Birds of a Feather

V51A2796-EditWritten and photographed by Beau Gustafson


Take a look at these parrots. Breathtaking, right? They are colorful, exotic, intelligent animals. Some species, like the African Gray, can learn a  vocabulary of 1,500 words. Some breeds can imitate their owners’ voices exactly, even several voices. They can imitate the family pet, use words in context, tell you when it is time to wake up and go to bed, and of course, when they want a cracker. They can be caring and loving. They play, they cuddle—some have the intelligence of a 2-year-old human. They can reason, they have a sense of humor, and they love to dance. They are smart enough to open intricate cage locks (and thus the cages of birds nearby). In short, they are wonderful creatures that can be amazing companions; some have life spans up to 60 years. If parrots are so wonderful, shouldn’t everyone own one?

Well, no. This is why the Alabama Parrot Rescue came to be. Founders Art and Steff Davis, recent transplants from Florida, found there were few Birmingham services for bird owners and also for birds that needed to find new owners. Now they have seven of their own birds, and at the moment, seven birds looking for new homes; they have found good homes for many other wayward birds. Why so many? Though birds can be incredible pets, they are not easy pets to own. Birds are messy and loud, they can bite, and they require daily care and undivided attention many times during the day. Often, people get in over their heads by jumping into bird ownership without much forethought and then decide to give their birds away. Birds also can live a very long time, sometimes outliving their owners and thus needing new homes.

When looking for new homes for their foster birds, Art and Steff have an extensive interview process that may take a few weeks. There is a lot to determine when deciding if a person or family is a good fit for one of the bigger breeds of parrots. They ask questions like, “Have you ever owned a bird before?” If not, it is probably best to start with a smaller bird so that you can see if you and birds are a match. They also ask, “Do you have the resources to take care of a bird?” Birds require a lot of food, much of which will be wasted on the floor and the bottom of the cage, so they also require a lot of cleanup. They need access to avian vets, as well as a cage and toys to play with, and they require space they can occupy where neighbors won’t be bothered. Possible bird owners are also questioned about their time; if you travel frequently or have a job that keeps you away from home for long stretches of the day, bird ownership might not be for you. All of these things are considered, as is a person’s temperament, since what birds need most is structure, playfulness, and a whole lot of love and patience.

When the perfect match is made, however, parrots can be loving companions, and pets that surprise, entertain, and become treasured additions to the family. If you’re interested in becoming a bird owner, do some research and consider sharing your home with one of the birds at Alabama Parrot Rescue.

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