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National Bird Day

About Bird Rescue, Placement & Sanctuary Organizations

Photo Copyright  Krista Menzel - All Rights Reserved

Flocking with Friends at Foster Parrots, Ltd.

A growing number of bird rescue, placement, and sanctuary organizations are facing the challenge of caring for displaced parrots.  Many traditional shelters and animal control organizations are also gaining the knowledge and skills to provide suitable care and placement for the rising numbers of unwanted or abused exotic birds entering their facilities.  All of these organizations can use volunteers and donations to help birds in their care. 


But whether you are looking to donate or volunteer, to plan your estate, to place your bird, or to start your own nonprofit bird rescue group, it is important to first distinguish between legitimate organizations and substandard operations that are simply exploiting the situation for their personal benefit at the public’s – and the birds’ – expense



Defining True Sanctuary

“A facility that rescues and provides shelter and care for animals that have been abused, injured, abandoned or are otherwise in need.”


The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries defines the tenets of a true sanctuary as one where there is:


  • No commercial trade (buying or selling)
  • No invasive or intrusive research
  • No unescorted public visitation or contact with wild animals
  • No removal of wild animals for exhibition, education, or research
  • No breeding (Exceptions: rehabilitation and release centers engaged in a bona fide breeding-for-release program with available release sites within the state/province, conducted with specific conservation goals, in accordance with local, state/province, national, and international law and regulations

Pseudo Sanctuaries, Hoarders, and Fly-by-Night Rescue Groups

Some groups claim to be rescue or sanctuary facilities, but in reality are animal collectors or hobby breeders that simply formed a nonprofit organization and promote themselves as a refuge for birds.  Others even breed the birds they rescue to fund their rescue or place them into breeding situations.


Many unwanted birds also fall victim to hoarders who warehouse them in grossly substandard conditions while others acquire them to use for entertainment in roadside zoos or to peddle at bird marts, auctions, or over the internet.


Birds deserve better!

Don’t be fooled! Before donating, do your research to ensure that your support is going to a genuine avian shelter, placement, or sanctuary organization.


Photo Copyright  Krista Menzel - All Rights Reserved

Taking Flight! African Grey Parrots at Central VA Parrot Sanctuary See the YouTube here.

What to look for in a Legitimate Avian Rescue/Sanctuary Organization


Avian rescue and shelter organizations in the U.S. and abroad range from small, home based rescue groups that provide temporary care and placement for birds in need to large sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for hundreds of birds. The quality of animal care, ethics, organizational management, education and advocacy are among the factors to be considered.  Regardless of their differences in size, location, or available resources, certain qualities are universal among ethical avian rescue organizations. 


Superior Avian Care – A safe, healthy and clean environment where birds are provided with ample space, a nutritious diet, qualified medical care, and a variety of enrichment activities that allows them to enjoy their full range of natural behaviors. Socialization with other birds and the ability to exercise and free fly in a safe supervised area is essential. Each bird’s individual physical and behavioral needs are always put before the desires and expectations of their human caretakers


Professional Management – It takes more than good intentions to run a professional and sustainable nonprofit avian shelter organization.  Taking in large numbers of birds-especially long-lived species like macaws and cockatoos-without sufficient resources can easily overwhelm an avian care facility’s ability to provide proper care, and conditions can quickly deteriorate. 


Look for organizations with sound infrastructure, solid management, and a funding plan that will enable them to succeed long-term. They should comply with all federal, state, and legal requirements governing nonprofit organizations, have an active, independent board of directors without conflicts of interest, and offer transparency relating to their mission, animal care, and funding practices.   


For more information, click here for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Standards of Excellence


Advocacy and Collaboration - Bona fide rescue and sanctuary organizations also stand against practices that contribute to the suffering and exploitation of animals.  They support social and legislative policies that will increase protections for birds in captivity and in the wild.  They also work in partnership with other avian and animal protection groups to help ensure that birds everywhere are afforded quality care and humane treatment.  


Education – An effective program that focuses on the facts, promotes a better understanding of the true needs of birds, and offers solutions to the complex issues involved in addressing their welfare. Most importantly, the organization’s stance should be clear - all birds belong in their rightful place in the wild.
Public Outreach – Parrots are curious, intelligent, and fascinating creatures.  Their highly emotional nature and repertoire of behaviors are often entertaining to humans.  But as amusing as their antics may be, reputable groups refrain from exploiting them for profit or self-aggrandizement.


Be wary of groups that use birds to perform tricks or hire out birds for entertainment, commercial purposes, or purely for exhibition. These practices are typical of commercial entities that profit from animals and are in contrast to the ethical standards of nonprofit animal rescue and sanctuary organizations incorporated to provide refuge and protect animals in their care.
Integrity - Reputable groups do not promote the commercial trade in birds, nor do they breed them or place them in breeding situations.

AWC contributes to several initiatives aimed at improving standards of care for captive birds.

  • Avian Shelter Outreach – Educational resources to help animal sheltering facilities care for captive exotic birds in a shelter environment. Visit our Shelter Resource Center.

    • Webinars
    - Online support for animal care professionals in need of additional training to care for birds in their facilities. In partnership with Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

    Avian Sanctuary Standards –Participated in developing peer-reviewed standards for The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries manual, “Best Practice Standards of Care and Operations for Sanctuaries.”

    USDA Regulations – Provided extensive recommendations for proposed regulations to protect birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act. 

    AWC board members worked with nationally and internationally recognized leaders in the animal protection field to help found The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, an accrediting organization formed to help strengthen and support the work of legitimate animal sanctuaries worldwide.



Learn More About Avian Sheltering


The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
Standards of Excellence for Animal Sanctuaries


The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
Starting a Sanctuary


AWC’s Shelter Outreach Program
Assisting Shelter and Animal Control Organizations in Serving the Needs of Captive Exotic Birds


Animal Sheltering Resources
By the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

By the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals  (ASPCA)


Animal Hoarding: What You Need to Know
By the Hoarding of Animals Research


Guidestar’s National Database of Non-profit Organizations


Volunteer or donate your time to parrot welfare or start your own captive bird rescue, placement, or sanctuary organization. Click here.