This entry is aimed at all of those who have birds, know someone with birds or have heard of someone with birds. The burning question that will usually cause immediate panic is “Oh my God, what do I do with this bird if I can’t take care of it!?”. Read on!
Which shelter is which?
This is a question that I’m sure most of the public has without realizing they do. Shelters can be divided into two categories; Permanent Home and Adoption Based (You thought I was going to put “good” and “bad”, right?)
They each have their pros and cons, most of which are based on factors such as the species of bird, the personality of the bird, the goal of the shelter and the dedication of the staff.
Personally, I’ve worked at both. I’ve seen the good side and the downside of each. I can’t honestly say which one is better since anytime I try, I recall specific birds or situations that would have been better off in the other than the one.
These would probably fit under most people’s definition of “sanctuary”. They often provide permanent homes for unwanted birds and supply for the lifelong care and needs of those birds.
Birds get to know their surroundings really well and are not subjected to as many changes as they are in a traditional home.
It’s basically a safe bet to think of most bids as a sort of “Rainman”. They like a set routine, don’t like many changes and always need to have their 12 cheese balls… well, you get the idea!
Provide a 100% bird environment.
This isn’t necessarily a rule, but it does tend to be a common theme. Without the need to constantly entertain and be prepared for guests, these sanctuaries are setup to handle the needs of the birds above anyone or anything else. You’ll often see entire rooms or even buildings built and designed as aviaries and play areas, while another building houses the medical supplies and patients. Very little, on the other hand, might be spent on visitor accommodations.
People and birds know each other.
You know how Norm would walk into the bar and everyone would shout out, “Norm!”? There ya go!
This also means the humans know every smallest detail about every bird in their care, from the side of the perch they prefer, to their favorite treat. If something’s wrong, chances are it will be caught rather quickly.
It takes a special bird…
Frightful birds that have had little to no human interaction, used as breeders or wild-caught tend to do well when we (people) leave them alone and this kind of environment is perfect for them.
On the other hand, most people looking to surrender birds aren’t referring to birds that match that description. The birds many people live with, enjoy being part of that human flock, like the attention and have learned to coexist with humans.
People tend to think that their birds can’t live without them; the world is too harsh, people are too ignorant and they’ll end up miserable for eternity. For all intents and purposes, however, their birds are humans – they think of themselves as humans, they act like humans and enjoy humans. Placing these birds in a sanctuary for the rest of their lives and expecting them to live as birds, works about as well as placing a human in a zoo for the rest of their lives and expecting them to live like monkeys.
It’s important to consider how the bird was raised and what they’ve grown accustomed to throughout their lives before deciding if a sanctuary like this is actually beneficial for them. And keep in mind, no matter how wonderful it looks, it’s still institutionalized living. Despite the best efforts of the caregivers, there’s very little attention that can be given to each individual bird.
It takes a special place…
One phrase I like to borrow/use is, “Animal shelters are in the business of saving lives.” If a shelter/sanctuary fails to bring in money, their doors close and all the animals are left homeless. It doesn’t matter what their intentions are, no money equals no shelter.
Housing animals for life brings in very little money. Many people consider leaving their $1200 macaw to a shelter a “gift”… that will cost twice that in medical fees, food and housing. Getting funds to care for that bird is a challenge.
If a sanctuary gets a constant supply of non-stop birds being left at their doors, they won’t be in business very long! Birds will come in and never leave, while the money goes out and never returns.
A sanctuary needs to be prepared for the task of taking lifetime-care of a bird and that means lots of donors, fundraisers, grants and a strong business plan in place. Unfortunately just having a good heart won’t cut it and will only land them on the front page of the news as police break down their door to take down, yet another, hoarder.
It takes a special person…
It takes a special type of person to develop an attachment without becoming too attached. These birds are here for life, if they grow too bonded with a human, being away from them for 20+ hours a day will be torture on them. Birds who do end up growing fond of a person(s) should seriously be considered for relocation to a shelter that can adopt them.
Then there are the truly “wild” birds…
No amount of social interaction will help with them, remember, birds are still wild animals! Staring at them, walking around them, pointing fingers and other objects at them are not things you do when you have to deal with a wild animal. You have to be able to care about them, without actually showing the typical outward signs of affection. Wildlife Rehabbers know this routine all too well, but for most people it’s a very difficult habit to get in to.
Keep in mind your birds, the place you may be considering and the people involved. Sanctuaries can be absolutely great places for the right type of bird, but a complete nightmare for another.
Part II – The shelters