January is Adopt a Rescue Bird Month… although “re-homed bird” might be a better term, as not all birds in a need of a new home were in need of rescuing! There are many companion birds who need (and deserve!) a new start in life. Sadly, there are far too many pet birds relinquished to adoption organizations. Compared to cats and dogs, their longer lifespans put parrots at an even greater risk of losing their homes. Consider improving the well-being of a bird in need. If you’ve put serious thought into welcoming a bird into your home, here are questions to ask yourself and reasons to consider the adoption option.
First things first, it is important to note that not all birds in adoption organizations were in need of “rescuing,” — i.e., from an abusive situation. Many birds in pet bird adoption groups were lovingly cared for by devoted caretakers who subsequently developed health conditions that made it a challenge to maintain the standard of care their birds were accustomed to or the bird’s caretaker passed away. Unforeseeable life situations like job loss or a change in living situation can also cause a bird to lose their home. And there are also individuals who find themselves “in over their heads” in trying to care for birds they might have inherited, found, been gifted, or purchased — they realize that the bird deserves much more than they are capable of providing.
Before You Adopt…
Does the adoption option make sense for you, your household, and your current circumstances? Can you reasonably take on another bird in terms of housing, food, and veterinary care? A “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” mindset can actually help put things in perspective. There’s no guarantee that a new bird will get along with your established bird(s) and vice versa. Not all birds like each other, even birds of the same species, so be prepared for that reality and consider how you would deal with it. That’s not to say that birds that don’t wish to interact with each other won’t learn to tolerate each other and co-exist peacefully in your home—just know that housing will have to be separate and you might have to rotate out-of-cage time. This is not to scare you away from adoption, but to make you more prepared.
Now that you thoroughly assessed your home and circumstances, here are some excellent reasons why the adoption option can be a win-win for you and a bird in need of a loving home.
A Loving Home
First and foremost, you’ll have a chance to offer a healthy and loving forever home to a bird in need. If you already have bird experience or are willing to study all the nuances that come with sharing your home with a feathered companion, you’re already off to a great start. Many, not all, birds in need of re-homing were in many ways misunderstood. Perhaps they were skittish of hands after too many tries with forced interactions in their previous home and subsequently received little interaction or time outside the cage. Or they were fed an inadequate diet because the owner didn’t know a seed-only diet lacks complete nutrition. Or the bird might have had a loving owner who, due to circumstances beyond their control, could no longer care for them; here’s your opportunity to continue the happiness.
A Better Sense of the Bird’s Personality
You’ll have a better sense of what the bird is like once he or she reaches sexual maturity. Those who are used to dog and cat companions might not be prepared for the fact that some parrots can be quite different once they reach sexual maturity, which often hits medium to large parrot species around 10 years of age. The “always cuddly” bird a person is used to might be aggressive around the cage during spring. Many pet birds that are available for adoption have already reached sexual maturity and, as such, there is less of a chance of being caught off guard with a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” switch in personality. Or if the bird is just reaching the age of sexual maturity, the adoption group can help you navigate hormonal stages, and this important “Intel” can greatly help you build a relationship of understanding and respect with your new feathered companion.
You Might Have a Talker
Many people buy a specific species of parrot based on the bird’s reputation as a top talker, such as an African grey or Amazon parrot. While many parrots are capable of mimicking human speech, the only way to guarantee that a bird will choose to do so is to adopt a bird that already talks. Wanting a parrot that talks, however, should not be the only reason to welcome a pet bird into your life. Think of talking as an added bonus and as an opportunity to interact, whether to teach new words or phrases or to converse based on the vocabulary your bird has already learned.
You’ll Meet Your Match
Reputable parrot adoption organizations will often try to talk you out of getting a bird. That’s not to say that they do not want to adopt out their birds — they want to make absolutely certain that the match will be mutually beneficial to both person and bird. You might have had your sights on getting an Amazon parrot or cockatoo but, after assessing your pet bird experience, living situation, expectations, and many other factors, a reputable pet bird adoption organization might very well guide you toward another species of bird that would be better fit. And by the time a pet bird has been taken in under a rescue group’s wing, so to speak, they are likely to have good knowledge of the bird’s history, such as how many homes the bird has lived in, under what circumstances, the bird’s behavioral quirks, likes and dislikes, etc. Not only will they be able to recommend a species of bird that is the best fit for you, but they can also help narrow it down to a specific bird based on that bird’s personality, which is more likely to be well-known by the time the bird is available for adoption.
A Healthier Eater
Reputable adoption organizations work very hard to turn a neglected bird’s health around (which typically eats up the largest portion of the organization’s budget!), and that includes switching the bird from a nutritionally deficient diet to a nutrient-rich diet a parrot needs to thrive. All too often, even the most well-meaning but uninformed parrot owners feed the wrong diet. For smaller birds especially, like budgies, lovebirds, cockatiels, and conures, their previous diet might have consisted primarily of seed. It can be a challenge to convert a “seed-only” bird to a diet that provides essential nutrients. What’s more, since parrots can enjoy many of the healthy foods we prepare for ourselves, such as fresh vegetables, cooked sweet potato, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, yams, etc … it is rewarding and fun to see your bird enjoy what you share with him or her. Many companion parrots take their time to enjoy each and every savory bite of a food they like. Some will squeal with anticipation or delight, others will literally ask their people for some — the love of wholesome food truly makes life with a pet bird an adventure in dining.
Can’t Adopt? Sponsor a Bird!
Adopting a pet bird might not be feasible for you, but you can still make a huge difference in the lives of parrots in need by volunteering your time, donating supplies (many pet bird adoption organizations have wish lists of items they need); or monetarily through donations. You can even sponsor a specific bird in an organization.