The Unwanted Bird: Why People Give Up Parrots?

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If parrots are so difficult to live with, why are pet stores full of them?  The demand must be very high for these animals, or else the pet trade would not flood the stores with them.  The answer is that there is indeed a strong market for parrots, but it is a market in which people only want a young, cuddly, bird who might be able to talk someday.  And that's what they'll find at most pet stores and with most breeders.  Nearly all young birds raised in captivity are cute and cuddly and relatively quiet.  They love people and still have a few years before they hit sexual maturity. 

Parrots are often purchased on impulse, because someone wants a colorful, talking bird, or because they think birds are cool pets.  These people don't realize what they're getting into. After they get the bird home, they are faced with a loud, messy, expensive animal that lives many years and is truly a wild animal.  Parrots are not pets! Parrots are following in the footsteps of cats and dogs now; they are extremely popular, but they are also facing homelessness.  There are many parrot rescue organizations in the United States (nearly 150!)  and overseas to face this problem. Sadly, many of these organizations are now full, and there are not enough caring individuals who are able to open more rescues.  We are now beginning to see the use of euthanasia to "control" their numbers.  Most birds who are living in animal shelters and avian rescue facilities now are under the age of five!  This is startling considering that some larger parrots can live upwards of 60 years in captivity.

Why do people give up their parrots?  Here are a few of the major reasons:

1) Noise levels.  Parrots are LOUD.  Even the small parrots are loud.  That's what parrots are made to do, and we cannot fault them for it.  Whether it be the bird guardian who is at his wit's end, or the neighbors, noise levels are a major reason people give up their parrots.  Most parrots do not fare well in apartment or condo settings due to noise levels.

2) Mess.  Parrots are MESSY.  They throw their food, and some species even projectile poop!  Parrot guardians find themselves cleaning every day.  Many parrot guardians have multiple cleaning appliances, such as vacuums, dust-busters, steam cleaners, electric brooms, special cleaning products to remove dried on food and feces, etc.  It is a non-stop job that continues for the life of the bird (remember how long birds live??).

3) Expense.  Parrots are EXPENSIVE.  With a medium sized parrot, such as an Amazon or African Grey, you can expect to pay an average of nearly $50 a month for supplies (toys, food, play stands, etc.)  and veterinary care (with vet costs spread throughout the year).  This does not take into account the cost of the cage, which can run you $400-$1,000.  Vet care can run $300 a year as long as the bird remains healthy.  Depending on the cost of the bird itself, you are looking at a very costly "pet". 

4) Biting.  If you care for a parrot, you will get bitten.  It's bound to happen eventually.  Whether it's a daily occurrence, or only happens when your bird is scared (like at the vet's office), it will happen.  How you handle the biting will determine whether or not it becomes habitual.  If you lose your confidence, you will probably stop handling your bird and the bird will eventually lose his tameness.  Birds can decide they don't like particular people.  Even if your bird loves you, what if he attacks your boyfriend/girlfriend/children?  Remember that the larger parrots have very powerful beaks -- people have gone to the hospital after being bitten by their parrot.  Some bird caretakers have required stitches or even reconstructive surgery after a particularly bad bite, which can happen especially during hormonal times.  Are you comfortable living with that possibility?  Are you comfortable having an animal like this around your children?

5) "Behavioral" Problems.  Problems such as excessive screaming, fear biting, feather destructive behaviors, body mutilation, and other neurotic behavioral problems cause people to give up their parrots.  Behavioral problems can be a result of many different factors, all of which can be related to life in captivity.  If you work all day, be prepared to spend most of your free time caring for your bird.  You cannot come home after being gone all day and expect the parrot to "behave". In the wild, parrots do not have behavioral problems.  It will be your responsibility to prevent behavior problems, or to resolve them as best you can if they do happen. There are many "behavioral issues" that are not truly problems for the bird, but may be problems for you, such as loud noises, mess, etc. These are behaviors that would be normal for the bird in the wild.

6) Allergies.  Most birds give off dander and dust that can aggravate or create breathing problems.  People with asthma should not keep birds that give off lots of dust like Cockatoos, African Greys, and Cockatiels.  Some older people or people with respiratory problems have great difficulties with birds. 

7) Having a baby.  Lots of younger people get birds in their teens or twenties, and when they decide to start a family, they realize the bird doesn't fit into their life anymore, or they feel that they just can't give the bird as much attention as they should. Birds can be dangerous around children, and birds can suffer from the lack of attention caused by a new baby in the family.  The lack of attention can cause all sorts of behavioral problems for the parrot.  Many times single people bond with their bird too much, and when the single person marries or moves in with their mate, the bird can become quite aggressive toward the rival.  This is one of the leading causes of parrot displacement.

Of course there are other reasons people give up their parrots.  You can contact some Rescue Organizations and ask for information on parrots to learn more.  Adopting a rescue bird can be one way to help with the problem of overpopulation.  Be aware that, while there are plenty of well-adjusted birds living in rescue situations, some rescue birds are often difficult to live with and may have serious problems that a beginner should not try to deal with.  Only someone with sufficient resources should attempt to care for a rescue bird who has challenging behavioral issues. A good rescue would only place birds into compatible homes with people who have enough knowledge and are prepared to care for an exotic bird.


How to Adopt a Bird

You have a few options if you decide to adopt a bird. Below are some avenues you can explore.

Avian Rescue, Adoption, and Placement Groups. These facilities can vary quite a bit in how they're run, how large they are, etc. They may be large facilities with staff veterinarians, or they might be an area in someone's home that is set aside for rescued birds. They might be a registered non-profit organization supported by donations, or they might be financed by someone's paycheck. You'll need to judge the quality of the facility that has birds for adoption. Below are some criteria adapted from the article, Guidelines for Placing your Bird:

Good avian rescue organizations with the highest standards of care will meet the following criteria:

•  The group will either require proof that surrendered birds are in good health (through veterinary reports) or they will provide veterinary testing for incoming bird immediately upon arrival.

•  The group will quarantine new birds for a time period of generally 30–90 days.

•  The group will feed the birds in their care a varied, healthy, and fresh diet.

•  The facilities that the birds are housed in will be cleaned regularly, and spacious enough to allow them daily exercise.

•  If the group adopts birds out, they will screen potential adopters very carefully to ensure all birds go to loving homes where the bird will thrive. The group will follow up with adopters to ensure all adopted birds are thriving.

•  The group will care for all birds based on the birds' individual needs and not based on what is most convenient for them, concerning flight, social and intellectual needs, and daily biological rhythms.

•  The group will never breed birds or allow birds to be placed into homes where they will be bred.

•  The group will provide educational resources on the proper care and treatment of birds. The group will provide supportive follow up care to adopters.

•  If the group adopts out birds, they will always use legally binding contracts to ensure the bird can be recovered if improper treatment is discovered in the adoptive home.

•  Having non-profit status can help you to identify good rescue groups; however, there are many groups without non-profit status that are still good, and having the non-profit status doesn't necessarily mean a group is ethical. If a group is non-profit, request a copy of its financial statement and information on its board of directors.

•  The rescue group should have long-range plans to provide consistent, quality care, housing, and staffing.

•  Unless your situation is an absolute emergency, the group should try to work with you to solve any problems first before the bird is to be relinquished.

•  If the rescue group cannot accept any birds at the time, they should refer you to another reputable rescue group for assistance. Rescue groups should not refuse birds based on their size and species. This could indicate that they may be looking to acquire larger birds simply to sell or adopt them out at higher fees.

•  Be very wary of rescue groups that charge near market-value adoption fees for birds. Not all groups charge adoption fees, but those that do often only charge for the cost of veterinary testing and treatment, food, caging, toys, and other necessities. These can easily be documented with receipts.

•  Some avian rescue groups are even becoming accredited by the few animal rescue and sanctuary accrediting organizations, such as The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS) and the American Sanctuary Associations (ASA). Check to see if your rescue group is accredited.


In order to adopt a bird, you will need to contact a rescue organization near you. There is a list on the Avian Protection Society's website by state of known rescue facilities that do not breed birds or adopt birds to breeding programs. You will probably need to fill out an application, possibly pay an adoption fee, visit the facility to find a bird who "picks" you, and also possibly provide references. You might need to live a certain distance from the facility so that they can do a home visit to be sure your home is safe. These are pretty common procedures when adopting through a rescue group.

Bird Club Adoption Groups. You can find a nationwide listing of bird clubs at the Bird Talk website. You may need to be a member of a bird club in order to adopt from them, so check with the club directly.

Veterinarian's offices. You can check with local veterinarian offices to see if they know of birds who need homes.

Animal Shelters. Many traditional dog and cat shelters are now starting to see birds come in. Often these shelters are not properly set up to care for birds properly. Check shelters to see if they ever get birds in. If they do not have any for adoption, you may wish to give them your contact information in case they do get a call for a bird.

Newspaper/internet classified ads. Unfortunately, some people place ads to sell or give away their birds. You can check newspapers and the internet for birds that need to be re-homed in your area.


Articles on this topic:

People Who Give Up Birds

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