information on training I highly recommend Barabara Heidenreich’s work as she is very highly thought of throughout the world of parrots.
Expect temper tantrums. That’s right, birds have temper tantrums, and depending on the species they can be incredibly similar to a child’s tantrum. A temper tantrum from a bird can include screaming (or telling you how it really is), foot stomping, and biting. Depending on the time of year or the bird’s mood on that particular day, “time outs” can be a frequent occurrence. For this we use a separate cage, have the bird step up on a stick, then into the cage for a five-minute time out. We make sure to always wait until the bird is being quiet before he is released from time out as to not reward him for screeching. During this entire process we remain calm and patient—most times even finding humor in it all since their reactions can be oh-so-dramatic and child-like. A little temper tantrum can be rather endearing.
“Does it bite?” is another common question we receive. The answer is, parrots are wild animals, and no matter how tame they may seem, they will still bite. They get into moods just like people can, or sometimes if something scares them, they will bite the person who is near them. Parrots also have breeding seasons where they can become more aggressive. Depending on the species of bird, these breeding seasons can last for months. Keep a first-aid kit with lots of band-aides nearby. This is why it is very important to get to know your bird and their body language. I still get bit by my African Grey who I have had for almost 10 years, and I know him well— it happens to everyone who is owned by parrots.
If you have already raised human children of your own and thought you escaped the treacherous event of stepping on Legos or similar toys, think again; soon you will have a drawer, or in my case several shelves full, of spare toys and toy parts. Many of my Sundays are spent leisurely making bird toys. It is important for them to have a variety to keep their intelligent minds busy—a busy bird is a happy bird. I find toy making to be a sort of therapy, the equivalent to crocheting, and nothing is more satisfying than watching your feathered family member dig into his new toys.
Diet is another important factor that should be mentioned, and certain food items may vary depending on what species of parrot you have. In general, parrots thrive off of daily fresh foods. We give all of our birds fresh cut vegetables and fruits every morning including (but not limited to): carrots, broccoli, snap peas, yams (cooked), raspberries, blackberries, strawberry, mango, banana, sprouted lentils, green beans, parsley, kale, turnip, beet and mustard greens. We also bake large batches of bird bread – or sometimes birdie casserole – every Sunday, portion it into smaller bags, and freeze it for longevity. Every bird here goes crazy for fresh bird bread! Your feathered friend can also have bits of whatever you are eating – just be sure to avoid junk foods, and never feed them avocado, caffeine, sugar-filled items, or alcohol as those things are toxic and can cause unrepairable damage or death. Meal times at our home are shared with our birds; everyone loves to eat with the flock, and I feel this is important for their mental health.
Plan to give up use of non-stick pans, perfumes, aerosol sprays, air fresheners, candles and incense; a bird’s respiratory track is very fragile, and their lungs are paper-thin. Using any of these items around your parrot it detrimental to their health. If you are a smoker and smoke in the home or around your parrot, you are not only harming yourself, but the damage to your feathered family member is even more severe. The smoke not only goes into their lungs, but the nicotine sticks to the oil of their feathers—when they groom themselves, their body is undergoing a massive nicotine intake. If you think your nicotine fits are bad, you have never seen an addicted parrot. Nicotine addictions in parrots will lead to feather plucking, self-mutilation (breaking the skin), heavy breathing and wheezing, vomiting, increased heart rate, collapse, coma, cardiac arrest and death. Although I quit smoking long before parrot ownership, our parrots have made us live healthier, more fulfilling lives with an overall healthy diet and no more chemicals allowed in the house, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I’m sure I am missing something regarding being owned by a parrot—there really is a lot to it. Not a day goes by without laughter, song, and farting noises reverberating throughout my home—and without them, it wouldn’t be a home at all. Each bird forms a different bond, and all of the bonds run deep. It truly is an honor and a privilege to have a parrot claim you as its friend and companion— unfortunately this is something that bird owners frequently take advantage of. They are wild animals kept in captivity, and in the words of French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery; “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
We try not to make it seem like a "rescue" to our feathered residents, but a rescue is what we are...
While birds are here, they are treated like family. They are all in our home, and our home setup revolves around the birds. We are unable to have kids, so they are our kids. My husband loves them as much as I do, and we work as a team. It works out great since some birds will prefer males over females or vice-versa. The feathered family gets fresh food every morning. I'm known to bake bird breads and casseroles for them every week as well. They are also fed a varied diet of pellets, various nuts, fruits and veggies. Along with plain water, we also offer different waters with teas or herbs infused into them — I’ll even make them fresh juice from our juicer.
Cages are packed with toys, and the toys are rotated once a week. If we leave for the house we normally leave music on so they can jam out. Play-gyms hang from the ceiling of the bird rooms, and we have a 10 x 20 foot flight aviary outside. We have two bird rooms: a bedroom dedicated to macaws (so they don’t have to be around any Cockatoo or African grey dust), and the main bird room located in the lower-level of our tri-level home.
We get asked by many bird owners if we will keep their bird forever if they relinquish it to us. That in itself is a compliment, because that tells me we are doing something right! But please understand that if we kept every bird that came in, we soon would be full and unable to help the parrots that really do need us. This isn’t to say that it isn’t possible that we will keep your bird. The majority of our permanent residents have ongoing behavior problems or expensive medical problems that would make them incompatible to the average household. We are aware that someday, our home will be filled with birds that aren’t adoptable and we won’t be able to take in more, but until then, parrots that would do great if adopted into the right home will be placed.
Sometimes it can take quite some time to find the perfect person and to sort out the "baddies". I spend much of my time doing this with my adoptions; I have a strict adoption process that includes an application, phone interviews, home checks, and a contract. It's a lot of work, and very time-consuming! And in the end, if I feel the person cannot take as good of care of the bird as I can, then they don't go anywhere — and that's some big shoes to fill.
This morning, someone emailed me asking me to convince them of why they should relinquish their bird to me, later stating they have checked every other sanctuary and rescue and found them to be full. The person's goal was to find a sanctuary where her bird could live out his life with lots of attention from volunteers and other birds. This isn't the first time I have gotten an email like this, although whenever I do I find it somewhat ironic. I understand an owners concern for where their bird may end up, and people should do all the research they can before: #1, deciding to relinquish their bird in the first place and #2, before deciding on a place for them to reside. Here I offer my view on the topic:
I’m not one to “convince people to give me their birds”. Most reputable rescues are happy when people are able to keep their birds, and taking in more birds does not benefit a rescue. We don’t make a profit off of rescue. We do this for the love of the birds, and because we are needed, and the majority of people relinquishing birds have the task of talking us into taking their bird, because there is just that many.
There’s a reason why most everyone, rescues and sanctuaries alike, are full. Unwanted parrots are a huge problem worldwide. They are the third top throw-away pet right under cats and dogs. They are loud, messy, and have very long lifespans, and in the end, they are still wild animals — it takes a special person to have a well-cared for, happy bird as a pet and an even more special person to open a rescue or sanctuary. Most sanctuaries started as rescues such as my own, out of their own homes, and there still are smaller in-home sanctuaries that began as rescues. We fill at a very rapid rate, and the majority of what we receive is birds who are not adoptable into the average household due to behavior or ongoing medical issues. All those birds quickly become permanent residents (I have quite a few myself), because we just don’t trust anyone else to handle them and take as good of care as we do.
All sanctuaries are different, but the majority is run by one or two main people, the “presidents” or main owners. I know of a large sanctuary with over 500 birds — they had no anticipation of growing that large, it just happened because the need was there and they are passionate people. They have been trying to retire from the sanctuary life for several years with no success, because no one else wants to take on the responsibility of that many birds. What if they pass on? Well you can only hope that they planned for the future, but that can be close to impossible to do. Perhaps the dedicated volunteers would keep it running, but who is to say that would happen. This is the risk all of us take when running a rescue— cat, dog, bird or others… And this is also the risk a person takes when relinquishing any animal to a rescue or sanctuary. You never truly know where they end up for the long-haul.
For me, personally? Well my husband and I only just hit 30 years old, so I would sure hope nothing tragic would happen to both of us, but if it does, we have a close relationship with a few large sanctuaries. And what if that sanctuary shuts down? We can only hope that they don’t — we can’t tell the future. If only I or my husband fell ill, one or the other would care for the current birds on our own. This is why we limit our numbers to 20 birds at a time, because we know that would still be manageable — difficult, but manageable. I know this for a fact because we have made our way up to 20 birds before, and my husband had a nasty two-week long flu during that time, which he lovingly transferred to me. We both got a taste of what it would be like managing 20 birds on our own while taking care of the other person. Thankfully, we are both equally dedicated to the rescue.
Sure, larger sanctuaries have volunteers, but they also have hundreds of birds. Most large places will have ten volunteers in throughout a day taking care of 300-1,000 parrots, and the birds are left alone at night while people go home to their families. The birds do not get as much individual attention as some people think in a large sanctuary setting. The word “sanctuary” makes it sound nice, and don’t get me wrong, there are great ones out there, but only certain birds will truly be happy there. Many end up there as a last resort. Be absolutely sure that your bird will be happy in a large sanctuary-type setting, because it isn’t for all of them.
The average medium-large parrot costs $75 a month in supplies (variety of foods, toys, etc). That’s $900 a year per bird and $18,000 a year for 20 birds. This isn’t even including vet bills or the electric bills from running UV lighting or television/music for the bird’s entertainment and it isn’t including caging or any needed expansions. Most people don’t realize that they are actually expecting a lot from a rescue by wanting them to take their bird for life, and many rescues and sanctuaries charge a fee to relinquish a bird. I do not, only because I do not want to turn the people away who truly have neglected and sick birds in their hands that need help — the life or death situations. I always take it as a compliment when loving bird owners request for me to keep their bird for life, but at the same time, I’m asked that by almost everyone.
This doesn’t mean I won’t keep a relinquished bird for life. I do not adopt out birds that have severe behavior problems. If they can’t be handled, they remain here as permanent sanctuary residents. The same goes for medically fragile birds. Eventually we will become full of unadoptable birds, and just like the others, we will then just call ourselves a “sanctuary” and rarely take in more.
I am a very upfront and honest person who doesn’t sugar-coat anything. As with any bird, in the back of my mind I hope that they will end up here because I fear of where they might end up otherwise. Just like how bird owners question rescues about taking their beloved family members, I also am nervous when they end up elsewhere; not everyone realizes how many bad people are in the parrot world.
All birds here are my kids, whether permanent residents or not, and even for the ones that are adoptable, I am very, very strict and have a long application process for rehoming, along with a legal contract. If potential adopters can’t show me that they can take better care of the bird than I can (and that’s a big role to fill), then they don’t go anywhere.
As my main job unrelated to the rescue world, I am a full time writer for a collector car insurance company. Between this job and the rescue, I enjoy sharing my experiences throughout my journey with parrots. Stay tuned for periodic updates!