Hudson, a black- masked lovebird, was found cowering in The Bay luggage department last summer. She was terrified of people and other birds. Shura took the bird home and has worked with her lovingly for the past six months. She reports happily that Hudson is doing great. “Her confidence goes up every day,” exclaims Shura. “She has started to run in a hamster wheel.”
But if Shura were not able to keep Hudson, there are few places for her to go. “There are shelters for dogs and cats and reptiles without a home but there isn’t any organization that specializes in rehoming caged birds,” she explains. “They deserve the same respect and consideration as any other companion animals.”
So Shura and a group of other bird owners decided to take action. They have launched the Avian Welfare Coalition (AWC), a not-for- profit organization that provides sanctuary for caged birds that are surrendered or abandoned, and runs an adoption program to find these pets new homes. AWC volunteers — who are all experts in caring for caged birds — will also offer support to people having difficulties with their birds and offer guidance on how to better care for these exotic pets.
There are many reasons why people can no longer keep their birds, explains Shura. Large parrots can live up to 75 years and often owners become ill or die and have no one to take care of their bird for them. In some cases people fail to realize that birds require a lot of time and attention, and decide they can’t handle the pet.
Also, birds that are not cared for properly can develop bad habits and emotional and behavioral problems that their owners don’t know how to deal with. Sometimes people buy birds on impulse and change their minds about having a pet. “I have four baby budgies right now that were bought at a pet store and returned a month later,” says Shura. “They are perfectly fine; there isn’t a thing wrong with them.”
Shura estimates that there are currently about 200 birds looking for permanent homes in the province, all being cared for by local bird lovers, who pay for food and veterinarian bills out of their own pockets.
If you are thinking about getting rid of a bird, AWC is an option — not only will you be rehoming a bird in need, but the volunteers will offer you ongoing guidance to help you.
Shura says parrots develop an intense bond with their owners and thrive on being part of a family. “They relate on a high intellectual level with their owners,” she says. “Some parrots you can teach to talk, others will do tricks, so they are quite entertaining, lots of fun to watch and are bright and colourful.”
Many of the birds available for adoption through AWC are adults and there are quite a few advantages to getting a bird once it is past its infancy stage. “Babies require a lot of socialization and training, but with an older bird this work has already been done,” says Shura. Parrots, in particular, go through an adolescent phase and, just like a human teenager, are prone to moodiness and aggression.
By adulthood the parrot’s personality is more fully developed and you will have a better sense of the sociability of the pet you are getting. Also, if you are interested in a larger parrot, an older one is likely more compatible with your own lifespan.
The AWC adoption process includes an application, home visit and thorough screening to ensure you and the bird are a good match. There is an adoption fee (rates vary depending on the species and age of bird) to help offset some of the expenses AWC incurs in running their shelter. Organization members will also follow up after the adoption to offer mentor- ship and guidance.