Twenty years ago there were no rescue centers or sanctuaries for captive psittacine birds in the United Sates. When someone grew tired of their birds or simply could not keep the birds any longer they were sold or taken in by kind souls, who did their best to care for the birds without expecting financial remuneration. About 10 years ago parrot rescue centers and sanctuaries began appearing all over the United States. Many became 50l(c) (3) charities. At first I was delighted for the homeless birds and even made donations to these organizations. However, my delight was soon replaced by cautious skepticism when I was approached by a sanctuary looking for donations and my endorsement. It quickly became obvious that they were breeding birds for profit and were using their charitable organization status as a way to increase their earnings. When I asked for a financial report they refused, even though all 50l(c) (3) charities must provide a financial report when it is requested. From that point forward, I told all the parrot rescue organizations and sanctuaries that approached me for donations that, I would not be making any monetary contributions until they set some standards and established certified facilities. One good attempt at certification was made and failed and another attempt has not produced what I consider acceptable results.
Most rescues and sanctuaries are born out of a great love for birds and good intentions. Although, the ideals are lofty the ability to carry them out is almost always lacking. The usual scenario is that a couple wants a parrot or has just acquired one or two birds. They develop a reputation in their area as the "bird people." Soon they are offered other peoples' unwanted birds and the population in their home increases. Eventually the size of the flock is so large and the rescuers are so understaffed that, the birds need to be rescued from the rescuers. Bird keepers overall seem to have a collection mentality and an even greater tendency toward animal hoarding than other animal lovers. I seldom meet people with one bird. Those who keep birds as companions normally have at least four birds. It is not unusual for them to have 15 or more. Breeders with fewer than 100 birds are considered to have very small aviaries. Rescue centers often have 300 or more birds and one full time person trying to care for all the birds.
It is regrettable that many rescue centers and sanctu-
aries come about by accident. There is a failure to develop a plan for the future during their conception. There is no doubt that rescue centers and sanctuaries are needed. Some birds simply do not make good companions or good breeding birds. Although, some birds with major behavioral issues can be rehabilitated, yet this will require extraordinary patience, knowledge, and perhaps years of commitment. Birds that are too old to breed and individuals that are known to kill and mutilate their mates are not welcomed in most aviaries. Many species are so commonly bred that breeders often have an abundance of a particular species and taking on more would be a burden for them. Yet, these birds exist and they deserve to live a comfortable life.
We realize that due to the longevity of the species we keep, there is likelihood that our birds will outlive us. If we are responsible then we are contemplating what will become of our birds when we can no longer care for them. If we are expecting a certain standard of care for our birds then it is unreasonable to expect anyone to provide this service for free. Controlling the care of our birds when we have become feeble or have passed away may seem impossible. Provisions should be made for, food, veterinary examinations, toys, and housing. These arrangements must be made while we are still healthy.
When searching for the correct person or facility for your birds consider the following:
There are sanctuaries that keep birds without the intentions of ever placing the bird in a home as a pet. If your birds are elderly or handicapped, if you want to be certain that the flock is kept together or you have one very crabby bird, then a sanctuary may be the right place for your birds. If your birds crave human interaction then consider placing your birds with a friend, relative, or a rescue/adoption organization that will re-home your birds. The rescue organization you choose should have a good reputation and should assure you that they will periodically check on your birds. Ask the~ how many birds they have placed and what the success rate is for the birds they have re-homed. Find out how they determine who will be allowed to adopt birds from them and what criteria they use to determine if the adoption has been successful. If an adoption has failed what protocols do they use to retrieve the birds and what will be done with the birds at this point? These rescue/adoption
services may be provide by local bird clubs.
If your birds are young, healthy, and rare or show a strong desire to procreate then consider a reputable breeder. Breeders should be evaluated with the same careful scrutiny that you would apply to a rescue organization or a sanctuary. Ask for references and talk to the breeder's veterinarian. If your bird is rare, the breeder should have succeeded in breeding that species or a very similar species. Is the facility clean? Are the flights large and roomy? Will the birds be provided with a nutritious diet? How will the chicks be reared and what will become of them? What will become of your bonded or proven pairs if their mates die? If your single bird is paired what will happen if your bird's mate dies? If your single birds will not pair bond, what will become of your birds?
The primary goal of all rescues or sanctuaries should be to provide a healthy atmosphere for all their charges. Therefore, their first objective should be to build a state-of-the-art quarantine facility. In recent times more than one rescue center has allegedly suffered major outbreaks of fatal and contagious diseases. Anyone acquiring a new bird has a responsibility to quarantine. Quarantine is an even greater responsibility for those who have been entrusted with someone's dear lifetime companion. As people grow older and cannot care for their birds, they place these birds with others that they feel will cherish their birds. A lack of quarantine and good medical upkeep violates this trust. Do not leave your birds with anyone who is not providing adequate quarantine.
It is unwise to leave your birds with anyone without seeing their facility. It is important that the facility is clean and that the birds they keep appear healthy and hopefully happy. When researching a sanctuary ask for references and check out the references.