I overheard this conversation in the pet store the other day: “So I was at this bird rescue place the other day with my sister because she was thinking about getting a bird. And she was all ready to hand over $400 for this raggedy looking bird. Thank God I was there to stop her! They get these birds for free and then they turn around and charge a fee for them. $400 for a used bird? Forget it!”
Even though I found the “used bird” remark really offensive, I managed to keep my mouth shut – I really surprise myself sometimes.
I wonder what the term bird rescue means to different people? It’s impossible to overlook the word “RESCUE” in that phrase. That means that something needed saving – and that someone went out of their way to do just that, and has taken on the responsibility to provide care and shelter for a parrot in need. I guess some people think a bird rescue is a place to get free expensive exotic pet.
Running a bird rescue is NOT an easy job. We are all bird lovers here and having a bazilliion birds around to love and play with may sound like a slice of heaven, but it is a lot of work. There are heartwarming moments like watching an abused bird have a breakthrough with trust or in finding just the right human match for a special bird. But there is also a lot of heartbreak and disappointment and, occasionally, death.
Rescues are solely supported by donations, which have to be continually solicited, and operated with the help of volunteers. This means that the organization survives entirely on the goodwill of others – and these are hard times.
WHERE DO RESCUE BIRDS COME FROM?
Some birds arrive at rescues after the law finds it necessary to intervene on behalf of animal welfare organizations. This can sometimes involve the seizure of hundreds of birds which are divided out amongst a handful of rescues throughout the country for care and rehabilitation. Often it is up to the rescue to retrieve the birds on their own and that may mean a trip across the country to get them. The rescue’s funding has to foot the bill.
Many times in these dramatic cases, the birds have health problems which have gone untreated for a long time resulting in sick, sometimes dying, birds. With the addition of so many birds there are enormous veterinary bills that become the responsibility of the rescue.
Some birds are willingly relinquished by owners who are either unable to continue to provide care for their birds for health or financial reasons, or in light of behavioral problems they are not equipped to handle.
No matter how a bird finds its way to a rescue, each bird adds financial burden to an organization that is already struggling. Perhaps the expense most difficult to assign a value to is the hours of time spent on rehabilitating the bird that suffered emotional damage at the hands of a former owner. Or the surrendered bird that is missing the family that can no longer afford him.
Hours of meaningful interaction and thought to creative solutions to problems go into rebuilding a bird’s confidence and trust. Likewise, hours of careful observation and medical intervention go into bringing some of the worst cases back from the brink of death. The care of these birds is a physically and emotionally draining job.
When you tally a bird’s medical expenses and costs for food, housing and toys, and consider the hours spent to transform a broken bird to one that is physically and mentally healthy enough to be adoptable, $400 is a B A R G A I N!!!!!
The typical rescue is run out of the owner’s home. Space is consistently an issue. Unless birds arrive at the rescue in groups that have previously been housed together, each bird has to occupy its own cage. There are only so many cages that can fit into the average house before the rescue has to close its doors.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico which is meticulously run by Anna Wallen Sloan. I have known Anna for several years and have always admired her remarkable healing powers with birds. She IS the bird whisperer.
Anna is very well known in the avian community and birds in frightening condition from all over the country often wind up in her care because of her experience in parrot critical care. Her rescue has the equipment needed to handle in-coming emergencies.
Because of the endless flow of birds needing her help and because she is simply out of room in her house, Anna has begun construction of a separate facility on her property. She has NO funding for this project, but she also has NO choice but to expand. If she is going to be able to keep up with the need for her services, she needs more room. It is painful for a big hearted rescuer to have to turn away any bird in trouble.
The building is meant to house up to 20 birds, and is intended for new world species. It will have electricity, A/C, heat and plumbing, but best of all there will be an outdoor enclosure attached that allows the birds to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and a beautiful mountain view – amenities that you don’t find at most rescues.
Currently, she has a a 6′ by 10′ outdoor enclosure budgeted, but hopes to increase the size to 6′ X 20′ if donations allow. The projected cost for the construction currently stands at $23,000, for which she took out a personal loan, and she is relying heavily on donations to cover the cost. Rescue is a non profit business and incoming donations must equal the costs of operation to survive.
My goal is to help her raise funding for this desperately needed space. Anna is my friend and I want to help her, but most important is the well being of future birds who need her help and will have to be turned away.
With your help, I hope to raise $5000 dollars toward the construction and to increase the dimensions of the outdoor enclosure. BirdTricks will engage in separate activities to help raise additional money.
Please go back and scroll through the pictures in this post. These are just a few of the birds Anna has helped by finding innovative solutions to their problems – who else would think to build a go cart for a bird that is struggling to get around? I did not post the gory pictures detailing the condition some of her birds arrive in – trust me when I tell you that the bird community NEEDS Anna’s services.
Many of you continue to express your thanks for the information and help we have provided over the years. This is your chance to give back to the avian community – please help this very worthy rescue: http://abqparrots.org/ by clicking the “donate” button on the top right hand side of the page. Your generosity will help the current AND future needy birds that find their way to Anna for years to come.
**ALL PHOTOS BY ANNA SLOAN
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.