For Parrot’s Sake, Let’s Change Our Language

This article appeared in the June/July 2013 issue of the new In Your Flock Magazine and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe to this exciting new information-packed magazine about parrots, go to inyourflock.com.

Most parrots will need a succession of good homes. Most birds will be adopted at some point in their lives, perhaps several times, in fact. We are often reluctant to admit this because it makes us feel guilty about our ability to care for them “forever.” However, if we start by acknowledging this truth, then birds will surely have a better opportunity for long and healthy lives.

Argo TAG

Timneh Grey Argo, 17 years

For parrot’s sake, let’s change the way we view the rehoming of birds so they will have an improved chance of going from one good home to another. Birds of all ages and circumstances should be considered adoptable, adaptable and companionable.

For YOUR bird’s sake, let’s think about adoption as a commendable approach, because it’s very likely your bird will need a new home some day too. You’d like it to be a good one, right?

Unfortunately, the word “rescue” conjures up notions of parrots with severe emotional baggage and psychological dysfunction, making it more difficult to promote the concept of adoption in a positive way. Dictionary.com defines the word rescue as “to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.”(1) Although some parrots can be found in such dire situations, I hope we can agree that most parrots do not come from horrid circumstances like this. We need to overcome this hurdle or thousands of birds will continue to lose their homes with little prospect of finding a sequence of good ones.

Here are some important facts and myths to consider about the rehoming of parrots.

1) FACT: Parrots are long-lived.

If a parrot receives the kind of care that leads to a long and healthy life, then very few will have only one home. People’s lives change in unexpected ways or they no longer have the time, health, interest or money to care for their birds as planned. Unfortunately, most birds do not reach a natural lifespan in captivity because of inadequate diets and care. However, parrots can and should live for decades, especially the larger species. In one recent study (2), the oldest bird was a salmon-crested cockatoo (Moluccan) documented at 92 years old. Several other cockatoos and macaws were in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Even a Pacific Parrotlet lived to over 30 years. Dr. Susan Orosz, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) has treated several 100+ year old Amazon parrots. Do we really think only one person can care for every long-lived bird? Of course not! If we take proper care of our birds, they are going to need a few good homes. This makes an undisputable case for why we must consider adoption a priority when it comes to parrots.

2) MYTH: Birds should have “forever homes.”

Rarely does a bird have a “forever home.” This is such an unsuitable term for birds; it actually does them a great disservice. If instead we assume that our bird will need another family someday, we might actually plan for it; and we might do a better job of promoting behaviors to make the next home easier to find. At a minimum, I hope we will consider parrot adoption not only as compassionate, but also practical and necessary!

3) FACT: Parrots are resilient and adaptable.

A bird is a remarkable creature of nature. As prey animals, they must be very quick and intelligent to avoid predators. To survive, they must learn to forage, remember where foods and nests are more abundant, and use their unique hookbill to open difficult nuts and foods. If they lose their mate, they must quickly find another because being alone can be fatal. All this genetic genius contributes to a bird’s capacity to move to its next new home, assuming that the new environment is safe and the people are respectful. Some of us would like to think that our birds love only us, because that’s what we want them to feel. Well,  it’s just not true. Parrots are smart, resilient and seem to live in the moment. These attributes mean they adapt well when they need their next family.

4) MYTH: Rehomed birds come with lots of problem baggage.

Birds, like all living beings, strive to gain something they want and to avoid those things that cause harm or pain. No matter how old a bird is – days or decades – you will need to earn their trust by offering a parrot what is desirable to that bird at that moment. As prey animals, they are genetically engineered to avoid danger. Unfortunately, many people have inappropriate expectations of their parrot. We often break trust with our grabby fingers or speedy movements, and then the bird is unfairly blamed for defending itself. After rehoming thousands of birds, Phoenix Landing has consistently found that every bird can learn to behave in positive ways if we give them a sense of safety, have appropriate expectations about how to touch (or not touch) them, and provide the quality nutrition, space, enrichment and medical support needed for a healthy life and positive behaviors. Frankly, what’s important is where the bird goes, not where it came from. We need to take responsibility for the behaviors we create in birds, and understand that a bird’s behavior CAN change if we relate to him or her with respect for a parrot’s true nature.

Here’s my main point – if we want to give more parrots a fighting chance for a good and full life, we can’t label rehoming as “rescue.”

Gizmo

Blue and gold macaw Gizmo, 22 years

Wonderful parrots lose their homes through no fault of their own and don’t deserve to be labeled with a charged term like “rescue” which may make it harder for them to have a positive future. Let’s work together to make it a well-known fact that parrots are supposed to live a pretty long time; and for some, a very long time.

Adoption is the only way to make sure they have good home after good home. Adoption needs to be one of the first things we consider when we want a parrot. And let’s give resilient parrots that come from terrible situations a fighting chance too, because they won’t be labeling themselves as “rescues” either. Adaptable birds from all backgrounds just want to know if there is good food for breakfast, something fun to play with, space to exercise or even fly, and a family or flock to call their own. Let’s do more to make sure every parrot has this kind of opportunity!

(1) The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word rescue as “to free from confinement, danger, or evil; or to take (as a prisoner) forcibly from custody; or to recover (as a prize) by force.”

(2) Survival on the ark: life-history trends in captive parrots. A. M. Young, E. A. Hobson, L. Bingaman Lackey & T. F. Wright

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8 thoughts on “For Parrot’s Sake, Let’s Change Our Language

  1. Thank you for this honest look at parrots and re-homing. I have helped many parrots find new homes over the years. I believe the birds are just as happy and comfortable in their new homes as they were in the last home.

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  2. Thank you for a helpful look at rehoming. I got my double yellow amazon male when he was six weeks old. He is now a little over 30 years old. I am 67. Rico is healthy (gets regular vet checks) and will probably outlive me. When it comes time that I can no longer care for him, I hope my brain is with me enough to rehome him and that whomever get him realizes what a great bird he is and how much he is/was loved. I have done the tough work….living with his hormone rages when he was a young boy. He taught me that it is ok to leave him alone during breeding season time and that he will always come back and love me. Last year when I was very sick, the put his hormone issues aside and was the sweeties most loving bird imaginable. I had surgery for Graves disease around my eyes and looked like I had been beaten with a baseball bat. I wasn’t sure how he would react to me but he rubbed his little face around my eyes and said “Oh you look so cute. Give me a kiss.”

    I know from a friend that has cared for my amazon when I had to travel for work that he is just fine without me. He likes her because he is used to her and I think he would adjust to another person when he felt their love. When I am with him, I am the star of his world but I am happy to know that he will thrive in the right environment with someone that loves him.

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  3. This is an article after my own heart. All but one of my birds are rehomes. I have a 12 year old budgie I bought 12 years ago from a pet shop. I never understood the term “forever home.” We as people don’t even have “forever homes” I myself have lived in 8 different homes in 4 different states in my lifetime and I’m only in my mid 30s. I have every intention of caring for my birds their entire lives but I’m not unrealistic to know that things may change in my life where that can not happen. It flabbergasts me when I read “parrot people” berate and lay guilt trips on those that judge those that rehome. Until we’ve walked in someone’s shoes and that is almost impossible, we can not and should not judge. We are human and should do what we can to help one another not judge and berate. If we could focus on the common love we have for the birds rather than not pick apart each others methods for caring for them and continually educate ourselves and each other, we may just succeed in caring for the parrots their entire lives.

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  4. All but one of my parrots was a “rescue,” in the literal sense of the word because they came from horribly abusive homes. They were beaten, isolated, poisoned, etc. I know firsthand the beauty of a relationship with an older bird, and I tell everyone who wants one to please contact Pheonix Landing first. I know that my birds will outlive me, and I love this beautiful reminder of what we have to do to be ready when that time comes. It breaks my heart that my ten birds will probably not spend their entire lives together (hard to find another insane person who wants an instant menagerie!), but I know that they will love and be loved again. Thank you, again, for this wonderful reminder and advice that many never realize. Have a blessed day!

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  5. Excellent article. Having been in Animal Welfare & Rescue, as a career, I HAVE literally rescued animals from bad situations. But, I’ve always felt that people like to think they “rescue” something, when all they are doing is giving it a new home. And adding to your flock is not rescuing, unless you DO take it from a bad situation. Everybody means well, and we all want to think we are doing good & helping other creatures. So, it really is a question of semantics. But, what we say, becomes what we think. I loved this article!

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  6. Thank you for this article, it reminds me (once again)that I must include my flock legally in my will. I have 5 children (4 adults). They argue over who gets “whom” when I’m gone. However, I need to make it legally binding.

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  7. Most of the parrots that have come into my life have been “in need of a good home”. All have adapted without a problem. Wonderful article…

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  8. I have 6 parrots, 5 of them are “rescue” birds. They came to me at different ages and with different problems But are all doing well right now. Because I have Multiple Sclerosis and some other major medical problems I have had to think carefully about where my birds will go when they outlive me. Stormy, the one bird who has grown up with me, and Gabriella, the grey with Parrot Traumatic Stress Disorder, will go to the family from whom I got Stormy. There birds are well socialized, talk to each other, and know my birds. Importantly, they have 2 children ages 4 and 8 who love their birds, are very responsible and know how to work with birds. Hopefully they will be with the birds for a long time. For the others, I hope to be able to donate a large part of my estate to a place like Gabriel Foundation, PEAC, or even Phoenix Landing with the understanding that my birds will be rehomed, if possible, to a good family. Of course the peach fronted conure is in love with the Illiger’s Macaw and is alsways asking him if he wants to come out or eat a yummy, or go to bed. Ans the 2 sun conures stay together but haven’t lost their cuddleability with humans.

    I very much worry about what will happen when I am gone but hopefully I will be able to be sure they go to good homes.

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