As sad as it may seem, we frequently see folks arguing about the topic of whether to adopt from a rescue or purchase a baby bird from a breeder. After seeing what we have witnessed by working in rescue and visiting a combination of large sanctuaries and small in-home rescues, there is no question in our mind that adoption is the way to go, whether you are an experienced bird owner or seeking your first parrot companion.
In the entire scheme of things, every parrot’s needs are too complex for captivity; all of their needs are only met in the wild, whether they have a rough past in captivity or come directly from a breeder or store as a baby. You may have seen birds that mutilate or pluck – this is caused by living in captivity and not necessarily from the neglect of the owner – and no matter how well cared for they are in captivity, they can still resort to plucking and other behavior issues. Many prospective parronts don’t realize just how high-maintenance these animals truly are, or that their life expectancy can average 30-90 years, depending on the species; the commitment is enormous. Because their needs are so complex, it takes a special person to be owned by a bird. If these limited people continue to buy from breeders and pet stores, the thousands of unwanted birds in rescues will never find homes, therefore exposing the remaining birds to the danger of abandonment or euthanasia.
The majority of the population is still uneducated, with new people gaining an interest in birds, but not realizing how many there are in rescue. For example, the Oasis Parrot Sanctuary in Arizona houses over 600 birds, Foster Parrots in Rhode Island houses approximately 500, and Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue located in the San Francisco Bay area had 373 birds surrendered to them in 2010, 252 in 2011, and 274 in 2012, and currently has 400 birds in foster care with 200 volunteers; Lazicki’s Bird House in Warwick, R.I. had approximately 80 parrots before moving to a new location in early 2014, the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary houses around 400 birds, the Tuscon Avian Rescue saves over 100 birds per year since their opening in 1998, the Gabriel Foundation in Colorado houses around 700, and the National Parrot Sanctuary, although located in the U.K., deserves mention for housing over 1,700 parrots. This is only a sliver of the amount of rescues in existence; it is impossible to locate every rescue and every homeless parrot, and the problem isn’t only in the U.S.-this is a worldwide issue. The number of parrots in each rescue listed above is only an estimate gathered from information found online; by now, the amounts could be outdated and even larger. A simple Web search will bring up many other rescues and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., and often there is several in one state; if I were to list them all here, not only would it take me years to gather all of the information, it would take up this entire article. There’s also an uncountable number of smaller rescues throughout the entire U.S. that could be housing anywhere between two to 50 rescue birds at one time. This all amounts to thousands, maybe even millions, of homeless birds; and due to the black market still smuggling in wild-caught parrots and breeders continuing to produce countless offspring, the overabundance of parrots in captivity is only going to get worse. After speaking with several rescues, the feedback all is the same; for every bird adopted out, it seems there are twice as many waiting to get into their facility. For more information about the plight of parrots, click here to view Parrot Confidential.
But people breed dogs all the time, why is it any different from birds? As mentioned above, the needs of parrots are far more complex compared to the needs of the domesticated dog. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years and barely have any “wild animal” left in them, while parrots are still wild animals at heart and need special care in captivity to keep their health and mental sanity. There is also the problem of a parrot’s life span; unlike dogs, parrots outlive their owners, causing them to be re-homed or end up in rescue. If a bird isn’t already given up due to emerging behavioral or medical issues, it will more than likely be re-homed when the owner passes away- and compared to the fate of other parrots, that is one lucky bird. It takes a special person to keep a bird throughout their entire life; after all, parrots are a lifetime commitment and go through many different phases, some harder to handle than others. Not everyone realizes that parrots are like living with feathered toddlers for the rest of their lives, especially the cockatoo varieties who are one of the top “throw away” birds due to their neediness and possible aggression issues, namely in mature males. Every parrot is an individual with different personalities, different needs, different thoughts and each finds different ways of handling living in captivity.
80 percent of our rescues originally came from breeders. The remaining 20 percent amounts to the wild-caught birds from before 1993, or parrots that were smuggled through the black market. A parrot that ends up in a rescue more than likely will have issues, although there are some that do not. Again, even if a bird is purchased as a baby and is offered the best care available, behavioral and medical issues will still pop up. A reputable rescue will make you aware of any special needs so you can make an educated decision on whether or not that bird is right for your home. The birds should already have their vet checkup and be rehabilitated to the best of the rescue’s ability, and considering how much time is spent with the birds, they grow to know them well and can share this information with you. A rescue’s main goal is to find the perfect home for the parrots; after seeing what they have been through and nursing them back to health, the last thing that we want to see is that bird getting tossed from home to home, causing further trauma. A rescued parrot knows that it has been saved and that you are trying to help them. They are very grateful for being taken out of the place they were in previously, and this appreciation shows in their eyes; they are inconceivably intelligent and remember their past, but also recognize that they are no longer in a state of neglect.
Rescues wish that their services weren’t necessary; we don’t want to see the neglect that the uneducated (and in some cases uncaring) public causes, but there’s really no choice – if it wasn’t for rescues, these birds would have no place to go. Our mission is to rescue and rehabilitate the animals that need us while educating the public, but our DREAM is that someday, we will not be needed. We are just people with really big hearts that reach out to animals in need. Rescues do not make a living off what they do; it is financially and emotionally draining for someone to commit their lives to rescuing animals of any type. (Click here to read about what it’s like to run a rescue.) People who breed animals for profit or stores who sell those babies have an option whether or not to contribute to the growing population of homeless parrots. People who adopt from a rescue tend to be more knowledgeable, because it is required of the adoption process. Yes, the adoption process is lengthier than purchasing from a pet store. Rescues aren’t out to talk you into adopting a bird, we are not a pet store just trying to move “product”. Our job is to educate potential adopters and seek the perfect home for the birds that need it most. The best part of all, is when an adoption fee is paid, you are not only giving one bird that needs a home a great life, but you are saving another that needs rescuing.
By choosing rescue, whether parrot, cat, dog or any other animal, you are saving multiple lives. Adopting an animal into your home makes room at that rescue for more in need, provides funding for animals at that organization, and supports the rescue’s dream of finding their beloved animal the perfect forever home. There is no animal more grateful than one who has lived through hardships only to be saved and shown what unconditional love truly is.