I love volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society.  It is an amazing place with incredible people. I worked hard while I was there. I washed windows, cleaned baseboards, scrubbed floors and bathrooms. I left it cleaner and better than I found it. So I consider my experience and visit a successful one because I feel good about what I accomplished and the Parrot Garden benefited from my time there. Win-Win.

The work I saw as necessary will stick for a while and I chose to do that as a way of giving to the Parrot Garden. Most volunteers have no interest in doing that sort of thing. They want to work with the birds. But I saw deep-cleaning as the best way to help out.  I don’t have the money to give them a huge donation. But I can clean a bathroom. And I will go back. Probably again and again.

I think a clean and bright bathroom makes it a nice place to work. They let me choose what I wanted to do and they let me do it. I liked that. I like making things better for the volunteers and staff as well as for the birds.


The Parrot Garden has changed since the two years I’d been there initially.  They’ve added more flights and more plants. They’ve put in a dog run for the Vicktory dogs that stay at the Parrot Garden learning social skills. The Parrot Garden has expanded and improved. It was a gratifying thing to see.

But a visit to Best Friends changes your view of the world. Things simply appear differently to you when you return home. The effect and change within yourself is profound.

When I returned home, I thought, “I was there yesterday and I made a difference. But they are there today making a difference and I’m not. Their work  goes on. Without me.”

Their work is important. And unfortunately, it’s very necessary. I did find out a couple things about the Parrot Garden. It exists not because Best Friends wanted to have an adoption program for parrots, it was because a few parrots ended up in the “Feathered Friends” area. They didn’t know where else to put them, so that’s where they ended up: with the doves and hawks, geese and owls.


Eventually, they created a separate area for the parrots, renamed the two areas “Wild Friends” and the “Parrot Garden” about five or six years ago and the Parrot Garden simply grew from those first initial few parrots.

They now care for about a hundred birds with a long waiting list. They do good work. The Staff loves what they do and they are very good at it.

That’s all well and good but I feel the homeless parrot problem is growing all over the nation. Some people in the field don’t see it that way. I have not seen the statistics so I can only go by what I read and what people discuss. Obviously there are people out there who don’t see it as a problem, but then again, they aren’t the ones doing intake at the Parrot Garden, Phoenix Landing, Florida Parrot Rescue and a myriad of other rescues across the country.

Paco, a 68 year-old Amazon

Florida Parrot Rescue, Phoenix Landing, Black Hills Parrot Welfare & Education CenterMiss Vicky’s Parrot Village and other organizations do what they  intend to do. They take care of their current flock and they place birds that should be in homes. They are success stories.


Echo at Miss Vicky’s Parrot Village

Despite the growing need for it in the world of animal adoption and rescue, I feel that the plight of homeless parrots  still remains one of the “Red Headed Step-Children” of the National Adoption and Rescue scene. I believe we are indeed a distant third behind dogs and cats both in regard and perception of importance.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I find it ironic that HSUS puts out an article about homeless parrots that makes a lot of noise (The No Fly Zone) and yet they do no work in the field. I’m also unaware of any parrot rescues and adoption organizations affiliated with the HSUS.


Sweetie at Black Hills Parrot Rescue

When I was at Best Friends last September, I talked with John Garcia, one of the first response team leaders on the ground at Bad Newz Kennels when the Vicktory Dogs were first being assessed. He is now in charge of the Emergency Response Team Program. In setting up this team and their protocol, John had to train with Wendy Hatchel and others at the Parrot Garden, learning how to safely restrain a  parrot, toweling and other skills many of us already know. But John was primarily a “Dog Guy.”

John Garcia at Best Freiends: Dedicated and a really nice guy.

John wasn’t well versed in the area of caring for parrots but he had to learn it as part of the Emergency Response protocol. John told me he really enjoyed being at the Parrot Garden learning about parrots and how to help them should the need arise in the field. Unfortunately, I think those skills John learned will serve him sooner than later.

He did mention that he’d rather take a bite from a pit bull than a parrot. I was surprised at that, but then again, I’ve never taken a bite from a pit bull. A Pig? Yes. Penguin? Yes. Pit bull? Well, not yet.


BooBoo at Phoenix Landing

Apparently John has taken bites from both parrots and pit bulls so I’m not going to question his assessment of the situation.  My point is, John is well-versed in rescue work, but he had to be specially trained to work with birds. Face it, this particular arena takes a group of people with specialized skills.

Not everyone knows how to handle a parrot. So I must applaud all of the people out there who do parrot adoption work as well as care for those birds needing help: As you might realize, there is a growing need for Foster Families.


Jaws at Black Hills Parrot Welfare & Education Center,

So in the meantime, what should we do about this “Third Place” situation? I don’t know. But I think if we continue with education, publicity about the need for adoption, fostering of parrots, and keep making noise about their specific needs, we might get somewhere.