Why Rescue Birds Are Not Free

Why Rescue Birds Are Not Free

 September 7th, 2012
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Anna Sloan, from the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico, builds alexandrine, Roo, a go cart to help correct splayed legs

I overheard this conversation in the pet store the other day: “So I was at this bird rescue place the other day with my sister because she was thinking about getting a bird. And she was all ready to hand over $400 for this raggedy looking bird. Thank God I was there to stop her! They get these birds for free and then they turn around and charge a fee for them. $400 for a used bird? Forget it!”

Even though I found the “used bird” remark really offensive, I managed to keep my mouth shut – I really surprise myself sometimes.

I wonder what the term bird rescue means to different people? It’s impossible to overlook the word “RESCUE” in that phrase. That means that something needed saving – and that someone went out of their way to do just that, and has taken on the responsibility to provide care and shelter for a parrot in need. I guess some people think a bird rescue is a place to get free expensive exotic pet.

Gofins cockatoo, Magoo, before and after in the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New mexico

Running a bird rescue is NOT an easy job. We are all bird lovers here and having a bazilliion birds around to love and play with may sound like a slice of heaven, but it is a lot of work. There are heartwarming moments like watching an abused bird have a breakthrough with trust or in finding just the right human match for a special bird. But there is also a lot of heartbreak and disappointment and, occasionally, death.

Rescues are solely supported by donations, which have to be continually solicited, and operated with the help of volunteers. This means that the organization survives entirely on the goodwill of others – and these are hard times.


Some birds arrive at rescues after the law finds it necessary to intervene on behalf of animal welfare organizations. This can sometimes involve the seizure of hundreds of birds which are divided out amongst a handful of rescues throughout the country for care and rehabilitation. Often it is up to the rescue to retrieve the birds on their own and that may mean a trip across the country to get them. The rescue’s funding has to foot the bill.

Many times in these dramatic cases, the birds have health problems which have gone untreated for a long time resulting in sick, sometimes dying, birds. With the addition of so many birds there are enormous veterinary bills that become the responsibility of the rescue.

Some birds are willingly relinquished by owners who are either unable to continue to provide care for their birds for health or financial reasons, or in light of behavioral problems they are not equipped to handle.

Feathers coming in on African grey, Bella at the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico!

No matter how a bird finds its way to a rescue, each bird adds financial burden to an organization that is already struggling. Perhaps the expense most difficult to assign a value to is the hours of time spent on rehabilitating the bird that suffered emotional damage at the hands of a former owner. Or the surrendered bird that is missing the family that can no longer afford him.

Hours of meaningful interaction and thought to creative solutions to problems go into rebuilding a bird’s confidence and trust. Likewise, hours of careful observation and medical intervention go into bringing some of the worst cases back from the brink of death. The care of these birds is a physically and emotionally draining job.

When you tally a bird’s medical expenses and costs for food, housing and toys, and consider the hours spent to transform a broken bird to one that is physically and mentally healthy enough to be adoptable, $400 is a B A R G A I N!!!!!

Blue fronted amazon, Sadie, goes home! Before and after shots at the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico.


The typical rescue is run out of the owner’s home. Space is consistently an issue. Unless birds arrive at the rescue in groups that have previously been housed together, each bird has to occupy its own cage. There are only so many cages that can fit into the average house before the rescue has to close its doors.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico which is meticulously run by Anna Wallen Sloan. I have known Anna for several years and have always admired her remarkable healing powers with birds. She IS the bird whisperer.

Anna is very well known in the avian community and birds in frightening condition from all over the country often wind up in her care because of her experience in parrot critical care. Her rescue has the equipment needed to handle in-coming emergencies.

Because of the endless flow of birds needing her help and because she is simply out of room in her house, Anna has begun construction of a separate facility on her property. She has NO funding for this project, but she also has NO choice but to expand. If she is going to be able to keep up with the need for her services, she needs more room. It is painful for a big hearted rescuer to have to turn away any bird in trouble.

The building is meant to house up to 20 birds, and is intended for new world species. It will have electricity, A/C, heat and plumbing, but best of all there will be an outdoor enclosure attached that allows the birds to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and a beautiful mountain view –  amenities that you don’t find at most rescues.

Currently, she has a a 6′ by 10′ outdoor enclosure budgeted, but hopes to increase the size to 6′ X 20′ if donations allow. The projected cost for the construction currently stands at $23,000, for which she took out a personal loan, and she is relying heavily on donations to cover the cost. Rescue is a non profit business and incoming donations must equal the costs of operation to survive.

My goal is to help her raise funding for this desperately needed space. Anna is my friend and I want to help her, but most important is the well being of future birds who need her help and will have to be turned away.

The building construction under way. Check out the mountain view!

With your help, I hope to raise $5000 dollars toward the construction and to increase the dimensions of the outdoor enclosure. Birdtricks.com will engage in separate activities to help raise additional money.

Please go back and scroll through the pictures in this post. These are just a few of the birds Anna has helped by finding innovative solutions to their problems – who else would think to build a go cart for a bird that is struggling to get around? I did not post the gory pictures detailing the condition some of her birds arrive in – trust me when I tell you that the bird community NEEDS Anna’s services.

Many of you continue to express your thanks for the information and help we have provided over the years. This is your chance to give back to the avian community – please help this very worthy rescue: http://abqparrots.org/ by clicking the “donate” button on the top right hand side of the page. Your generosity will help the current AND future needy birds that find their way to Anna for years to come.




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11 Comments on “Why Rescue Birds Are Not Free”

Madhuri  09/07/2012 8:55 am

Thats a great aricle.. and get so sad to see the poor birds.. before they are in good hands.. But do you send your articles to other places than in your webpages? I mean., in newspapers and such .. cause all us that are members here and love birds.. just would never say a thing like that woman, but other ppl that are not realy bird lovers or know birds…. they are the really ones that should read a thing like this.. . I think it is an important message to spread about rescue birds.., and other animals .. that it is not cheap to save an animal.. that is so damage as many are.., when they come in to a rescue center.. its hard work and heart aches most of the time.. and then there is joy when there is a happy ending .., far away in the future.. Rescue centers does such an amazing work. and it is not for everyone.., So hope this article will get out wide world over.., so ppl know what is going on :-)) thank you for a great site.. :-))

marc Johnson  09/14/2012 6:18 am

Great article and great to see the charity of spirit being extended to the many amazing people who have stepped up to try to help out by doing what they can to make the world a better place, one parrot at a time. It is important that we all take the time to take care of the rescuers. The birds can’t do it by themselves.

Elly Gilmore  10/21/2012 11:01 am

Thank you so much for this article! Those of us who dedicate ourselves to caring for these beautiful creauires who find their way to our rescue for whatever reason (and there are many!) depend entirely on our adoption fees -which as you correctly point out are often a fraction of the cost of veterinary care -and kind donations, everything else is constant out-of-pocket expenses.
.Marc Johnson describes it perfectly,”One parrot at a time” that’s all we can do and we appreciate every single penny given to assist our mission.

Donna Jessup  11/10/2012 4:26 am

I bought my 2nd African Grey from a bird store. She was a return, and had pulled out all her feathers. Therefore she was half-price, but still $800. I had no problem handing over $800 for her and I knew I could help her become a happier bird. It took about 3 months for her to trust me, but during that time I could tell that she was getting her feathers back and whatever it was that had led to the feather-plucking was not causing such anxiety anymore. I can’t remember how long it took, but she never plucked again and all her feathers grew back. Such a LOVING bird! Some people may shy away from “problem” birds, but getting Lolly was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Barbara DelGiudice  11/10/2012 9:10 am

Birds are so precious. They are priceless. I was asked to put a price on my 2 little cockatiels when I filed for bankruptcy, and I could not do that. I said they are precious beings that are that would need to be adopted into loving homes if anything ever happened to me.

Nadiine Overstreet  11/10/2012 12:29 pm

It hurts me…really hurts me to see birds mistreated in any way….The birds give love so freely….If love is given to them…..

Trish  11/10/2012 1:01 pm

We bought a rescue bird 5 years ago. He was very sad when we met him. A Goffin’s cockatoo who had bounced from home to home (after he grew out of the cute baby stage) eventually being locked in a dark room. He was taken out of this horrible life by the woman’s mother and given to the woman who runs the small parrot store where we buy our food. she is known locally to take in rescue parrots to re-home them to good homes. He was in terrible shape, naked and fearful but he loved my husband and jumped on him every time we visited. We were approved for adoption, gladly paid the 500.00 and brought him home. It was a rough first year with many bloody fingers but after we gained his trust he is a wonderful joy. Another way to look at the woman’s comment is to be glad her sister didn’t purchase a rescue. Chances are she wasn’t educated enough to properly care for a rescue and it would have ended up worse. We have never regretted paying for Cisco but we knew what we were getting into. Most people think parrots are domesticated like a dog. They aren’t. Hopefully the people who owned the rescue wouldn’t have sold a bird to her anyway. We had to be approved and this wasn’t even a rescue facility!

Nancy McShane  11/10/2012 3:36 pm

Of course, we are bird lovers and many of us have experience with rescues!
Some have even made donations to groups helping rescue birds.
Obviously this woman was simply ignorant of the situation. Rude, maybe so, but engaging someone like this is futile, and Patty did well to bite her tongue and educate others!
As my Quaker, Oatmeal says, “Good Job!”

David  11/10/2012 8:02 pm

I would have said, “You’re a loser and the bird is way better off without you!”

Reta Stowe  11/12/2012 12:29 pm

its sad to think some one human has a or no heart thank God she stopped her sister cause it prob saved that poor baby God was looking out for one of his creatures. i am retired now but just before i did my sister in law killed my cockatoo and i miss her greately but now don’t have the money to replace her i would love to have anouther one i can feed her and care of it but can’t afford the buying part but i understand why the part of the rescuer oh and there are 3 things not allowed in my house any more 1) oven cleaner 2) sister in law 3 Teflon Pans

rita  03/20/2013 3:58 pm

these are wonderfull people most people dont think about the care it takes for these animals i applaud you anna and i will be sending you a donation very soon keep up the good work